A Reflection by Justin Kirkland
During Advent, we all look forward to celebrating the birth of our Savior on Christmas Day, but here in the Diocese of Altoona–Johnstown, December 22nd deserves its own celebration.
This year marks the 250th birthday of our Prince-Priest Demetrius Gallitzin.
A man born into Russian nobility on December 22, 1770, Demetrius came to our region to give everything he had for the Kingdom of God. With his vision of a Catholic settlement in Loretto, Gallitzin took on the burden of his people, giving what fortune he still had to develop the area, spreading the faith throughout Pennsylvania and beyond.
When arriving to his post in 1799, there were only a dozen Catholic families scattered around the area, with the closest parish church in Maryland. By the time of his death, over 10,000 Catholics and several parishes dotted the mountainous landscape.
Without this great priest and his persistence in the faith, the foundation of our diocese may not have come to be, many of the parishes we know and love would not exist, and many people throughout the US would not have come in contact with the beauty of our Catholic faith.
We are forever indebted to Servant of God Demetrius Gallitzin for his labor of love, so this December 22nd for his 250th birthday, let us remember him and give thanks to God for such an amazing priest.
Justin Kirkland is a team member in the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown Office of Communications.