Beato Francesco Saverio Seelos

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F
rancesco Saverio Seelos nasce l’11 gennaio 1819 a Füssen, Baviera, Germania. Viene battezzato lo stesso giorno nella chiesa parrocchiale di St. Mang. Fin dall’infanzia esprime il desiderio di diventare sacerdote ed entra nel seminario diocesano nel 1842 dopo aver completato gli studi in filosofia. Non appena incontra i missionari della Congregazione del SS. Redentore, fondato allo scopo di evangelizzare i più abbandonati, decide di entrare nella congregazione e di mettersi al servizio degli immigranti di lingua tedesca negli Stati Uniti. Viene accolto nella Congregazione il 22 novembre 1848 e salpa l’anno seguente da Le Havre, Francia, per giungere a New York il 20 aprile 1843.

Il 22 dicembre 1844, completato il noviziato e terminati gli studi in teologia, Seelos viene ordinato sacerdote nella Chiesa redentorista di St. James a Baltimora, Maryland, U.S.A. Dopo la sua ordinazione, lavora per nove anni nella parrocchia di St. Filomena a Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, prima in qualità di vice-parroco con S. Giovanni Neumann, superiore della Comunità Religiosa, poi come Superiore egli stesso, ed infine ancora tre anni come parroco. Durante questo periodo, diventa anche Maestro dei Novizi Redentoristi. Con Neumann si dedica a predicare le missioni. Seelos così commenta il suo rapporto con Neumann: “Mi ha introdotto alla vita attiva”, e “mi ha guidato come mio direttore spirituale e confessore”. La sua disponibilità e i suoi innati modi gentili, la sua attenzione ai bisogni dei fedeli fanno presto di lui una figura ben nota come confessore esperto e direttore spirituale, tanto che vengono a lui anche da altre città vicine.

Fedele al carisma Redentorista, pratica uno stile di vita modesto e si esprime con parole semplici. Le tematiche delle sue predicazioni, ricche di contenuto biblico, sono facili da capire anche per la gente più semplice. Una costante nel suo impegno è la sua dedizione ad istruire i piccoli alla fede. Non soltanto caldeggia questo ministero, ma lo ritiene fondamentale per la crescita della comunità cristiana nella parrocchia. Nel 1854 viene trasferito da Pittsburgh a Baltimora, poi a Cumberland nel 1857 e a Annapolis nel 1862, sempre impegnato nel servizio parrocchiale e dedito alla formazione dei futuri Redentoristi in qualità di Prefetto degli Studenti. Anche qui, è fedele alla sua immagine e rimane pastore, cortese e felice, sempre attento alle necessità dei suoi studenti e premuroso per la loro formazione dottrinale. Si dedica soprattutto ad infondere in questi futuri missionari Redentoristi, l’entusiasmo, lo spirito di sacrificio e lo zelo apostolico per il benessere spirituale e temporale della gente.

Nel 1860 viene proposto come candidato per l’ufficio di Vescovo di Pittsburg. Il Papa Pio IX lo libera da questa responsabilità gravosa e dal 1863 al 1866 Padre Seelos si dedica alla vita di missionario errante predicando in inglese ed in tedesco negli stati del Connecticut, Illinois, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island e Wisconsin.

Dopo un breve periodo di ministero parrocchiale a Detroit, Michigan, nel 1866 viene assegnato alla comunità Redentorista di New Orleans, Luisiana. Anche qui, parroco della Chiesa di S. Maria Assunta, è per i fedeli un parroco gioioso, disponibile e singolarmente sensibile alle necessità dei più poveri e dei più abbandonati. Ma nei piani di Dio questo ministero a New Orleans è destinato a durare poco. Nel mese di settembre, esausto dopo aver visitato e curato le vittime di un’epidemia di febbre gialla, contrae il terribile morbo. Dopo varie settimane di malattia che subisce con santa rassegnazione, passa alla vita eterna il 4 ottobre 1867, all’età di 48 anni e 9 mesi.

Sua Santità il Papa Giovanni Paolo II proclamerà Padre Francesco Saverio Seelos Beato in Piazza San Pietro il 9 aprile del Solenne Anno Giubilare 2000.

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