Rev Demetrius Augustine Gallitzin

Rev Demetrius Augustine Gallitzin

Birth
The Hague (Den Haag), Den Haag Municipality, Zuid-Holland, Netherlands
Death 6 May 1840 (aged 69)
Loretto, Cambria County, Pennsylvania, USA
Burial Loretto, Cambria County, Pennsylvania, USA
Memorial ID 9365957 View Source
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Gallitzin was born at the Hague where his father served as the ambassador of Catherine the Great to the court of the Netherlands. The Gallitzins were a princely family of Lithuanian descent who figured among the nobility of the Russian Empire. Gallitzin's mother, Amalia von Schmettau, was of German birth.

When Demetrius came of age, it was impossible for him to make the customary grand tour of the European continent because of on-going war between France and her neighbors. Instead, the young nobleman sailed to the United States, arriving in Baltimore in 1792. While baptized into the Russian Orthodox Church as an infant, he had later embraced the Roman Catholic faith of his mother's family.

In Baltimore, instead of proceeding with his tour of the United States, he entered St. Mary's Seminary and prepared for the Catholic priesthood. In 1795, he became the first man ordained a Catholic priest in the United States who had also completed all his studies in this country.

A first assignment at Conewago in southeastern Pennsylvania was followed in 1799 by his moving to McGuire's Settlement atop Allegheny Mountain in the west-central part of the state.

Gallitzin renamed the place Loretto and gave the next forty years of his life to his colony. He recruited settlers from further east to develop lands that he bought with his own funds and disposed of, all too frequently at a loss.

His skill as a polemicist and his substantial intellectual abilities caused him to be mentioned on several occasions as a candidate for the office of bishop. The debts he incurred building up his colony, however, conspired to keep this honor from being bestowed on him. He died in 1840, worn out from four decades of frontier labor, but revered as a pioneering missionary.