Divine intercession through the power of prayer and faith have been known to bring about more than one miraculous cure through the years. The healing powers of the waters of Lourdes are just one example of healing through prayer and faith and the belief of a divine intervention for help.
This Saturday, the bust statue of Blessed (Bl.) Father Francis Xavier Seelos will be dedicated at St. Theresa’s Catholic Church in Abbeville. The blessing will be performed by the director of the Seelos Center in New Orleans, Fr. Byron Miller, C. Sr. R., following the 4 p.m. Mass.
The statue of Blessed Fr. Seelos was donated by Larry and Sharon Campisi and was sculpted by Franco Allesandrini. Allesandrini is from Florence, Italy, and lives in New Orleans. The marble used to create the statue is Carrara Bardiglio Marble from the Tuscany region of Italy.
Larry and Sharon literally stumbled into the knowledge of Bl. Fr. Seelos because of a road detour in New Orleans. They were visiting the Crescent City and driving to Mass at the time of the road detour, and found, by accident, the steeple that led them to St. Alphonsus Church in New Orleans. Following a tour of the church and the facilities surrounding Bl. Fr. Seelos, the couple found a new church and a new patron saint in their lives.
“We didn’t know anything about St. Alphonsus until about 10 years ago,” said Larry. “There have been two confirmed miracles linked to Fr. Seelos; one, a child, and another of a lady with liver cancer that was completely cured. Our family has been touched by his healing power and we wanted to give other people the opportunity to meet Fr. Seelos for themselves.”
“In thanksgiving for the intercessions we have received through Fr. Seelos, this is our gift to the people of the area to come and pray,” said Sharon. “Prayers for him (Seelos) to intercede to God can be for anything, whether spiritual or physical needs of healing.”
The base surrounding the sculpture of Bl. Fr. Seelos was made by their son Dominic. Sharon finished the stand with a coat of stain. There is also a kneeler in front of the statue in the vestibule of St. Theresa’s for private prayers.
Bl. Fr. Seelos was born in Germany in 1819. The sixth child of a dozen, he left home around the age of 14 to attend school under the Benedictines, where he excelled in languages. The French language would prove beneficial late in his life for his tenure in New Orleans.
His faith life led him to life as a missionary in America. Upon finishing his education, he was ordained a priest of the Redemptorists in 1844 and assigned to Pittsburgh. His appointments took him throughout the Cumberland region serving the German communities in the area. He was most noted for his compassionate work through the confessional. His preaching manner was described as direct and folksy, instead of an oratorical style.
Following his rise in the Redemptorist organization, Bl. Fr. Seelos became the prefect of all Redemptorist seminarians in the United States, and was the superior of the entire Redemptorist community by the time he was 38 years of age. During the Civil War, he met with President Abraham Lincoln to request that the seminarians not be subject to the draft for the Army. While no guarantee was given, no seminarians were drafted into service.
Following the Civil War, Bl. Fr. Seelos was assigned missionary work throughout the entire North Central part of the United States. His travels took him to Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan. From his base in Detroit, he was transferred to New Orleans in 1866 where he would die of yellow fever on October 4, 1867.
The efforts to have Bl. Fr. Seelos canonized as a saint began soon after his death. Interviews with those who knew and worked with him were taken; his writings were organized and reviewed. In 1902, one of the Redemptorist nuns being transferred to New Orleans with Seelos in 1866 said that Bl.Fr. Seelos told her he would “stay in New Orleans for a year and then die of yellow fever.”
While the efforts to have his life’s work recognized began in earnest, they eventually diminished with time and Rome’s seeming lack of attention. In 1967, efforts again picked up to have him recognized as a Saint in the Catholic Church. The Father Seelos Center was built in New Orleans and, by 1998, more than 16,000 letters of thanksgiving, petitions and other communications from believers to the center, had been written in recognition of spiritual and physical healings received from prayers interceded through Bl. Fr. Seelos.