New Orleans: Shrine of Blessed Francis Xavier Seelos
About Blessed Seelos:
If you plan to visit New Orleans, you should definitely stop in at the Shrine of Blessed Seelos. Francis Xavier Seelos was born on January 11, 1819 in Fussen, Bavaria, Germany. He had expressed a desire for the priesthood since childhood and he entered the diocesan seminary in 1842 after having completed his studies in philosophy.
Soon after meeting the missionaries of the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer (Redemptorists), founded for the evangelization of the most abandoned, he decided to enter the Congregation and to minister to the German speaking immigrants in the United States. He was accepted by the Congregation on November 22, 1842, and sailed the following year from Le Havre, France arriving in New York on April 20, 1843. On December 22, 1844, after having completed his novitiate and theological studies, Seelos was ordained a priest in the Redemptorist Church of St. James in Baltimore, Maryland.
After being ordained, he worked for nine years in the parish of St. Philomena in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, first as assistant pastor with St. John Neumann, the superior of the Religious Community, and later as Superior himself and for the last three years as pastor. With Neumann, he also dedicated himself to preaching missions. Regarding their relationship, Seelos said: “He has introduced me to the active life” and, “he has guided me as a spiritual director and confessor.”
His availability and innate kindness in understanding and responding to the needs of the faithful, quickly made him well known as an expert confessor and spiritual director, so much so that people came to him even from neighboring towns. Faithful to the Redemptorist charism, he practiced a simple lifestyle and a simple manner of expressing himself. His preaching, rich in biblical content, were always heard and understood even by everyone, regardless of education, culture, or background.
A constant endeavor in this pastoral activity was instructing the little children in the faith. He not only favored this ministry, he held it as fundamental for the growth of the Christian community in the parish. In 1854, he was transferred from Pittsburgh, to Baltimore, then Cumberland in 1857, and to Annapolis (1862), all the while engaged in parish ministry and serving in the formation of future Redemptorists as Prefect of Students. Even in this post, he was true to his character remaining always the kind and happy pastor, prudently attentive to the needs of his students and conscientious of their doctrinal formation. Above all, he strove to instill in these future Redemptorist missionaries the enthusiasm, the spirit of sacrifice and apostolic zeal for the spiritual and temporal welfare of the people.
In 1860 he was proposed as a candidate for the office of Bishop of Pittsburgh, something he definitely did not want. He was excused from this responsibility by Pope Pius IX, from 1863 until 1866 he dedicated himself to the life of an itinerant missionary preaching in English and German in the states of Connecticut, Illinois, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Wisconsin.
After a brief period of parish ministry in Detroit, Michigan, Seelos preached a two-week parish mission at St. Mary of Victories Church in St. Louis, Missouri in October 1865. The Church has a small shrine to his honor, a first class relic, and one of the five known death masks made of Seelos
Seelos was next assigned in 1866 as Pastor of the Church of St. Mary of the Assumption, New Orleans. However, his ministry in New Orleans was destined to be brief. At the time a devastating Yellow Fever epidemic raged and in September of that year, exhausted from visiting and caring for the victims of the disease, he himself contracted it and after several weeks of patiently enduring his illness, he passed on to eternal life on October 4, 1867, at the age of 48 years and 9 months.
His Holiness Pope John Paul II, proclaimed Father Seelos Blessed in St. Peter’s Square on April 9th of the Solemn Jubilee Year 2000. His Feast Day is October 5.
Many cures have been attributed to his intercession over the years and his cause for Canonization is being actively pursued.
About the Shrine of Blessed Seelos:
The Shrine is manned by volunteers and open Monday – Friday 9 AM – 3 PM, Saturdays 10 AM – 3:30 PM. Other times by appointment.
Traveling to the Shrine of Blessed Seelos:
Note that there is a Blessed Seelos Parish in New Orleans; however, this is not where the shrine is located. The shrine–and his burial site–is located next to St. Mary’s Assumption Church where he served as pastor. If you are staying in the French Quarter you can catch a street car and then walk a few blocks or just take a taxi.
Address: 919 Josephine St, New Orleans, LA 70130
GPS coordinates: 29° 55′ 44.6052” N, 90° 4′ 28.3980” W
Tel: +1 (504) 525-2495
Click here for the official website of the Shrine of Blessed Francis Xavier Seelos in New Orleans .
Photos courtesy Blessed Seelos Shrine.