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Demetrius Gallitzin

"Apostle of the Alleghenies"




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A Prince In the Service of The Great King

The Catholic Register - December 22, 2008

    In a new series of articles, Betty Seymour, serving with her husband, Frank, as postular of the Cause for the Canonization of the Servant of God Demetrius Augustine Gallitzin, explains the evidence for the "heroic virtues" of the Prince-Priest.

Sarah M. Brownson, was the author of an 1973 biography, The Life of D.A. Gallitzin, Prince & Priest. She was the daughter of renowned 19th century catholic writer & defender of the faith, OrestesA. Brownson, 1803-1876.  Brownson had been a preacher and a non believer before he finally became a Catholic in 1844.  It is said he spent his 73 years on a religious pilgrimage.  During those years his gift of intellectual writing developed and eventually led to his search for truth and his powerful writings in defense of the Church.  He wrote many essays, articles and books, so it was not surprising that he was asked by his daughter to write the introduction for the Gallitzin biography.  Concerning this book, he wrote:

 “There are few personages connected with the history of the Church in this country more interesting, or more worthy to be remembered, than the subject of this memoir, or whose faith and devotion, whose charity and untiring labors in the cause of Christ and the souls of men, are better fitted to inspire us with gratitude to Almighty God who gave him to us, or to confirm our trust in the power of divine grace to overcome every obstacle the world here or elsewhere may interpose to prevent its victory. 

Few when Prince Demetrius was born could have foreseen that he would ever become a Catholic, far less a Catholic priest, far less still that he would live and die a devoted Catholic missionary in the wilds of the Alleghenies in Pennsylvania .  He was born of parents who had practically lost their faith, or scorned to profess it, like so many of the princes and nobles of the latter part of the eighteenth century, and was brought up in early childhood and youth in profound ignorance of religion.

That the son of such a father, and a mother in whom faith was dead, born to high rank and great wealth, and educated in the enlightened, or as now said, the ‘advanced’  ideas of the age, which regarded the church as dead and only waiting its obsequies, should become a Catholic, a zealous priest, and laborious missionary could be no less than a miracle of grace, a striking proof that miracles have not ceased, and that God had not abandoned the world, or ceased to care for the Church, which he purchased with his own blood”.

Mr. Brownson assured us that his daughter, “labored conscientiously at her task, and has spared neither time nor pains in collecting and arranging the facts and labors of the illustrious missionary and humble priest”.

Sarah M. Brownson , (1839-1876) wrote literary criticism for her Father’s “Review” as well as articles, stories and poems which appeared mainly in Catholic publications.  She wrote three other books, Gallitzin’s biography being her last and most significant.  Catholic Encyclopedia valued it thus, “It is a sincere and conscientious tribute to the rare virtues and worth of an extraordinary man, devoted priest, and humble missionary.”

Brownson visited the site of Gallitzin’s labors, did extensive research, became acquainted with priests who had known Fr. Gallitzin and gathered information from descendants of his earliest settlers as well as some who had been living when Gallitzin was their priest.  She, herself had never met him, so her book’s value is in her observations and conclusions after her many interviews and countless hours of fact finding.  She gathered several of his letters which she published within her book making some of them primary records when a fire later destroyed the Gallitzin collections at St. Francis College (now University) of Loretto in 1942.