By Tony DeGol
Loretto was the backdrop for a royal visit on the afternoon of November 24 as relatives of the Prince-Priest and Servant of God Demetrius Gallitzin arrived at the Basilica of Saint Michael the Archangel for the first time.
Among those in the delegation were Prince Piotr Galitzine and his wife, Princess Maria-Anna, who reside in Houston. They were joined by their adult children, Prince Dimitri Galitzine and his wife and children of Philadelphia; Princess Xenia Galitzine DeMatta and her husband and children of Houston; and Prince Ioann Galitzine and his fiancé of New York.
Bishop Mark and the Very Reverend John Byrnes, JCL, JV, Rector of the Basilica and Judicial Vicar for the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown, warmly greeted the family on the chilly but sunny afternoon, the day after Thanksgiving.
The family gathered to spend the holiday with Prince Dimitri and his family in Philadelphia and then made the trek to Loretto.
The family visited the tomb of Father Gallitzin outside the Basilica, where Bishop Mark led a brief prayer service. After that service, a touching moment occurred when the two young sons of Princess Xenia, Prince Damian, 10, and Prince Felix, 8, knelt in prayer outside the tomb as the rest of the family chatted with the Bishop.
The family then observed the inside of the Basilica and was particularly intrigued by the side altar area dedicated to Father Gallitzin where a large portrait of him is stationed.
The tour then continued through the neighboring Our Lady of the Alleghenies Shrine to the Prince Gallitzin Chapel House. The structure was home to Father Gallitzin and now serves as a museum containing many of his personal items.
As the special guests took in the rich history, the young children delighted in pulling the chord of the large bell positioned above the chapel. Each of the family members signed the guest book, perhaps the most historically significant and prominent guests to ever walk through the house.
For a family that values history, legacy, tradition, and their unique connection to the Servant of God, the visit to Loretto was especially moving.
“We have always meant to come here to honor (Father Gallitzin’s) memory,” stated Prince Piotr. “I choked up thinking that’s it’s been 230 years since Demetrius Gallitzin died, and everybody here keeps his memory so fresh and so alive. I was very touched by that. This was a man who walked into a piece of wilderness and fashioned it after his ideas as a nucleus of the Catholic Church, against all odds, but this is typical of our family.”
Added Princess Maria-Anna: “The very profound touch that he had on people now days is absolutely amazing. For me the most touching was to see the house where he stayed, his bed, his church, and, of course, we went to his grave and prayed. I would have never thought it would be so incredible. I’m so happy we could come.”
The December 3 edition of Proclaim! TV will be dedicated to the royal visit. It will include video and photos from the visit and on-camera reflections from Prince Piotr, Princess Maria-Anna, Prince Dimitri, Princess Xenia, and Prince Ioann. Father Byrnes, who coordinated the visit with the family, will also offer his insight as he recalls the historic occasion.