Family Groups — From the Beginning
In the late 1960s and early 1970s, members of the Passionist community of St. Ives, NSW, Australia, developed a team ministry for youth formation and adult education in collaboration with local lay people. When the Passionists assumed pastoral care in 1972 of the new parish of St. Anthony in the Fields, Terrey Hills, Fr. Peter McGrath C.P. became its first Pastor and once again these lay people supported him.
Out of this nucleus, the new parish community attracted an extraordinary number of people of all walks of life and different spiritual needs. In 1973, Fr. Peter gathered small groups of families to support each other, and to preserve the strong community spirit of the growing parish.
From the heart of St. Anthony in the Fields came the Passionist Family Group Movement, with lay people as the backbone of the groups.
Ten years later, in 1983, Fr. Peter and the Terrey Hills people were asked to introduce the Family Groups into Castle Hill, a large Sydney parish. No one knew what might come next.
In the years that have followed, the Movement has grown dramatically. It was established in other parishes in Australia, first in Sydney, then in country New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria, Tasmania, the Australian Capital Territory and South Australia.
In 1988, the Movement was invited into a little country parish of Paeroa in New Zealand. Once again, growth followed in other parishes as word spread. With a dynamic combination of lay and Passionist workers, led by Fr. Brian Traynor C.P., the Passionist Family Groups became the largest parish movement throughout New Zealand.
In the 1990s, Passionist Family Groups reached the USA, significantly beginning in a maximum security prison at Dallas, PA. Family Groups followed in the States of Maine and Pennsylvania, and also started in parishes in England, Ireland and Scotland.
By late 2010, there were approximately 3,100 Passionist Family Groups in over 420 parishes, with a total membership in excess of 100,000 people.