2011-01-06 / Local & State

Pa. Couple Building Case For Sainthood

By Kathy Mellott

LORETTO, Pa. (AP) – After the Christmas tree is down and the new year ushered in, a couple from Loretto will lovingly wrap in archival paper thousands of documents about the life and thoughts of Prince Demetrius Gallitzin.

Frank and Betty Seymour, after more than two decades of research and study, will send the documents off to the Vatican as the next step in their campaign to have Gallitzin deemed a saint.

The scores of information will go to Rome for further research and study. Copies will also go to two commissioners established within the Altoona-Johnstown Roman Catholic Diocese for dissection and research.

The thousands of documents to the Vatican must be sealed in wax and the Seymours hope, hand delivered early next year.

“We gather all of the research and it must be presented in an absolute perfect fashion,’’ Betty Seymour said.

“That will be a great day for us.’’

This next step in what has been termed the “ladder’’ toward sainthood for the man who was a Russian prince, marks completion of the “inquiry phase.’’ The goal of the Seymours and others was to prove Gallitzin lived a life full of virtue, something they think they have done.

The research will be reviewed by a historical commission, which will look at Gallitzin and his role in the very young America and region.

The theological commission must rule on everything concerning Gallitzin’s writings, his theology and his faith compared with the theology of the Catholic church at that time.

Gallitzin was born in 1770 in The Hague, Netherlands, the son of Russian nobility. At age 29, he emigrated to the United States.

It was after he came to this country that he became a Catholic and entered the priesthood. In the winter of 1799, the Russian priest came to McGuire Settlement, later to be named Loretto.

His efforts are credited with what remains today a stronghold of Catholicism in the region.

Gallitzin, eventually dubbed “The Apostle of the Alleghenies,’’ started it all when he built a log cabin church and held the area’s first Christmas Eve Mass, Frank Seymour said.

The Seymours and a handful of others, including The Rev. Allen Zeth, and Msgr. Timothy Swope, are significant parts of the sainthood effort.

Zeth is the diocese’s vocational director and director of diocesan shrines. Swope is rector of the Basilica of St. Michael the Archangel, Loretto.

While the Seymours and others are satisfied with the work they have completed in the inquiry phase, they acknowledge the biggest hurdle to cross is a miracle that can be directly credited to Gallitzin. It must include a thorough investigation that removes all doubt that divine intervention was involved.

“God provides the miracle, but it’s through the intercession of the saints,’’ Swope said. “It’s different than saying Aunt Minnie was a saint. God works through his family.’’

Frank Seymour added: “It’s beyond all understanding.’’

Betty Seymour tells the story of a woman whose son could not find a job. They started praying to Gallitzin, and after two years he got a job at Georgetown University.

“We’ve gotten a number of these, but it’s not something we can prove,’’ she said.

The miracle must be something current, not reports of something done when Gallitzin was still alive, the Seymours said.

It must be something that can be investigated, people can be interviewed and all doubts removed.

“It can’t be a miracle from way back when. They don’t want an old miracle,’’ Betty Seymour said. “It must be something from today.’’

The Vatican must approve Gallitzin for veneration and beatification before he can be considered for sainthood.

Research shows mention of Gallitzin and sainthood documented in the 1870s, but nothing came of it, Frank Seymour said. Talk stirred again in the 1960s, but died away.

This latest effort to seek sainthood for Gallitzin started when Betty Seymour, a schoolteacher, took a sabbatical in 1988. At the urging of her husband, she spent a winter studying Gallitzin documents.

Frank Seymour, retired after many years of working for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania at the Ebensburg Center, soon joined in what they can only describe as a journey.

Word of the Seymours’ efforts reached Bishop Joseph Adamec, who in 2005 announced Gallitzin had attained the status of “servant of God,’’ the first of a number of hurdles on the way to sainthood.

The ruling was by the Congregation of Saints of the Holy See, which allowed for the formation of a task force.

In 2007, the cause for sainthood officially opened and the Seymours and others began the inquiry phase.

“The Vatican found no impediment that stood in our way for pursuing this,’’ Betty Seymour said.

It is the inquiry phase that is coming to an end, with all the translations and research passed onto higher authorities.

While Gallitzin died long before the construction of the elegant, gray stone Basilica of St. Michael the Archangel, he is credited with establishing the parish and what is now much of Loretto.

The west quad of what is now the parish cemetery was the home of the first log church 221 years ago. In 1808, it was enlarged, and in 1817 was doubled in size to a frame church.

Records show that in 1853 it was replaced with a brick church on the present site of St. Michael’s and in 1899 a new structure built, Frank Seymour said.

Steel magnate Charles Schwab hired a Pittsburgh architect and allocated $60,000 for a new church.

The final price was well over budget, he said, with the range between $160,000 and $170,000.

Economics do not play a role in this modern-day pursuit of sainthood for Gallitzin, but the impact could be significant for the region, Frank Seymour said.

“If sainthood is ever declared, this town will turn into a Mecca,’’ he said.

Any idea that the Seymours have no personal interest in this pursuit for sainthood, and its importance to Loretto, would be incorrect.

Two of Betty Seymour’s ancestors came to the area with Gallitzin and one was his carpenter. Frank Seymour is a first cousin twice removed to Charles Schwab.

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