Cause for the Canonization of
Servant of God
"Apostle of the Alleghenies"
sought for Gallitzin
Tomorrow in Loretto's Basilica of St. Michael the Archangel, Frank and Betty Seymour will present Bishop Joseph Adamec with the petition for sainthood for Father Demetrius Gallitzin, an 18th century Russian prince who converted to Catholicism and became a pioneering missionary in Western Pennsylvania.
literally gave up everything to pursue a life of extraordinary hardship, in
order to plant the Catholic church here on this frontier," said Betty
Seymour, a retired teacher from Loretto,
Her research, with that of her husband, has made them "co-postulators," or head researchers, of Father Gallitzin's cause for canonization. The ceremony at tomorrow, in the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown, opens the official inquiry.
Teams of theologians and historians must examine his life for "heroic virtue.'' Eventually, medical experts must examine two alleged miracles -- claims that someone was inexplicably healed beyond medical remedy, after someone asked the saint to pray for their healing. So far no miracle has reported for Father Gallitzin.
It's unusual for a diocese to champion a sainthood cause, because of the time and expense. But Msgr. Michael Servinsky, vicar general of Altoona-Johnstown, said they are trusting God for the money -- and hoping costs will be low because Father Gallitzin's writings are well-catalogued.
gave up fortune and fame "to become a Catholic priest serving in the
impossible to live in Loretto -- which Father Gallitzin christened for a Marian
"You could feel his dust, which felt like silk," he said.
He began to study Father Gallitzin in 1970. In 1988 he founded the Prince Gallitzin Historical Association of Loretto. That same year, Mrs. Seymour spent a sabbatical researching him for the 1999 bicentennial of his arrival in Loretto.
he was a teen, his mother began to study the Bible. She became a devout
Catholic, and her son soon followed. His father sent him to
the young prince was overwhelmed by the spiritual need he saw here. He entered a
new Catholic seminary in
In the summer of 1799 the 29-year-old priest began building a log church that is now St. Michael's Basilica.
His idea was to bring oppressed, persecuted immigrants from the city and help them become land-owning farmers and tradesmen. He spent his entire personal fortune of $150,000 -- $4 million today -- toward that goal. Then he borrowed more on the expectation of an inheritance.
He bought additional acreage, and built sawmills, tanneries and grist mills. He made low-interest loans, many not repaid, for Catholics to buy land. He took in orphans. In 1816 he plotted a town of 144 lots.
"He felt Catholics needed to join together to strengthen their faith. And it worked very well here. This is an extremely Catholic area. ... When he came here there were 12 Catholic families. When he died, there were thousands," Mrs. Seymour said.
20 years, he was the lone priest in a region encompassing today's dioceses of
his inheritance was in jeopardy, he also refused to go back to
Gallitzin, a highly educated man, wrote works defending the Catholic faith
against claims it was unbiblical superstition. One was translated into three
languages and circulated in
Servinsky believes it will take about a year to compile the testimony for his
"heroic virtue." If the
"Probably the question people ask us most about his sainthood is 'Why now? Why did everybody wait so long?' " Mrs. Seymour said."Maybe the reason we didn't do it until now is that now is when he is needed. Maybe the things he wrote will appeal to a lot of people today."
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