Father Demetrius Augustine Gallitzin
The Princely Apostle of Western Pennsylvania is an example for our age
On June 6, 2005, Rev. Demetrius Augustine Gallitzin was declared a "Servant of God" by the Catholic Church. His cause is promoted by the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown and the web site, http://www.demetriusgallitzin.org/. This priest known as the "Apostle of the Alleghenies," and the founder of the town of Loretto, Pennsylvania, was a Russian Prince, whose story is uniquely American, and Catholic.
The hand that rocked the cradle ruled the world of our future American apostle. Raised a Catholic until age nine, when a freethinking tutor soured her on religion, Amalia passed through a number of strange enthusiasms on her way back to the Faith of her baptism. From being a disciple of Diderot and Voltaire (the former of whom was a frequent household guest in the Gallitzin home), she began to follow an eccentric Dutch antiquarian named Hemsterhuis, after whose tutelage she came under the salutary influence of a formidable German educator in the person of the very Catholic Baron Franz von Fuerstenberg.
The Baron, who did much to improve education in Westphalia after the suppression of the Jesuits, had in his circle of collaborators many priests who helped ensure the Catholicity of his energetic undertakings. After a providential illness, Amalia was brought back to the Faith. She would not be - could not be - mediocre in its practice. Princess Amalia wanted to be another Saint Monica, and her son, of course, was to be another Saint Augustine, even if she had to drag him to that pinnacle of greatness kicking and screaming.
Lacking Monica's demure nature, the princess was a strong personality, charming, brilliant, beautiful, and - how say it? - excessive in everything she did. One gets the impression that the princess brought to every venture, including child-rearing, the decisiveness of one squeezing the last bit of toothpaste out of the tube, though she looked good doing it. She was a bright light who often eclipsed all around her, including her son, whom she found disappointingly "empty" well into his teens and beyond. At age twenty-one, "Mitri," as he was known to the family, would do what all aristocratic young men did before embarking on a career. He would take his world tour to complete his formal education with the experimental knowledge one gained by travel. His was to be a two-year tour, but where to do it? Europe was in the throes of war: In the West, France was in the convulsions of the Jacobin Revolution; in the East, Russia's Catherine the Great had her "Greek Project" - war with Turkey.
It was decided that Mitri would tour not the Old World, but the New. He would travel with a priest named Father Brosius, an educator and brilliant mathematician who had his heart set on more than math: He wanted to add to the Church's numbers in America by responding to Bishop Carroll's call for German-speaking priests. He would be a missionary. But he would also be the personal chaplain of Mitri on his two-year tour, or so the Princess thought, for she had arranged it. When the duet arrived on October 28, 1792, Bishop Carroll was not thrilled over the idea of a much-needed missionary acting as tour-guide-chaplain for a Russian prince making his own in the world. He discreetly ignored Mitri's accompanying letters of recommendation from the princess and a German bishop, suggesting that, temporarily at least, Mr. Augustine Smith (Mitri's new name in America) would be a welcome guest at the one-year-old Saint Mary's Seminary in Baltimore. Whether or not the bishop planned it, Mitri's stay at the seminary awakened in the phlegmatic prince a keen desire to be a priest, an American missionary priest.
Carroll was skeptical. A Russian aristocrat was not exactly fitted for the hardscrabble life of a frontier missionary. He took the young man with him on some of his rounds of the diocese, which, in its entirety, was all of the U.S.A. Mitri liked what he saw. He went to the seminary and excelled in his studies. Having the best education Baron von Fuerstenberg and his mother could offer helped. He was ordained priest on March 18, 1795, becoming the first priest to receive all his orders (minor and major) in the new Republic.During his first assignments, the young priest acclimated himself to his ministry with difficulty. He was not practical, not very good with people (at this early stage of lay trusteeism, some folk were already quite uppity), and no good with money. He also seemed to have some of his mother's restlessness and asked for new assignments when ...
Rate This Article
Leave a Comment
More Christian Saints & Heroes News
- St. Catherine of Sienna Calls Each One of Us to Love God Right Where We Are
- After the Corned Beef: St. Patrick Challenges Modern Christians to be Missionaries
- Bet you didn't know these 10 things about St. Patrick and Ireland!
- The Vision of St. John Bosco and the Papacy of Benedict XVI
- St. Thomas Aquinas is a Model for the New Evangelization
- Saint John Neumann Calls us all to Apostolic Charity and Courageous Christianity
- Who are you? John the Baptizer, Basil and Gregory Nazianzen Call Christian Men to Live as Friends
- Prophetic Pope Paul VI, a Champion of Human Life, Now Venerable
- Feast of St Francis Xavier Calls for New Evangelization Missionaries For the West
- Fr. Paul Schenck: Finding Living Faith on Catechetical Sunday
- The Movie Yellow: Incest as 'Normal' and Cassavates's Slides Into the World of Woes
- The Chicago School Teachers Strike Reveals the Need For School Choice
- The Sexual Barbarians and the Dissolution of Culture
- The Happy Priest Challenges Us to Ask: Who is Jesus to Me?
- Michael Coren on Canadian Public Schools: Teachers, leave those kids alone
- We Cannot Ignore Our Consciences: Cardinal Dolan On Religious Liberty
- In the Face of Danger, Successor of Peter Travels to Lebanon as a Messenger of Peace
- Reflections on the Dignity and Vocation of Women: Who or What?
Catholic Online offers the largest searchable database of Catholic Saints on the internet.
|A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z|
|A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z|