Father Francis Xavier Prefontaine was born in Montreal, Canada in 1838. He was the first of seven children born to a devout Catholic family. His first language was French. Sometime in the late 1840s he began preparing the priesthood. During his time at seminary Prefontaine was known as a studious and somewhat athletic young man. Prefontaine was ordained into the clergy in 1860 at the age of twenty two. Sometime following his ordination Prefontaine became paralyzed as a result of polio mylitis. Sometime between 1864 and 1866 he traveled to Washington State. Settling first in Port Townsend and then in Seattle. While living in Port Townsend he taught school and conducted Mass for the town's small population of Catholic residents. One day after one of his first homilies Father Prefontaine was approached outside of the church where he was assigned by a man who had attended Mass that day. "Well Father," he said. "You tried your best here. But I am sorry to say that I couldn't understand anything that you said." A few years later the same man approached him after Mass. "Say Father," he said. "Your English has improved. I understood every word that you said today." In Seattle Father Prefontaine rented a small house on Third Avenue and Washington Street. In 1867 he began the founding of the church that would be christened as "Our Lady Of Good Help". It was opened in 1870. Father Prefontaine made his home in the basement below the church. He would live there for the next twenty years. In 1882 the "Our Lady Of Good Help" church was expanded to make room for more parishioners. Like he had previously Father Prefontaine again settled into the basement of that church. Turning it into his private quarters. The "Our Lady Of Good Help" church would move again in 1903. This time permanently to make room for the Great Northern railroad. In 1896 Edward O'Dea was appointed bishop of the diocese of Seattle. Upon hearing this Father Prefontaine urged him to have a new cathedral built there. In 1896 Father Prefontaine wrote "Seattle has become and will remain the headquarters and chief battleground of all the elements hostile to the church. The morale of the church militant requires the inspiring presence of her leader where the battle wages fiercest. " After much thought Bishop O'Dea granted his request and construction of Saint James Cathedral began. The cathedral opened in 1900. In his final assignment as an active clergyman Father Prefontaine served as chaplain of the Holy Names Academy for Girls. Sometime just after the opening of the cathedral Father Prefontaine's health began to decline and his eighteen year old niece Marie Rose Pauze began caring for him. Some people in the health care field believe that this was as a result of the longterm effects of polio. Others think that the cause of these problems could have been a form of arthritis. It is perhaps because of these conditions that he began the somewhat frequent habit of consuming whiskey. Father Prefontaine was very intelligent and had always possessed a veracious appetite for knowledge. Once he retired from public life he began to read more. Sometime following his retirement he began to read more often. He lived quietly with his niece until his death in 1909. He is buried in the section of Calvary Cemetery that was originally reserved for members of the priesthood.
Created by: VoodooQueen
Record added: Jun 28, 2012
Find A Grave Memorial# 92747403
Bonjour Father Prefontaine- I used to attend the ten a-m Mass at Saint James Cathedral quite often. It is a beautiful place and attracts people from all over the world. I am more inclined toward unconventional spirituality now. But I understand that you w...(Read more)|
Added: Jun. 28, 2012