A German woman instrumental in translating documents for the quest for the Rev. Prince Demetrius A. Gallitzin to become a saint recently visited Loretto.
Elisabeth Lammers, a researcher and writer, stayed at Gallitzin's former home - the Prince Gallitzin Chapel House - during her 11 days in Pennsylvania. She was impressed with the long distances Gallitzin rode on his horse to minister to people.
"We can drive it in an hour, and he would ride for hours," she said.
(Mirror photo illustration by Patrick Waksmunski)
Bishop Joseph V. Adamec of the Catholic Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown greets Elisabeth Lammers (center) of Munster, Germany. Lammers is doing research for a book she is writing about the Rev. Prince Demetrius A. Gallitzin. She and Betty Seymour of Loretto have been corresponding and sharing information on Gallitzin for about 14 years. Seymour is co-postulator in the Sainthood Cause of Prince Gallitzin. In the background is Peter Lammers of Cologne, Germany, Elisabeth’s son.
She said she was glad to witness that Gallitzin's humble beginnings to establish a Catholic presence in the Allegheny wilderness more than 200 years ago continues to grow.
The 80-year-old researcher from Munster, Germany, was accompanied by her son Peter, and she noticed that when they attended Mass at St. Michael the Archangel Basilica, the sanctuary had about 500 worshippers.
She noted the establishment of St. Francis University in Loretto, and other Catholic influences in the area, such as the Carmelite monastery, the foundation of the Sisters of Mercy in Loretto, Mount Aloysius College, Cresson, and parishes that have built through the years.
The Catholic Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown believes the sacrificing and work of the prince who left his riches and homeland to establish the first English-speaking Catholic settlement in the United States west of the Allegheny Front should be recognized as a saint by the Vatican.
The diocese began its work in 2004 and the Vatican gave Gallitzin the title Servant of God in 2005. The diocese is now working on the second of four steps, or the Inquiry Phase, to prove Gallitzin lived a life of heroic virtue.
"It's a tedious and long process," said Betty Seymour of Loretto. She and her husband, Frank, are co-postulators in the Sainthood Cause of Father Gallitzin. "It's an historical case," she said. "It's all based on what has been written.
Lammers' research and ability to translate letters has been instrumental in the preparations.
The Seymours learned about Elisabeth and her husband, Wolfgang Lammers, about 14 years ago when a woman from the Carrolltown area was visiting her daughter who played in the Air Force band and was stationed in Germany.
The Carrolltown family struck up a conversation at a restaurant with a German family who knew the Lammers and about their interest in the Gallitzin family. Elisabeth wrote a book on Gallitzin's mother, and the couple are collaborating on a book about Gallitzin's life. The Gallitzins lived for a time in Munster and at a nearby country estate in Angelmodde, Germany. Elisabeth Lammers wanted to know more about the prince who became a priest. She and Betty Seymour, who studied Gallitzin for the 200th founding of Loretto celebration in 1999, became pen pals.
Lammers was able to provide about 30 letters between Gallitzin, friends in Germany and family that the Seymours did not know existed. Translating them into English became an issue because they were written in an old German dialect that few people know.
Three translators, including Lammers, rewrote them in modern German, and then they were put into English.
"It was a godsend that we got these people," Betty said. "It was holding up our research."
Gallitzin's linguistic ability has made his writing somewhat of a challenge to interpret. Seymour said when he wrote to his mother, he used three languages.
"He would start in German, switch to French and put Latin phrases all over the place," she said.
"It was amazing how he learned the English language in one or two years," Lammers said. "He wrote beautiful English."
In the late 1700s and early 1800s, French was the language of nobility. It was the only language Gallitzin spoke with his father, Prince Dimitri Alexeievich, a Russian ambassador to the Netherlands. His mother, Amelie von Schmettau, was a former German countess.
Lammers knows quite a bit about Prince Gallitzin's life. She said his father had favor with Catherine the Great and wanted his son to become an officer.
He had studied at one of the finest education systems in Germany at the time and also received private lessons from his mother and other instructors.
In addition to his studies, Gallitzin has classes in horseback riding, swimming and military training, Lammers said.
She believes his tactical training later played a role in helping him to plan Loretto.
As part of his education, his parents sent him to the United States in 1792.
Lammers said Gallitzin's father knew John Adams and Ben Franklin. Although he visited Adams, the future priest spent more time with Bishop John Carroll in Baltimore, having become a Roman Catholic at age 17.
Once he was in America, he told his parents he was studying for the priesthood. They objected but for different reasons, Lammers said.
Early in his life, Gallitzin was given a royal commission from Catherine the Great to report for Russia's honor guard in his young adulthood. If he did not fulfill his duties he would be disinherited, Lammers said. She said the Gallitzins were wealthy and owned several villages near Moscow where serfs did the work.
Seymour said that he would be disinherited on two accounts - for not serving in the royal guard and for leaving the Orthodox faith.
His mother, a perfectionist, worried that his desire to be a priest was not a true call and even wrote to his seminary adviser about her concerns.
But she also believed in her son and supported the man who would become one of the first Catholic priests ordained in America in 1795.
Lammers said Gallitzin's mother told his father: "You don't understand your son. He will surprise you with what he will do."
Back in Germany, Lammers is working on her book while continuing the cause for Father Gallitzin's sainthood.
She promised Bishop Joseph V. Adamec of the diocese that she would translate prayer cards into German for people to pray for the beatification of Gallitzin and distribute them in her country.