Gennaro Maria Sarnelli, the son of the Baron of Ciorani, was born in Naples on September 12, 1702.
At the age of 14 following the beatification of Francis Regis he decided to become a Jesuit. Having been dissuaded by his father because of his youth he began the study of jurisprudence and took his Doctorate in ecclesiastical and civil law in 1722. He distinguished himself at the Bar and was enrolled in the Congregation of the Knights of the Legal and Medical Professions directed by the Pious Workers at St. Nicholas of Toledo. Among the rules of this Association there was the obligation of visiting the sick in the Hospital of the Incurables. It was here he heard the call of the Lord to become a priest.
Saint Gregory the Armenian, Naples
In September 1728 he became a seminarist and was incardinated by Cardinal Pignatelli as a cleric in the parish of St. Anne di Palazzo. On June 4, 1729 in order to study in more peaceful conditions he became a boarder in the College of the Holy Family known as the Chinese College, founded by Matthew Ripa. On April 8 of the following year he left the Chinese College and on June 5 began his novitiate in the Congregation of the Apostolic Missions.
On May 28 1731 he concluded his novitiate and on July 8 of the following year he was raised to the Priesthood. During these years in addition to his visits to the hospital he devoted himself to helping young children forced to work and to teaching them the catechism. He also visited the old people in the Hospice of St. Gennaro and those condemned to the galleys who were ill in the hospital at the docks. These were also the years when he developed a friendship with St. Alphonsus de Liguori and his apostolate. Together they devoted themselves to teaching the catechism to laypeople by organizing the Evening Chapels.
Following his ordination he was assigned by Cardinal Pignatelli as Director of Religious Instruction in the parish of Sts. Francis and Matthew in the Spanish quarter. Having become aware of the rampant corruption of young girls he decided to direct all his energy against prostitution. In the same period (1733) he tenaciously defended St. Alphonsus against unjust criticism after he had founded the missionary Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer in Scala (SA) on November 9 1732. In June of the same year having gone to Scala to help his friend during the mission at Ravello, he decided to become a Redemptorist while at the same time continuing to be a member of the Apostolic Missions.
From his entrance into the Congregation in April 1736 he committed himself unsparingly to parish missions and to writing in defense of "young girls in danger". He also wrote on the spiritual life and worked so hard that he was almost at death's door. With the consent of St. Alphonsus he returned to Naples for treatment and there renewed his apostolate for the rescue of prostitutes.
Ciorani, Sarnelli's palace
Rome, oil painting of Sarnelli
Lomuscio, Beatification of Sarnelli
As well as taking part in the Redemptorist apostolate and that of the Apostolic Missions he promoted meditation in common among the laity by publishing "Il mondo santificato". He also campaigned against blasphemy in another book. In 1741 he planned and took part with St. Alphonsus in the great missions preached in the hamlets outside Naples in preparation for the canonical visitation of Cardinal Spinelli. Despite the permanently insecure state of his health he continued to preach until the end of April 1744 when by now extremely ill he returned to Naples where he died on June 30 at the age of 42. His body lies at rest in Ciorani, the first Redemptorist Church.
Gennaro Maria Sarnelli has left us 30 works which treat of meditation, mystical theology, spiritual direction, law, pedagogy, moral and pastoral themes. By his social action in favour of women he is considered one of the authors who treated this subject most fully in the Europe of the first half of the eighteenth century.
On May 12 1996, Pope John Paul II beatified him in St. Peter's Square.
(Revised text from www.cssr.com, own edition)
Blessed Peter Donders (1809-1887)
Peter Donders was born in Tilburg, Holland, on 27th October 1809 of Arnold Denis Donders and Petronella van den Brekel. Because the family was poor, the two sons could be given little schooling but had to work for the support of the home. From an early age, however, Peter had formed the desire of becoming a priest. Eventually, with the assistance of the clergy of his parish he was able at the age of twenty two to commence study at the Minor Seminary. In due time he was ordained priest on 5th June 1841.
While still engaged in his theological studies he had been guided by his superiors in the seminary towards the missions of the Dutch colony of Surinam. He arrived in Paramaribo, the principal city of the colony, on 16th September 1842 and applied himself at once to the pastoral works that were to occupy him until his death.
His first duties included regular visits to the plantations along the rivers of the colony, where he preached and ministered the Sacraments mainly to slaves. His letters express his indignation at the harsh treatment of the African peoples forced to work on the plantations.
Post stamp of Surinam
Donders as Missionary
In 1856 he was sent to the leper station of Batavia; and this was to be, with very few interruptions, the scene of his labours for the rest of his life. In his charity he not only provided the benefits of religion to the patients, but even tended them personally until he was able to persuade the authorities to provide adequate nursing services. In many ways he was able to improve the conditions of the lepers through his energy in bringing their needs to the attention of the colonial authorities.
When the Redemptorists arrived in 1866 to take charge of the mission of Surinam, Father Donders and one of his fellow priests applied for admission into the Congregation.
Mission of Donders in South America
The two candidates made their novitiate under the Vicar Apostolic, Bishop Johan Baptist Winkels, and they took their vows on 24th June 1867. Father Donders returned at once to Batavia. Because of the assistance he now had with the lepers, he was able to devote time to a work he had long wished to undertake.
As a Redemptorist he now turned his attention to the Indian peoples of Surinam. He continued with this work, previously neglected through lack of manpower, almost until his death. He began to learn the native languages and to instruct the Indians in the Christian faith, until failing strength compelled him to leave to others what he had begun.
Gagliardi, Peter Donders with people in need
In 1883 the Vicar Apostolic, wishing to spare him the heavy burdens he had so long carried, transferred him to Paramaribo and later to Coronie.
He returned, however, to Batavia in November of 1885. He resumed his previous occupations until weakening health finally confined him to bed in December of 1886. He lingered for two weeks until his death on 14th January 1887.
The fame of his sanctity spreading beyond Surinam and his native Holland, his cause was introduced in Rome. He was beatified by Pope John Paul II on 23rd May 1982.
Francis Xavier Seelos was born on January 11, 1819 in Füssen, Bavaria, Germany. He was baptized on the same day in the parish church of St. Mang. Having expressed a desire for the priesthood since childhood, 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, 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.
"Breve" of the Beatification of Seelos
Seelos, sculpture in New Orleans
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, U.S.A. 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.
During this time, he was also the Redemptorist Novice Master. 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 life style and a simple manner of expressing himself. The themes of his preaching, rich in biblical content, were always heard and understood even by the simplest people. A constant endeavor in his 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, always 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.
Missionary cross of Seelos
In 1860 he was proposed as a candidate for the office of Bishop of Pittsburgh. Having been 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, he was assigned in 1866 to the Redemptorist community in New Orleans, Louisiana. Here also, as pastor of the Church of St. Mary of the Assumption, he was known as a pastor who was joyously available to his faithful and singularly concerned for the poorest and the most abandoned. In God´s plan, however, his ministry in New Orleans was destined to be brief. In the month of September, exhausted from visiting and caring for the victims of Yellow Fever, he contracted the dreaded disease.
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.
(Revised text from www.cssr.com, own edition)
Lomuscio, painting for the Beatification of Seelos
Beatification of Seelos
Beatification by John Paul II
Blessed Kaspar Stanggassinger (1871-1889)
"Saints have special intuitions", wrote Father Stanggassinger. That which is important for me, who am not a saint, are the simple eternal truths: the Incarnation, the Redemption and the Holy Eucharist".
Kaspar Stanggassinger, born in 1871 in Berchtesgaden, in southern Germany was the second of 16 children. His father, a man respected by all, was a farmer and owned a stone quarry.
From his youth he had a growing desire to become a priest. In those early years Kaspar played at being a priest and "preached" short sermons to his brothers and sisters and used to lead them in procession to a chapel among the mountains near his home.
When he was ten years old he went to Freising to continue his schooling.He found the studies rather difficult. His father told him that if he did not pass his exams he would have to leave school.
Family house of Gaspar
Stanggassinger in 1883
With a strong will, remarkable dedication and fidelity to prayer, he steadily made progress. In the years that followed he began, during vacation, to gather groups of boys around himself to encourage them in the Christian life, to form a community among them and to organize their free time. Every day the group went to Mass, took a walk or went on a pilgrimage. Kaspar's dedication to them was admirable and extended even to risking his life to save one boy in danger when mountain climbing.
He entered the diocesan seminary of Munich and Freising in 1890 to begin his study of theology. The better to discern the will of God he voluntarily followed a rigorous prayer schedule. Very soon it was clear to him that the Lord was calling him to live his vocation in as a religious. In fact, after a visit to the Redemptorists, he was inspired to follow their vocation as missionary. In spite of his father's opposition he entered the Redemptorist novitiate at Gars in 1892 and was ordained a priest in Regensburg in 1895.
Stanggassinger family in 1890
Kaspar Stanggassinger had entered the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer with the intention of being a missionary. However, he was appointed by his superiors to form future missionaries as vice-director of the minor seminary of Durrnberg, near Hallein. He dedicated himself completely to this responsibility.
As a religious he had made a vow of obedience and lived it in a very clear and consistent manner.
Each week he spent 28 hours teaching in the classroom and yet was always available to the boys. On Sundays he never failed to offer his help at the churches in the neighboring villages, especially by preaching.
Even with such a schedule of work he was always patient and understanding with the needs of others, particularly the students who saw in him more a friend than a superior. Although the rules of formation at that time were very strict, Kaspar never acted harshly, and anytime he had the impression that he had wronged someone he immediately apologized humbly.
Deeply devoted to Jesus in the Eucharist, he invited the boys and the faithful to whom he preached to have recourse to the Blessed Sacrament in times of need and anxiety. He encouraged them to go to Christ whether to adore Him or to speak with Him as a friend. His preaching was a constant reminder to the faithful to take the christian life seriously, growing in faith by means of prayer and continual conversion. His style was direct and appealing, without threats of punishment as was common in the preaching of that time.
Redemptorist Seminary at Gars
At Gars 1899
Lomuscio, Medal of Beatification
In 1899 the Redemptorist opened a new seminary in Gars. Father Stanggassinger was transferred there as director. He was 28 years old. He only had time to preach one retreat to the students and to participate in the opening of the school year.
On September 26 his earthly journey ended because of peritonitis.
The Cause of his Beatification began, in 1935, with the transferring of the body into the side-chapel of the Church of Gars.
On 24 April 1988 he was proclaimed 'Blessed' by the Holy Father, John Paul II.