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Felix de Andreis

Lazarist superior (1778-1820)

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Andreis, Felix de, first superior of the Congregation of the Mission (Lazarists) in the United States and Vicar-General of upper Louisiana, b. at Demonte, in Piedmont, Italy, December 13, 1778; d. at St. Louis, Missouri, U.S., October 15, 1820. After making his preparatory studies in his native place he entered the novitiate of the Congregation of the Mission, at Mondovi, November 1, 1797, and was ordained priest at Piacenza, August 14, 1801. When only four years a priest he conducted the retreats for those about to be ordained. His constitution was not robust and in 1806 he was sent to Monte Citorio, the house of the Congregation in Rome that seemed least likely to be affected by the rigorous religious persecutions of the time, which for a while drove Pius VII from Rome. Here Father De Andreis was constantly engaged from 1810 to 1815 in giving missions, and retreats for the clergy or the seminarists. He also gave many missions in the suburbs of the city. When the religious houses in Rome were suppressed, the Propaganda students attended his lectures on theology. It was no unusual thing for him to preach four times a day on different subjects. In view of later events, it is worthy of reflection that Father De Andreis at this time received such a conviction that he was destined to a mission involving the need of English that he resolutely mastered that language. In 1815 Father Dubourg, Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese of Louisiana (which then extended along both sides of the Mississippi from the Gulf of Mexico to the Canadian Lakes) arrived in Rome to secure priests for that immense vineyard. As soon as he knew of Father De Andreis he applied to Father Sicardi, his superior, to let him go to Louisiana, and when the latter declared it impossible, as his place could not be filled, he exposed the situation to Pius VII, who appointed the young priest to this mission. In company with five others, Father De Andreis embarked from France, June 12, 1816, and reached Baltimore, July 26. They remained there at St. Mary’s Seminary, as guests of Father Brute until September 3, and then started on a tedious journey to the west arriving at Louisville, November 19, where at Bishop Flaget’s suggestion they remained in his seminary of St. Thomas at Bardstown until Bishop Dubourg should arrive. Father De Andreis taught theology and labored at improving his English. Bishop Dubourg reached there with thirty priests, December 29, 1817, and they went to St. Louis in 1818. There the Congregation had its first establishment. Father De Andreis had charge of two schools, one for religious students, another for seculars, established by Bishop Dubourg. Land for a seminary was given at “The Barrens”, a colony eighty miles south of St. Louis, in Perry County, and when the bishop allowed his residence to be used for a novitiate, Father De Andreis became master of novices. Exhausted by the hardships of missionary work, he died, after a short life of forty-two years, greatly esteemed for sanctity. The process of his canonization, begun in St. Louis in 1900, was completed in August, 1902, when the evidence was presented to the Congregation of Rites, at Rome.

JOHN J. A’ BECKET


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