|Birth: ||Aug. 3, 1797|
|Death: ||Jul. 11, 1874|
Rev. Ferdinand Helias
Born Ferdinand Bonoit Marie Gusilan Helias D'Huddinghen on August 3, 1797, Father Helias was a native of French Flanders (Belguim). He was born in the same house where Emperor Charles V was born and he grew up in the town of Ghent, which was predominantly Flemish-Catholics; the language was Flemish/Dutch. Father Helias was not only a Jesuit priest, but he also served as an ex-soldier and was considered to be a man of wealth. These qualities produced an outstanding pioneer missionary for the American wilderness. It was said his superiors were happy to send him off to American because they felt he was too wild and energetic for any European cloister.
He was as rugged a pioneer as the people he served. In his travels, it was not uncommon for him to sleep outdoors wrapped in buffalo robes. He braved fevers, the cholera epidemic of 1853, and the near-drowning in a river of himself and his boatman. During the Civil War, he was accused of harboring Confederate spies and he also endured many attacks from some "Latin farmers" who plagued him throughout his ministry.
Father Helias was a man of personal wealth before becoming a priest and it was with this wealth that he helped to build many churches throughout his territory. He remained in Westphalia until 1842. At that time, he experienced some difficulties with his parishioners, so he returned to St. Louis for a short while. In the autumn of the same year, he returned to his missionary duties and moved his residence to Taos, a small community in Cole County.
In 1848, Father Helias made a trip back to Westphalia to bless the cornerstone of the new stone church that was to be built. Today, the church is a historic landmark in its 'old world' setting, majestically standing atop a hill overlooking the green valley of the Maries River below.
Almost 170 years later, some of the family names he recorded in 1838 can still be found in the various parishes. He was also the first man to minister to the spiritual needs of the inmates of Missouri's state prison in Jefferson City.
Father Helias died at the age of 78 years on August 11, 1874 at Taos, poor and alone at his simple country rectory. He died with little more than the clothes he wore on his back with no attending physician and no relatives to give him comfort in his last hour of life. It was 78 years and 8 days since he was born into a wealthy, noble Flemish family that he died alone in a simple log house on the plains of our northern Ozarks.
It seems fitting that this pioneer priest, who was instrumental in establishing important parishes in central Missouri, should remain in the land he served so well. In his twilight years, he was given the opportunity to return to his native Belguim, but he refused. He loved his new land and its people and wished to live out his remaining years in our beautiful Ozark plateau country....he was certainly a true and honored Missourian.
."Flanders was my cradle; France instructed me; Italy, Germany and Switzerland sheltered me. After many ventures and labors on land and sea, God settled me in Missouri. The foundations of Westphalia were laid by me and seven churches were founded by me to the greater glory of God."
New Saint Xaviers Catholic Church Cemetery
Created by: Bev
Record added: Sep 28, 2011
Find A Grave Memorial# 77226583
Added: Apr. 14, 2015
His simple, beautiful two room cabin was built of carefully hewn old growth walnut timbers & placed on a gentle rise on Bode Ferry Road south of Taos, MO. Modern man thought it best to remove his home, which was in excellent condition from the little val...(Read more)|
Added: Jan. 29, 2015
Former priest in my ancestors hometown of Boonville, Missouri~|
Added: Feb. 23, 2014
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