Most people who hear about the Passionist Earth & Spirit Center aren’t sure about the word “Passionist” – what it means, how to spell it, or how to pronounce it. Most people mistakenly think we’re the “Passionate” Earth & Spirit Center. We’re certainly passionate, but there’s more to it than that.
The Passionists are a Catholic religious order of brothers, priests, nuns, and laity, founded in 1720 in Italy by St. Paul of the Cross. The Passionists have a particular commitment to keep alive the love Jesus showed for the world through his suffering on the cross. In today’s world, that commitment means that Passionists have a special concern for the poor and suffering of our day: those on the margins, and even the suffering Earth itself.
The Earth & Spirit Center was founded in 2005 by a Passionist priest, Fr. Joe Mitchell, as a ministry of the Holy Cross Passionist Province. Though we were incorporated in 2010 as a separate 501c3 nonprofit, and though our mission is ecumenical and interfaith (and embraces those with no explicit religious faith), we still have a close relationship with the Passionist community. We receive generous support from the Passionists, the head of the local Passionist community sits on our board, and our mission attempts to embody the Passionists’ compassionate concern for suffering and commitment to the power of love as a robust spiritual, interpersonal, and civic force for good.
Our Passionist heritage also includes a connection to a particular Passionist, Fr. Thomas Berry. Thomas, who died in 2009, was a brilliant visionary who attempted to put together the spiritual concerns of religion and theology with the new insights of science about our evolving universe and the ecological challenges of our current era. Thomas believed that all of humankind is called to the “Great Work” of transforming our relationship with the sacred Earth: from a relationship that is deeply alienated and destructive to one that is connected, harmonious, and flourishing. Thomas blessed the work of the Earth & Spirit Center; we are grateful to carry on his legacy and to help further the Passionist commitment to radical love for a hurting world.