Passionist Saints

They waked before us and showed us the way
Call me, Lord. Call my name, and I will follow you.
Call me in the morning, when the day is new; Call me when it's evening, and all my whole life through.
Voices from everywhere call to me, O Lord; But you alone know my name, I belong to you.
Call me when it's dark, Lord; when I hardly hear; Speak to me within my heart, tell me you are near.
By your call lead me on, to all that I can do; Always call my name, O Lord, and I will follow you.

St. Gemma Galgani

St. Gemma Galgani

St. Gemma Galgani, Lay-Passionist

ST. GEMMA GALGANI was born on March 12, 1878 at Camigliano, near Lucca in Italy to Henry and Aurelia Galgani. Gemma's mother died when Gemma was was very young. Her brother Gino to whom she was also very close, died soon after in 1894, after a battle with tuberculosis. Gemma's father was a chemist and had been prosperous, but prolonged sickness in the family was a drain on his resources and resulted in complete financial ruin.

Gemma's father was stricken with cancer of the throat and she nursed him until his death in 1897. Thus, before Gemma was twenty she knew the sorrow of seeing her parents and family suffer tremendously.

At nineteen Gemma became ill with a painful curvature of the spine and meningitis, resulting in a partial paralysis. One of Gemma's greatest sufferings came about because of her confusion concerning God's will for her in becoming religious. While not juridically ascribed in the Passionist family, she aspired to the Passionist Nuns at Tarquinia and embraced profoundly the spirituality of the Passion.

On June 8, 1899, Gemma entered into a deeper experience of the Passion of Jesus by suffering the physical wounds of Christ on her body. The agony continued on Thursdays and Fridays in various parts of her body, usually with the flow of blood. Although Gemma always remained a lay-woman, she absorbed the Passionist spirituality. Only after her death did the Monasteries of the Passionist Nuns enjoy a marvelous blossoming.

Gemma died in Lucca on Holy Saturday April 11, 1903. Her holiness was evidenced by her whole life, her spirit of prayer, her loving acceptance of suffering, and her writings, all proclaim her desire to please God and to be united with Him. In 1923 her body was transferred to a shrine at the Passionist Convent in Lucca. Gemma was beatified by Pope Pius XI on May 14, 1933 and on May 2, 1940 she was canonized by the Servant of God Pope Pius XII.

St. Gemma is a model for lay people who want to pray, who want to turn to God, for help and consolation in their worried lives - plagued by financial insecurity, broken homes, and emptiness - caused by the death of loved ones, the rejection felt by some handicap, and the frustration of the willing who are unable - in a society where the able are unwilling. To learn more about St. Gemma visit: Letters of St. Gemma - A Passionist by Desire


Bishop Eugene Bossilkov, An Iron Curtain Martyr

EUGENE BOSSILKOV was born November 16, 1900 in Belene (Bulgaria), a village in the Danube Valley. His family were farmers and Catholics of the Latin Rite. In 1914 he began his studies with the Passionists,
who had been missionaries in northern Bulgaria since the late 1700's. He studied in Passionist seminaries in Belgium and Holland, and in 1920 became a professed 
member of that community. He took the name Eugene, and to the vows taken by religious, he joined another vow taken by the Passionists: to keep in constant memory the Passion of Jesus. In 1924, he returned to Bulgaria to continue his theological studies and was ordained by the Passionist Bishop Damian Theden in 1926.

In 1927, he was sent to Rome to pursue doctoral studies at the Pontifical Oriental Institute, where he wrote his thesis: On the Union of Bulgarians with the Roman Church in the Early 13th Century. In 1933 he returned to his diocese to become secretary to the bishop and pastor of the cathedral. Since he preferred ministry with the people, however, he was assigned as pastor of the town of Bardaski-Gheran, in the Danube valley, where he brought new life into the parish through his liturgical and catechetical efforts. He was especially concerned for the young whom he tried to inspire through a variety of religious, social and sports programs. His reputation grew: a gifted linguist, a cultured scholar, he was generally admired. In 1938, he was chosen as official speaker for the 250th anniversary of the Catholic insurrection against the Turks.

But times changed. In 1940 Bulgaria joined the Axis in the 2nd World War. Four years later the Soviet Union
invaded Bulgaria after the retreat of German troops and subjugated the country militarily, politically and 
ideologically. After the death of Bishop Theelen in 1946, Father Bossilkov was ordained Bishop of Nicopolis in 1947, when churches faced a new round of difficulties from government laws drafted to destroy religion. In 1948, Bishop Bossilkov received government permission to go to Rome for his "Ad limina" visit, where he was received by Pope Pius XII. He took the occasion to visit friends and companions in Holland. Then he returned to his diocese where he began a series of missions to prepare his people for the religious persecution they were certain to face. 

In 1949, the Apostolic Delegate to Bulgaria was expelled, and new steps were taken by the government to crush the Catholic Church and create a national church in its place. Laws were passed expelling all foreign missionaries, confiscating Church property and institutions, suppressing religious congregations and dispersing their members.
In 1950-51 the noose of persecution tightened until finally, in 1952, mass arrests of church leaders began. Bishop Bossilkov was seized July 16, 1952, while on vacation at a house outside Sophia. Arrested at the same time as Bossilkov were 40 other priests, some religious and lay people. On August 8th, Father Formnato Bakalski, superior of the Capuchin community of Sophia, was arrested.

Confined to prison in Sophia, Bishop Bossilkov was physically and mentally tortured into making a confession. On September 20, the party newspapers published accusations against him on their first page. A mock trial was conducted from September 29th to October 3rd. Bossilkov was presented as 'chief' of a subversive Catholic spy organization. The trial ended with a guilty verdict. Condemned with Bishop Bossilkov on similar charges were the Assumptionist
priests, Kamen Vicev Jonkov, Pavel Dgldgiov, Josafat Sciskov, and the Capuchin priest, Fortunato
Bakalski. They were sentenced to death by firing squad.

When last seen alive, Bishop Bossilkov said to his niece and to his friends: "Don't worry about me; I have been given God's grace, and I am going to remain faithful to Christ and to the Church." He was executed in the prison at Sophia on the night of November 11m at 11:30 P.M. His body was thrown into a common grave for criminals; the precise location of his burial place and his body is unknown.

Bishop Eugene Bossilkov, C.P., was beatified by Pope John Paul II during Mass at St. Peter's Basilica in Rome on March 15, 1998. The Bishop and martyr Vincent Eugene Bossilkov truly drank from the spiritual rock which is Christ. A faithful follower of the founder of his congregation, St. Paul of the Cross, he cultivated the spirituality of the Passion. He also gave himself unreservedly to serve pastorally the Christian community entrusted to him, accepting without hesitation the supreme test of martyrdom.

St. Gabriel of Our Lady of Sorrows

St. Gabriel of Our Lady of Sorrows

St. Gabriel of Our Lady of Sorrows

ST. GABRIEL OF OUR LADY OF SORROWS (Francis Possenti) was born at Assisi March 1, 1838. Baptized in the same font as St. Francis and St. Clare. He became a Passionist at eighteen. He was noted for his tender devotion to the Sorrows of Mary. He was sanctified by his keeping of the Passionist Rule during his six years as a Passionist Religious cleric. He died at the age of 24, before being ordained, of tuberculosis at Isola Gran Sasso on February 27, 1862.

He was beatified by St. Pius X May 31, 1908 and canonized by Pope Benedict XV, along with St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, May 13, 1920, the year of the 200th anniversary of the founding of the Congregation of the Passion. He was declared the patron of youth by Pope Pius XI. 

Gabriel was full of life, chased after happiness, had lots of problems but never got lost. He met challenges head on and never gave up. He fell in love with everything that was good, but for a short period he did not succeed in putting everything in the proper perspective and wasn't able to get his life in order. He raced along the razor's edge and ran the risk of overlooking God's will for him. He barely managed to pinpoint the right choice before it was too late.

He was not a convert who, realized at a certain point that he had done everything wrong, then changed the course of his life. Rather he was a searcher, who at a certain point found what he had been looking for and gave himself to it completely with total commitment. His soul soared like an eagle. His story makes you realize that it is always possible to succeed; all you have to do is to have a sense of the good that is at work in all of us and then decide to put it into practice. He reminds you that holiness means soaring to the heights - but starting off from situations just like ours. Just like his. 

The shrine of St. Gabriel, in Italy is the third largest shrine in Italy. Tens of thousands of people, especially youth, visit there throughout the year. To learn more about St. Gabriel visit: St. Gabriel of Our Lady of Sorrows


Fr. Theodore Foley, Former Rector of St. Paul of the Cross Monastery

FR. THEODORE FOLEY was rector of St. Paul of the Cross Monastery from 1956-1958. The Holy See has officially opened the cause of Fr. Theodore by declaring him servus dei (servant of God), and thus preparing the way for his beatification. Fr. Theodore’s remains will be placed in the Monastery Church at the foot of the beautiful Calvary scene. There he will be venerated, as people coming for weekly and Sunday masses, for the Passionist Novena on Monday, for the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and special occasions, may pray to him for their intentions and for the beatification of this Servant of God.

Daniel Foley was born in Springfield, MA on March 3, 1913. His father, Michael, was from County Cork, Ireland, and his mother, Ellen, from Springfield. After grammar school, Daniel, age 14, decided to go to the Passionist Preparatory Seminary in Dunkirk, NY. He did well in studies and excelled in sports, especially baseball. He grew to love Christ Crucified and was ready to enter the Passionist Novitiate in Springfield, he brought new life into the parish through his liturgical and catechetical efforts. He was especially concerned for the young whom he tried to inspire through a variety of religious, social and sports programs. His reputation grew: a gifted linguist, a cultured scholar, he was generally admired. In 1938, he was chosen as official speaker for the 250th anniversary of the Catholic insurrection against the Turks.

Years of study and prayer passed quickly. Fr. Theodore was ordained April 23, 1940 at St. Joseph Monastery, Baltimore, MD. Subsequently, he went to Catholic University in Washington, DC where he obtained a doctorate in Theology. He began teaching Passionist seminarians fundamental theology. He was a superb teacher. In 1956, he was chosen to be rector of St. Paul’s Monastery, Pittsburgh, PA where he served for two years before being elected Consultor General of the Passionist Congregation, headquartered in Rome. During the Second Vatican Council he became Superior General and in that capacity attended the last two sessions of the Council 1964 – 1965. Under his leadership, the Passionist community reached its highest membership – over 4,000 religious serving in more than 40 countries. The year was 1968.

The late sixties and early seventies were turbulent years in the world and in the Church. Fr. Theodore’s steady hand was on the pulse of his religious community. A man who never desired or sought authority or power, he was chosen by God to keep things in perspective. It was his humble, gentle, reassuring presence that helped others in these times of unprecedented change and confusion.

On one of his many trips abroad, he contracted an infection that greatly weakened him. He tried to go on, but had to be hospitalized in Rome in September 1974. He died October 9 as his great heart gave out. “Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, I give you my heart and my soul” were his last words.

If there was one virtue Fr. Theodore exemplified it was “Love”. He was a magnanimous man in every way. He was a saint not known for great mystical experiences, nor a scholar who wrote enduring works, nor a prophet who pointed out new and exciting paths. No, here was a humble, gentle man presiding over a religious community when things took a decided turn for the worse.

By 1974, Passionist membership had dropped from that high in 1968 almost a thousand. Strange happenings and ideas abounded. Fr. Theodore suffered all this in a profound spirit of interior darkness and humble acceptance of the passion, the church, and the Passionists were undergoing. He turned to the crucified one as he always did. He led his brethren, not by aggressive mandates, but by patient example. He never lost his sense of humor, and his great laugh could be heard till the end. This peaceful man, a confessor of Pope Paul VI and Fr. Arrupe, the saintly Superior General of the Jesuits, and many others often confessed his own inadequacy to the huge task of renewal.

When Fr. Theodore came to Pittsburgh as rector in 1956, he was warmly received by his own community and by the people. They hated to see him go so soon. Many times in Rome, he expressed a strong desire to return to Pittsburgh when his administrative services were finished. He did not want to be Superior, but one available for confessions, for counseling, for helping the sick and the poor. Now that this Servant of God is returning to Pittsburgh with his great map of a face, his ready smile, his laughing eyes, this community and these people of Pittsburgh of 2009 will never let him go.


 Prayer of St. Gemma

Oh Jesus, why am I not burned up with love for you? Why is it that my heart is not consumed with Love's flame? Why is it that my love does not correspond to yours? Oh Jesus, how much time I have lost! How many years I could have loved You and I did not do so. But your bounty makes me hope to be able to make up for lost time.

Why did you suffer for me, dear Jesus? For love! The nails.., the crown.., the cross... all for love of me. For You I sacrifice everything willingly. I offer You my body with all its weakness and my Soul with all its love. My God, dear Jesus, remove whatever malice may be at the bottom of my offering, and then accept it. Do not abandon me, Jesus, I am yours. Take care of my soul. Think of what you have borne to save it. Surely they are fight who say, 'To suffer is to love.'