Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Who was Bl. Francis Seelos?

Blessed Seelos

Today is the memorial of Bl. Francis Xavier Seelos, a patron of our parish, of Southern Catholics, generally, and of New Orleanians, particularly. Born and baptized in Fussen, Germany on January 11, 1819, Francis expressed a desire, at a very early age, to become a priest. After finishing the required studies in philosophy, Francis met some Redemptorist missionaries and resolved to enter their ranks as a missionary to German-speaking immigrants in the United States. He arrived in New York in 1843 and was ordained a priest in the Church of St. James in Baltimore, Maryland the following year.

While working as an assistant pastor under (future saint) John Neumann in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Francis developed a reputation for holiness and kindness. He was renowned as a wonderful confessor and spiritual director and he lived a simple lifestyle. After respectfully declining the invitation to become the bishop of Pittsburgh, Francis spent some years as a travelling itinerant preacher to English and German-speaking parishes in the Northeast and Midwest.

In 1866, Francis was assigned to a Redemptorist-run parish in New Orleans. As pastor of the Church of St. Mary's Assumption in the Crescent City, Francis became widely known as a priest who was "always cheerful," yet also showed great concern for the poorest and the most abandoned of the city. In ministering to the victims of yellow fever in 1867, Francis himself contracted the disease and died at the age of 48. He was beatified by Pope John Paul II in the Solemn Jubilee Year 2000. As he was such an important witness to the strength and importance of Catholicism in the American South and a great example of selfless charity, one of Blessed Seelos' relics is contained in the altar of the parish church here in Oxford.

St. Mary's Assumption Church in New Orleans was Bl. Seelos' last assignment.
It is now home to the Seelos Shrine.