Couple hopes priest's things are returned



LORETTO, Pa. (AP) -- A couple of historians are trying to recover religious relics owned by the second Roman Catholic priest ordained in the United States, a man known as the "Apostle of the Alleghenies" for bringing Catholicism to south-central Pennsylvania.
Frank and Betty Seymour, a husband and wife who run the Prince Gallitzin Historical Association, and others are trying to track down artifacts -- from glasses to books to sacramentals -- owned by the Rev. Demetrius Gallitzin so they can be returned to his former chapel house tucked in the hills of Cambria County.
An inventory of his belongings when he died in 1840 lists some 450 items, most of which the Seymours believe could be scattered in attics, sheds and barns around the chapel, about 70 miles east of Pittsburgh, or across the country.
The chapel house currently has many of the items Father Gallitzin used during Mass and his violin.
"When Gallitzin died, everyone in this area knew they better get something that belonged to [Gallitzin] because they knew, at some point in the future, something very special was going to happen to him," said Frank Seymour.
Naming a saint
The Seymours and the Rev. John Byrnes, a priest with Altoona-Johnstown Catholic Diocese, have revived efforts to have Father Gallitzin -- the son of a Russian prince, who left his titled life behind at age 29 and emigrated to the United States -- canonized.
Prince Demetrius Gallitzin was born in Lithuania in 1770 to a wealthy family. He was trained to be an officer in the army of Russia's Catherine The Great, but shocked his father by declaring he wanted to serve God.
Gallitzin's father knew Benjamin Franklin and John Adams and sent Gallitzin to the United States hoping he would learn from them.
But instead, Gallitzin in 1795 entered a Baltimore monastery and became the first priest to receive full orders and be ordained in the United States. He was sent to the "Clearfields" area, which was later named Cambria County, and bought a 300-acre plot, part of which would become the Borough of Loretto.
He spent all of his money on building sawmills, gristmills, tanneries, a church and a model farm, running up large debts.
Father Gallitzin invited Irish workers in New York sweatshops to settle in Loretto, and many took up a collection to keep the chapel house from being sold. Father Gallitzin died, according to Frank Seymour, "from strangulation of a hernia due to a horse fall six years earlier."
Missing valuables
After his death, some of his belongings were sold, such as a road wagon for $37, a horn-spoon sunglass for 23 cents and a microscope for $2.
"There are many things that were part of the life that [Father Gallitzin] was that are still in and around this area in attics and sheds, or hanging in barns," Frank Seymour said. "We just want to know if any of this is still around, so we can document who has it and authenticate it."
The chapel recovered some of the relics after an exhibition marking the 100th anniversary of his death, but many were loaned to the chapel and returned.
One of the more sought-after items is a cameo made of Father Gallitzin when he was 10 years old. The Seymours have traced the cameo to a woman known as "Mrs. Ivory," who lived in Loretto and later moved to St. Joseph, Mo., likely with the cameo. Both have since disappeared.
If the Seymours can't persuade people to part with the priest's possessions, they would at least like to authenticate the items and record who has them.
"We want people to at least let us know it is there and to let us study it, record it and authenticate it for the cause material for Gallitzin's advancement [to sainthood]," Frank Seymour said.
------
Information from: The Tribune-Democrat, http://www.tribune-democrat.com
Copyright 2004 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Subscribe Today

Sign up for our email newsletter to receive daily news.

Want more? Click here to subscribe to either the Print or Digital Editions.