History of the Monastery

The Passionists were founded to live a life of prayer, poverty, penance and solitude, and to go forth as apostolic preachers to proclaim the ignominies and glories of the cross.

In 1852 Michael O'Connor, the first Bishop of Pittsburgh, recognizing the need for such a group of dedicated men for his diocese, petitioned the Passionist Superior in Rome to send such men to PITTSBURGH. In that year four Passionists, Frs. Anthony Calandri, Albinus Magno, Stanislaus Parczyk, and Brother Lawrence  DiGiacomo left Italy and landed in Philadelphia on November 15. After traveling to Pittsburgh Fr. Calandri chose a ridge top south of Pittsburgh overlooking a point of land where the Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers meet to form the Ohio River, symbolically for the Passionisis as well as for the country, a gateway to the Americas.        

  It was a difficult undertaking, but with God's help, the goodwill, courage and hard work of those pioneer Passionists, and the assistance of good friends and kind benefactors, the cornerstone of the monastery was laid on August 7, 1853, and was made ready for occupancy in June, 1854. In December, 1855, retreat rooms were set aside for the first time at the monastery and Father Gaudentius Rossi preached the first Passionist retreat in the New World. A few months later, with Bishop O'Connor in attendance, the first diocesan retreat took place at St. Paul's Monastery, and the first Diocesan Synod shortly after that. Later in the same year, more Passionists came from Europe to join the Monastery. The Charter of Incorporation granted to the Passionists by the State of Pennsylvania in April, 1860, symbolically marked the expansion of their work not only in Pittsburgh, but in other parts of the country as well. The first Passionisis in America rendered invaluable service to the hardpressed clergy of the Pittsburgh diocese and helped establish new parishes: St. Michael's on the South Side; St. Joseph's, Mt. Oliver; St. Anne's, Castle Shannon. Their specialized work of preaching missions and retreats began in earnest in 1859 and has continued all over America and overseas to the present day. By 1965, the Passionists of the eastern province numbered over 600 men and served in the states and two overseas missions.  


Daily liturgy - Sacrament of Reconciliation - Preaching - Counselling/spiritual direction - "Fifth Step" aid to the recovering alcoholic - Food to the needy - Christian enrichment at our retreat center - Providing a meeting place for groups such as "Peace & Justice" and Alcoholics Anonymous. 

In 1925, a perpetual novena in honor of the young Passionist, St. Gabriel, was started by popular request. The NOVENA had an instant and unexpected appeal and in a very short time more services were added each Monday to accommodate the crowds. Today the Novena continues at the MONASTERY CHURCH and is referred to as the Novena in honor of the Passionist Saints. 

The MONASTERY CRYPT is a large room underneath the sanctuary of the church. It contains burial vaults wherein lie the bodily remains of the earliest Passionists in America. There are 20 bodies, including those of two Passionist bishops. The crypt was used as a burial place until 1893. The crypt also contains some interesting artifacts, such as, the death mask of the face of St. Paul of the Cross, his skull cap and parts of some of his handwritten letters; relics of saints; photographs of the pioneer Passionists; sacred vestments, woven with silver threads, from the Russian Czar chapel in St. Petersburg (18th century); and historical records relating to those whose bodies lie buried in the crypt.        

The dynamic spiritual center, which is St. Paul of the Cross Retreat Center, dates back to 1920. With an addition that was completed in 1961, this retreat center now has 100 rooms for the accommodation of retreatants.

The help of God, the kind encouragement of the bishops of the Pittsburgh diocese, the cooperation of priests and laity, and the labors of the Passionists have brought weekend retreats to a flourishing condition. People from every station of life have found in the peaceful quiet of these surroundings a renewed spiritual strength and enrichment to meet the challenges of Christian living and leadership.

A Monastery, Church, and Retreat Center. Bricks and stone and steel? No. A special place. Set apart on a hill. Set apart to serve the needs of all who come here. Built by men and women. Built by the Holy Spirit working in our hearts. Held up by a foundation of concrete, but supported by a foundation of faith and hard work. From a small dwelling built in 1853, to the present expanse of buildings and garden. A vital, living force in the community.

We Passionists have committed our lives to God in service to our neighbor We are grateful to the thousands of visitors whose thoughtful donations have made possible the establishment of this ministry. We rely solely on the generosity of present day visitors and benefactors for the continuance of our services.