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SEELOS IN FÜSSEN

A PARISHIONER WEBSITE ABOUT BLESSED FRANCIS XAVIER SEELOS

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Life of Blessed Francis Xavier Seelos

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Blessed Francis Xavier Seelos was born in Füssen, 11th January 1819. His father was a textile merchant and his son was baptized the same day as his birth. He was the 6th of 12 children born to Mang and Frances Schwarzenbach Seelos. He was named after St. Francis Xavier. They lived at Spitalgasse 13 (184 in those days due to house numbering in Füssen), along from the Spitalkirche on the opposite side of the road. A plaque has been placed on the house to show he was born there and its importance to Füssen.

 

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The  Spitalgasse and house where Blessed Francis Xavier Seelos was born. The plaque below is on the front of it.

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On the day of his birth, he was baptized in the Parish Church of St. Mang:
 
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This is the baptismal font in which he was baptized:
 
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When Blessed Francis Xavier Seelos was 11 years old his father became Sacristan of St Mang Basilica. This was due to the Industrial Revolution in the UK. The new textile process used there meant that Francis' father could no longer make a living. By God's grace he found a job as sacristan of St. Mang following the death of the previous sacristan.

Francis noted all these things and later told his mother that their desperate plight had made him more understanding of the needs of others. He was always grateful that his mother prayed the rosary daily with the family.

 

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House of the Sacristan of St Mang

His sister, Kunigunda, died tragically at the age of 18. She was helping to lift hay into the top window, which was then the hayloft, when she lost her balance and fell, hitting her head on the courtyard 3 floors below. Her last words as she fell were "Ambrose! Ambrose! I'm falling! Jesus, Mary and Joseph!" As she lost consciousness due to her fatal injuries she proclaimed, "Lord I am not worthy." She died 3 hours later. The next day Mang Seelos suffered a stroke.

 

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Francis was confirmed on 3rd September 1828 by Bishop of Augsburg, Iganz Albert V. Riegg. Nearly two years later at the age of 11, he made his first Holy Communion on the 2nd April 1830.

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St.Mang Basilica as it is today

 

The boys school Francis attended between the age of 6 and 12 years was located on the second floor of the building shown below. It now houses the indoor market on the ground floor. It was originally called the "Kornhaus". It was then a marketplace for grain; after that it became the fire station. Up to 60 boys attended the school when Francis was there. He attended this school from 1825-1831.

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It is located on the Corner of Schrannengaße and Brunnengaße.

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Each day before school at 0730 hrs Mass was celebrated in the Krippkirche – St. Nicholas and Francis Xavier regularly served the Mass. Francis Xavier Seelos owes a lot to his mother's piety. From her he learned the love of prayer and a deep devotion to Our Lady. The family were never rich and when the Industrial Revolution started in England, it made life even harder for the family as Mang was a weaver by trade. In the summer of 1830, the sacristan of St. Mang died and Francis Xavier's father got the job and was also able to move into the sacristan's house which was far larger than where they had been living on the Spitalgasse. After he left the junior school in Füssen he was helped by Father Franz Anton Heim, the new Parish Priest of Füssen. Father Heim arranged for the priest in charge of the Heilig- Geist- Spitalkirche (Hospital Church of the Holy Spirit), to tutor him in Latin. So in 1831-1832 Francis Xavier Seelos learnt Latin. 

 

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Heilig-Geist-Spitalkirche

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This enabled him to join the 2nd year at St Stephan's Grammar School in Augsburg. This not only saved high education fees for a year but allowed him to go a class higher. Life was not easy for him as he had to eat his meal at different houses each day and had a piece of bread for his breakfast and evening meals! But with the help of a scholarship from Füssen City and sparse living and prayer, he survived!

He graduated at the age of 20 and left Füssen for good at the age of 23. He then went to the University of Munich, where he completed his studies in Philosophy.

He entered the Diocesan seminary on 19th September 1842 and started his studies for the priesthood. He wasn't to stay there long. He met some Redemptorists and became very interested in their way of life and mission. They had been founded to evangelize the most abandoned and down-trodden. He was so taken by the charism of the order that he joined it on November 22nd 1842. He had joined the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer, so as to be able to help the German speaking immigrants in the United States of America. Many had left Germany to travel there for a new life. When they got there, they found that their spiritual needs were not adequately cared for. It was his longing to help them that eventually saw Francis leave Germany for America. On the Feast of St. Patrick, March 17th 1843, he left the port of Le Havre, France. He never went to visit his family before departing, instead he informed them in a letter. He arrived in New York on 20th April.   

Francis always claimed from an early age that he had a vocation to become a priest. So it was, on the 22nd December 1844, having completed both his noviciate and studies, he was ordained a priest at the Redemptorist Church of St. James, Baltimore, Maryland, USA.

A couple of months after his ordination he was posted to the parish of St. Philomena in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA. He was to stay in this post for 9 years. His first Parish Priest was St. John Neumann and he was Assistant Pastor under the Saint for 6 years. St. John Neumann was Superior of the order. Francis took over as Superior and Pastor of the church for the next 3 years. He also became the Redemptorist Novice Master. He had a great understanding and love for St. John Neumann and the two of them preached many missions together.

It was in the parish of Pittsburgh that Blessed Seelos became renowned for healing the sick and suffering members of the community. He would go with them into the church and pray with them at the Lady Altar. He would then give them a blessing. Many cures were reported due to the prayers of the Blessed.

The teaching of the faith to children was one of the most important things he could do in his ministry. He strived at all times to do this so as to allow the Christian Church to grow in the community. He was kind and understanding and people travelled miles and waited hours to have him hear their confessions and be their Spiritual Director. It was claimed by many that Francis had the ability to read hearts. 

He was transferred in 1854 to St Alphonsus, Baltimore as Pastor and again in 1857 to St. Peter & St. Paul Church, Cumberland as Pastor and prefect for the students.

In 1862, he was made Rector to St. Mary's Church and Novitiate, Annapolis, Maryland. It was during his posting here that he went to met President Abraham Lincoln to ask if the Redemptorist seminarians could be excused from military conscription during the Civil War.

Saint Mary’s Church and Novitiate, 1864. During his rectorship of St. Mary’s (1862-63), Blessed Franz Xaver Seelos established a fleet of sailboats to be used for recreation by the Redemptorist priests, brothers, and novices. Courtesy: Redemptorist Archives of the Baltimore Province, Brooklyn, New York.

Throughout his life Francis had a great love for Our Lady. He asked his two unmarried sisters regularly to pray for him at the Shrine of Our Lady of the Mountain (Frau am Berg Kirche). He told his brother that he had been told by Our Lady he was going to be a missionary in America.

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The Frau Am Berg Kirche

All during this time he made confession easier for people. He could hear confessions in Deutsch, English and French, he also didn't worry about the colour of a man's skin. Anyone was welcome to come to this priest who lived a simple life and was able to communicate with all, no matter how life had treated them. His name was even put forward to be Bishop of Pittsburgh. He wrote personally to the Holy Father, Pope Paul IX saying he was not adequate to accept such an esteemed post. Francis was overjoyed when someone else was named to the post.

When he was in charge of St. Peter & St. Paul Parish in Cumberland and prefect of the Redemptorist seminarians he would often get them to sing his favourite hymn to Our Lady, "Milde Königin, Gedenke".

Below is Our Lady of Bavaria Shrine on the Calvary Mountain Meadow. Blessed Francis Xavier Seelos had a great love for the Patron of his homeland State, Bavaria. This shrine was not built when he lived in Füssen.

 

On September 22nd 1863, Seelos was appointed superior of the Redemptorist Parish Missions.This saw him preaching missions in German and English in Connecticut, Illinois, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Wisconsin. He spent 2 years on the missions before being posted to St. Mary's Church in Detroit, Michigan in August 1865, as a humble priest.

28th September 1866 begins the last chapter of this life of joy, complete love and surrender to the Lord, when he was posted to St. Mary's Assumption Church, New Orleans, Louisiana USA as pastor.

Blessed Francis Xavier Seelos died in New Orleans suffering from Yellow Fever on Friday, 4th October 1867. He was 48 years and 9 months old and had spent half his life in Germany and half in America. He was so loved in New Orleans that the night he died, despite there being a hurricane, the church was packed with people praying for the repose of his soul before his funeral which took place the next day.

He was Beatified by Pope John Paul II on 9th April 2000. Many members of the Füssen congregation made a pilgrimage to Rome to be there for the great occasion. He was reburied in St. Mary's Assumption Church New Orleans in October 2000 after a funeral Mass at the Cathedral. On the way to St. Mary's he was Given a Police escort.

 

Vatican Site Info on Blessed Seelos

Homily of Pope John Paul II at the Beatification Mass

Historical Timeline of Blessed Seelos' Life

 

Shrine of the Blessed Seelos in St. Mang Basilica, Füssen:

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Seelos Family Documents:

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Family documents of Blessed Francis Xavier Seelos used to be able to be viewed in Aschenbrenner Haus in the Hutegasse on Tuesdays and Fridays between 1600hrs-1800hrs. (See photo below to help you find it. It is right next to the St. Mang Fountain in the centre of town.)

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150 Years of History and Blessed Seelos, Too 

American author Dr. Robert L. Worden presented Monsignor Karlheinz Knebel on behalf of the Parish, a copy of his book, "St Mary's Church in Annapolis, Maryland: A Sesquicentennial History, 1853-2003".

In his book he gathers all available data on the times that Blessed Seelos spent there in his ministry. It is of great importance to Füssen as Blessed Seelos was born, Baptized, Confirmed, made his first Confession and Communion here as well as serving daily Mass.
 
Dr. Worden has been archivist and historian at St. Mary's since 1982. He gained a PhD at Georgetown University in 1972. He has lived in Annapolis since 1971. Father John Kingsbury C.Ss.R., Parish Priest of St. Mary's, told us, "He is our parish archivist but it is a labor of love." 

 


 

We are greatly honoured to have Blessed Francis Xavier Seelos as one of the Patrons of the Basilica. The fact that Füssen was his birthplace is another wonderful reason to look further into the life of this great Blessed and to try and emulate his life of service to God and others.

The Shrine in New Orleans where Blessed Seelos died at the age of 48 years 9 months due to yellow fever, is open for visitors.

References

1)October 2007 "Seelos Newsletter" & Earl J.Higgins-The Joy of Y'at Catholicism(Pelican Publishing Company 2007)

2)"A life of Blessed Francis Xavier Seelos" by Carl W. Hoeger,C.Ss.R. & Alicia Von Stmwitz-(Redemptorist Publications)

3)Katholisches Staptpfarramt St. Mang,Füssen -"Seliger Franz Xaver Seelos aus Füssen" Von Karlheinz Knebel

Father Bryan Sidney Storey RIP

Please pray for the repose of the soul of Father Bryan Storey, founder of Eucharistic Renewal Books and Catholic Priest of St. Paul the Apostle Church, Tintagel, Cornwall, UK.

HE WAS RESPONSIBLE FOR GIVING US THE EUCHARISTIC RENEWAL DOMAIN.