Francis Xavier Seelos

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Francis Xavier Seelos, C.Ss.R.
Blessed Francis Xavier Seelos.jpg
Born January 11, 1819
Füssen, Bavaria, Germany
Died October 4, 1867
New Orleans, Louisiana, United States
Honored in
Roman Catholic Church
Beatified April 9, 2000, Rome by Pope John Paul II
Major shrine National Shrine of Blessed Francis Xavier Seelos, C.Ss.R. Shrine in St. Mary's Assumption Church (New Orleans, Louisiana), New Orleans, U.S.
Feast October 5

Blessed Francis Xavier Seelos (January 11, 1819 – October 4, 1867) was a German-American Roman Catholic priest and Redemptorist missionary.

Life[edit]

He was born in Füssen, Bavaria, Germany on January 11, 1819, was one of 12 children born to Mang and Frances Schwarzenbach Seelos, and was baptized the same day in the parish church of St. Mang. He attended middle school at the Institute of Saint Stephen in Augsburg. Receiving his diploma in 1839, he went on to the University in Munich, Bavaria, where he completed his studies in Philosophy. Having expressed a desire for the priesthood since childhood, he entered the diocesan seminary on September 19, 1842.[1]

Seelos was touched by the letters published in the Catholic newspaper Sion, from the Redemptorist missionaries describing the lack of spiritual care for the thousands of German speaking immigrants. After visiting the Redemptorists in Altötting, he decided to enter the Congregation, asking to be allowed to work as a missionary in the United States. He was accepted by the Congregation on November 22, 1842, and sailed the following year from Le Havre, France on March 17, arriving in New York on April 20, 1843. On December 22, 1844, after having completed his novitiate and theological studies, Seelos was ordained a priest in the Redemptorist Church of St. James in Baltimore, Maryland.[2]

Shrine of Blessed Francis Xavier Seelos in church where he was baptised, St Mang Basilica, Füssen.

America[edit]

After being ordained, he worked for nine years in the parish of St. Philomena's in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, first as assistant pastor to St. John Neumann, who was the superior of the Religious Community, later as Superior himself, and for three years as pastor. During this time, he was also the Redemptorist Novice Master. With Neumann, he also dedicated himself to preaching missions. Regarding their relationship, Seelos said: "He has introduced me to the active life" and, "he has guided me as a spiritual director and confessor."[2]

His availability and innate kindness in understanding and responding to the needs of the faithful quickly made him well known as an expert confessor and spiritual director, so much so that people came to him even from neighboring towns. His confessional was open to all: "I hear confessions in German, English, French, of Whites and of Blacks".[1] He practiced a simple lifestyle and a simple manner of expressing himself. The themes of his preaching, rich in Biblical content, were always understood even by the simplest people.[2] Father Seelos is described a man with a constant smile and a generous heart, especially towards the needy and the marginalized.[1]

A constant endeavor in this pastoral activity was instructing the little children in the faith. He not only favored this ministry, he held it as fundamental for the growth of the Christian community in the Parish. In 1854, he was appointed pastor of St. Alphonsus in Baltimore; pastor and prefect of students at Sts. Peter and Paul Church in Cumberland, Maryland in 1857; and pastor and prefect of students at St. Mary's in Annapolis (1862). As Prefect of Students, he remained always the kind and happy pastor, always prudently attentive to the needs of his students and conscientious of their doctrinal formation. Above all, he strove to instill in these future Redemptorist missionaries the enthusiasm, spirit of sacrifice, and apostolic zeal for the spiritual and temporal welfare of the people.[3]

In 1860 he was proposed as a candidate for the office of Bishop of Pittsburgh. Having been excused from this responsibility by Pope Pius IX, from 1863 until 1866, he dedicated himself to the life of an itinerant missionary preaching in English and German in the states of Connecticut, Illinois, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Wisconsin.[3]

After a year as assistant pastor of St. Mary's in Detroit, Michigan, he was assigned in 1866 as pastor of the Church of St. Mary of the Assumption, New Orleans. However, his ministry in New Orleans was destined to be brief. In September of that year, exhausted from visiting and caring for victims of yellow fever, he contracted the disease. After several weeks, he died on October 4, 1867, at the age of 48 years and 9 months.[4]

Veneration[edit]

Pope John Paul II beatified Father Seelos in St. Peter's Square on April 9, 2000.[3] In the beatification homily, Pope John Paul II said: "Today, Bl. Francis Xavier Seelos invites the members of the Church to deepen their union with Christ in the sacraments of Penance and the Eucharist. Through his intercession, may all who work in the vineyard for the salvation of God's people be encouraged and strengthened in their task." [5]

Blessed Francis Xavier Seelos is commemorated in the Martyrology on October 5.

The National Shrine of Blessed Francis Xavier Seelos is located in St. Mary’s Assumption Church, the first German Catholic Church in New Orleans and in the state of Louisiana. The Shrine contains the official portrait of Father Seelos, which was used in Rome for his beatification, as well as photographs that depict Father Seelos and his life as a missionary. The centerpiece of the Shrine is a sacred reliquary, which houses the remains of Father Seelos. St. Mary’s Church is listed on the National Register of Historic Places[4]

Blessed Francis Xavier Seelos Catholic Church in New Orleans, Louisiana is named in honor of Father Seelos.[6]

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