Who are Passionist Companions?
Those who seek to explore and nurture Passionist spirituality with like hearted people through immersion in the Passionist Charism. They seek to live the Passionist Charism in their various life circumstances (family, home, community, place of work, parish, relationships).
Who belongs to a local Passionist Companions group?
Those in a common locality who gather with others several times each year. If a group becomes too large, it might need to be divided into two or more meeting groups. Even when meeting together, it is wise to ‘not seek to do in a large group what can be done better in smaller group’.
Professed Passionists participate as equal members in local groups. Where there are no professed members living near a local group, at least once a year a professed Passionist will meet with the members as a tangible link with the Province.
There are some Companions who cannot easily gather with a local group because of their geographical location or because of physical limitations. They can actively belong to the group through email and phone contact and personal visits. They can receive and share relevant information through the Congregational or Province website, email attachments etc.
How does a person belong?
Passionist Companions were formally introduced in 2003, and the majority of members came to belong in a variety of ways. Many of them undertook a Passionist Institute before, or soon after becoming Companions.
Those who belong need to have a genuine link with the Congregation and be committed to furthering their understanding of the Passionist charism both through participation in local Companion group activities and the particular formation opportunities that are offered.
Can persons be invited to belong?
Personal invitation is the most suitable means of bringing others to seek an understanding of Passionist Companions. ‘Come and See’ opportunities are encouraged. The charism is caught more than taught, so much of the formation may be informal. However some particular aspects of the life of Paul of the Cross, the history and spirituality of the Congregation are necessary.
Local Coordinators can advise the Passionist Companions Leadership Group if there are a number of persons seeking formal formation so that a local Passionist Institute can be arranged.
Belonging is not automatic. A period of probation is required during which a person may feel a sense of belonging, but still needs adequate formation in the Passionist charism. This would normally involve regular attendance at Companion gatherings , guided reflection or active engagement with the Charism over a suitable period.
How are invitations to belong, issued?
The majority of our Passionist Companions are linked to the Province and the Congregation either through their association with the local community, the local Passionist parish, the Passionist Family Group Movement, or as Passionist Youth and Young Adults.
Any of these entities can and should promote Passionist Companions, and issue invitations personally or generally. There are printed brochures availablefor distribution, and once a year it could be helpful if someone suitable were to speak about Companions at (Passionist) parish Masses and PFGM Formation days. In the same way, the Passionist Vocation Director can encourage belonging to Passionist Companions as part of discerning a genuine vocation.
How is belonging acknowledged and/or celebrated?
Passionist religious life has marker points of belonging: aspirancy, postulancy, novitiate, temporary profession, final profession. There is wisdom in recognizing such various stages in religious life but we should be wary about applying them too strictly to Companions. With regard to Companions, there should be a period that marks initial discernment prior to official belonging. The length of this period can be flexible, but should be no less than six months.
It has been suggested that Paul of the Cross took his vow to promote the living memory of the Passion and to gather Companions, on September 26th, 1721. He took this vow before the icon displayed left. Initially, this was suggested as a suitable time for Companions to make an annual commitment. However, other occasions, such as at the time of an annual retreat can be more suitable.
Local Coordinators are encouraged to ensure that there is an annual commitment, held at a suitable time, and that those who cannot be present, be invited to make or renew their commitment at a subsequent gathering of the local Companion group. Local Coordinators are also encouraged to keep an up to date register of those who are official Companions (i.e. those who have made an annual commitment) as a sign that this commitment is a significant source of belonging in the Province.
Companions should be reminded that this commitment is made to the Congregation, not to the local Companion group.
Who co-ordinates Passionist Companions?
The Provincial has appointed a Passionist Companions Leadership Group (PCLG). It is comprised of three professed members (one of whom is a Passionist sister) and three lay members.
The PCLG creates guidelines to nurture, support and sustain members, and is a reference point for networking between local groups. The PCLG provides guidance and feedback to local groups as required, and one of the members retains regular contact with the Coordinators of each local group. The PCLG liaises through the Coordinator with the Province Formation Commission in order to provide formation opportunities for Passionist Companions.
Who leads a local Companions group? How are they appointed and for what term?
Local Coordinators are normally nominated by local Companions and are formally appointed either by the local Passionist community leader or a member of the PCLG. Their initial term is recommended to be one year. If reappointed, they may continue with two year terms on a renewable basis.
Their role should not be limited to organizing meetings. They should disseminate suitable information especially at relevant times (significant feasts or Congregational and Province events) and regularly share relevant Passionist reflections with their group members. Professed members do not act as Coordinators. If they do, it is as a shared role with a non professed member.
Companions can receive regular Province information by receiving Provincial newsletters.
What kind of formation is offered for Passionist Companions?
Formal and informal formation in Passionist spirituality is available. In this electronic age, there are abundant internet resources available for exploring the charism, as well as books, articles, DVD’s and material from past Passionist Institutes. There is a Charism library at Holy Cross, Templestowe.
Most local Companion groups have an annual or biennial retreat led by a professed Passionist. There are a number of men suitable for this work, so an advanced booking can secure one of them. These retreats, as well as the regular gatherings should focus on aspects of Passionist spirituality and the relevance of the charism for us today.
The PCLG has made a DVD of resources available to each Companions group. Many local groups have benefited from input from their own members and would willingly share this with other groups.
Passionist Institutes are held most years, usually in Templestowe, Victoria.There have been two Institutes held in New Zealand. To keep travel costs at a minimum, we can offer smaller local Institutes. This does not preclude Companions travelling to another area where an Institute or retreat is being held, or from them hosting a gathering of professed and non-professed.
Institutes are an ideal type of formation for new members, but they also serve as reinforcement for older members who are an important part of the mentoring dynamic in such an enterprise. Institutes include some study and reflection on the history and spirituality of the Congregation, which allows for a deepening experience of the charism. They also include ritual, contemplation and common times of prayer.
Other formation opportunities include specific gatherings with local Passionist communities or fellowship gatherings to celebrate personal or Congregational milestones, Passionist feasts etc.
Attention needs to be given to the preferred differences of individuals. It is important not to disadvantage some members just because the majority prefer the same time and day for each meeting. This can prevent people from ever being able to attend a meeting of the Companions group. This is a ‘group dynamics’ issue that can be easily overlooked. Where there is a local Passionist Community, the community leader should be involved in this process.
Each local group should be encouraged to devise a method of simple fund-raising so as to be able to meet the costs of annual retreats or other such activities. One local group has devised a system whereby each individual contributes $5 per fortnight which is paid directly into a Companions account.
Having this fund enables them to provide a deposit for retreats, to assist with travel or other expenses, and to celebrate the feast of St Paul of the Cross with a shared meal. They also are able pay the travel costs or a stipend to visiting Passionists for an annual retreat.
For further information contact a Passionist Companion Co-ordinator:
Auckland: George & Judy Quinney Email: email@example.com
Bay of Plenty: Dolores Edge: Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Palmerston North: Teresa and Jeff Grant Email: email@example.com
Christchurch: Dave Dwan Email: firstname.lastname@example.org