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Theodosius Florentini

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Born at Münster, in the Grisons, Switzerland, 23 May, 1808; died at Heiden, in Appenzell, 15 Feb., 1865. He entered the Capuchin Franciscan Order, 22 Oct., 1825, was ordained priest in 1830, and appointed novice master, and lecturer on philosophy and theology. In 1838 he became guardian at Baden ; in 1845 superior and parish priest at Chur ; in 1857 definitor, and in 1860 vicar-general of the Diocese of Chur. In the first half of the nineteenth century the Catholics in Switzerland found themselves in a lamentable position. In addition to Protestant ascendency there was the spirit of unbelief and of false mysticism. Even the Governments of Catholic cantons lent themselves to the persecution of the Church and the conventual houses. The unfortunate Sonderbund war had broken the power and confidence of the Catholics, and the victorious Radical party forced upon the country a constitutional league pledged to the destruction of Catholic interests. In consequence of his zealous defence of the Church, Father Theodosius was forced to fly to Alsace in 1841. But in August of the same year he returned, and brought his experience to bear on plans for the welfare of the Church and people. First he founded the Institute of the Franciscan Sisters of the Holy Cross. In the Capuchin church at Altorf on 16 Oct., 1844, the first three sisters received the habit of the Third Order of St. Francis. Their constitutions enjoin upon them to make themselves all to all in order to win souls to Christ and to do nothing which might repel any from their mode of life. From this foundation grew the congregation of teaching sisters, with their mother-house at Memingen, which has now about 1200 members. Later on Father Theodosius founded the congregation of Sisters of Mercy at Ingenbohl, which numbers 5251 sisters in 878 institutions. These congregations have been approved by the Holy See. Both are actively engaged in educational works; they have foundling asylums , orphanages, kindergartens, poor schools, boarding-schools for girls, and seminaries for teachers. Both have in their homes for girls a patronage , as the French call it, for servant girls, factory workers, shop assistants, and others. The Sisters of Mercy have, besides, homes for the poor and sick, and undertake private nursing.

In the meantime Father Theodosius was himself busy as a schoolmaster. He superintended the people's schools ( Volksschülen ), which are attended by others besides the poor. He promoted continuation schools and was in favour of technical instruction for apprentices and workmen. He founded anew the suppressed Jesuit College, Maria-Hilf zu Schwyz, where there are now more than 400 pupils. It comprises a gymnasium, lyceum, and an industrial school with technical and mercantile departments. To stir up anew Catholic life he engaged in popular missions and retreats for priests. To provide for the needs of Catholics in Protestant parts of Switzerland he founded the home missions for which he provided a special fund. The institution of the annual conference of the Swiss bishops was largely due to his efforts. To bring Swiss Catholics together to strengthen Catholic feeling, and to organize social works, he founded the Pius Society. For this society Father Theodosius worked harder than for all else; it was in connexion with this that he more fully expounded his Christian social ideas. He was very keen upon the care and inspection of the helpless and dependent, such as boarded-out children, apprentices, neglected children, and discharged prisoners. With regard to the labour question Father Theodosius expressed himself very fully in his speech at Frankfort in 1863. In demanding the Christianizing of industry, trade unions, and workmen's credit banks, he said: "Formerly monasteries were turned into factories, now factories must become monasteries, and the profits must be shared with the workers". Factories were established to carry out this idea, but they failed, owing to a lack of business capacity in the founders. At Ingenbohl Father Theodosius founded a printing and book-binding establishment and a society for the distribution of good books. Among his own writings are the "Legends of the Saints" in four volumes. His spirit was well expressed in the saying of St. Augustine which on the eve of his death he wrote in the notebook of a teacher: "In necessariis unitas, in dubiis libertas, in omnibus charitas". A favourite maxim of his was: "Whatever is the need of the time, is God's Will".

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