Father Francis Xavier Seelos’ mission and ministry irrevocably changed New Orleans. Seelos died here of yellow fever on Oct. 4,1867, just months after becoming pastor of the St. Mary’s Assumption Church on Josephine Street in the Irish Channel. But before then, the Redemptorist priest was known for his outreach not just to those in New Orleans, but also in Maryland, Connecticut, Illinois, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Wisconsin.
Seelos was born in Bavaria, Germany, and entered the Redemptorist order in 1842. He left the following year for the United States to minister to immigrants, working in Baltimore and then in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Seelos was sought out for his spiritual guidance because of his straightforward way of communicating with a wide cross section of people. In 1860 he was proposed as a candidate for bishop of Pittsburgh, but he chose instead to be a traveling missionary throughout several states before he was sent to Detroit. In 1866, he was assigned to St. Mary’s in New Orleans. Seelos was caring for yellow fever victims when he contracted the disease and died.
The cause of Seelos’ canonization was first taken to Rome in 1900. Pope John Paul II beatified Seelos on April 9, 2000. Efforts to make Seelos a saint continue, with reported miracles attributed to Seelos sent to the Vatican for consideration.
St. Mary’s Assumption Church houses the National Shrine of Blessed Francis Xavier Seelos, which contains a relic – a bone from Seelos. The St. Vincent de Paul Church in the Bywater was renamed for Seelos.