Cause for the Canonization of
Servant of God
"Apostle of the Alleghenies"
Pittsburgh Catholic - 6 April 2007
The Altoona-Johnstown Diocese last month formally launched its campaign for the canonization of Prince Demetrius Gallitzin, the early missionary who brought Catholicism to central and western Pennsylvania in 1799.
The diocese hosted an opening ceremony March 11 at the Basilica of St. Michael the Archangel in Loretto, Cambria County, where Father Gallitzin served for 41 years. Bishop Joseph Adamec opened the diocesan inquiry for the canonization cause by administering oaths to officials and commission members who will oversee the process.
Their work will eventually be presented to the Vatican’s Congregation for Saints’ Causes, which will decide on beatification and finally canonization. The bishop also asked people to forward information or evidence of miraculous intervention of Father Gallitzin to the diocese.
The effort began in 2004, when the bishop named a diocesan task force to begin work on submitting Father Gallitzin’s name to the Vatican for canonization.
A year later, the Vatican approved, gave the title of “Servant of God” to Gallitzin and OK’d continuation of the process.
“This is a rare moment in the history of our diocese,” Bishop Adamec said.
The son of Russian royalty arrived in this country in 1795 at age 25. Just eight days later, in Baltimore, he presented himself before America’s first prelate, Bishop John Carroll, seeking admission into St. Mary Seminary.
He became the second priest ordained in the new country and the first to receive all of his seminary education here.
After ordination, the young Father Gallitzin ventured west to serve the newly settled country — becoming known as “Apostle of the Alleghenies.”
Though he spent most of his efforts establishing missions throughout central Pennsylvania, he also served Catholics farther west.
“We know that he passed through this area,” Father James Garvey, former president of the Catholic Historical Society and parochial vicar/senior priest at St. Margaret Mary in Moon Township, said of Father Gallitzin. “In those days there were no resident priests. He offered Mass, heard confessions in the general Pittsburgh area.”
Father Garvey added, “He settled in Loretto. It was there that he really blossomed.
“He is well remembered in the eastern part of western Pennsylvania for having recognized the need for establishing a Catholic church. He reached out and because of his perseverance was able to enable the people to remain faithful Catholics,” Father Garvey said.
In the Pittsburgh Diocese, Mount Gallitzin Academy in Baden, on the grounds of the St. Joseph sisters, is the only institution named after the missionary priest. It dates to 1869 when the sisters began a school for boys in Ebensburg, near Loretto, naming it after “the pioneering priest of the Alleghenies.”
When the sisters moved west, they established the new school in 1902.
The sisters “are quite honored that our oldest apostolic ministry, Mount Gallitzin Academy in Baden, bears the name of Father Demetrius Gallitzin,” said Sister Sharon Costello, congregational minister. “In his spirit, our teaching sisters and staff continue to maintain the rich history and religious roots of the school.”
Father Gallitzin was born in The Hague on Dec. 22, 1770, son of Prince Demetrius Alexeivich Gallitzin. Baptized into his father’s Russian Orthodox faith, he converted to his mother’s Catholic faith in his teens, thus losing his place in the Russian court.
In this country, just months after his ordination, he responded to a sick call in remote McGuire’s Settlement in Cambria County. It was later to become the base for his ministry.
Father Gallitzin died in Loretto on May 6, 1840, at age 69.