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Francis de Sales Brunner

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Brunner, FRANCIS DE SALES, founder of the American Congregation of the Precious Blood, b. January 10, 1795, at Muemliswil, Switzerland; d. at the Convent of Schellenberg, Duchy of Lichtenstein, December 29, 1859. He received in baptism the name of Nicolaus Joseph. After the death of his father he entered, July 11, 1812, the Benedictine monastery near his residence in Maria Stein. He made his vows two years later and studied for the priesthood under the direction of the pious Abbot Pfluger. Ten years after his ordination (1819) he felt a vocation for a stricter life and joined the Trappists of Oehlemberg, also near his home. This convent being suppressed, he offered his services for foreign missions to Gregory XVI, and was to have gone as Apostolic missionary to China, but shortly before the time set for his departure the order was recalled. Next he founded a school for poor boys in the castle of Lowenberg, which he had purchased from the Count de Montfort. In 1833 with his pious mother he made a pilgrimage to Rome, where they were both enrolled in the Archconfraternity of the Most Precious Blood. Returned to Lowenberg, his mother gathered around her pious virgins to “hold a perpetual (day and night) adoration and dedicate their lives to the education of orphans and the furnishing of vestments for poor churches”.

Thus began the Sisters of the Most Precious Blood; their foundress died in 1836, and the community was brought to America under the second mother superior, Sister Clara, who died in 1876 at Grunewald, Ohio. Meanwhile, in 1838, Father Brunner had made a second visit to Rome, and had entered the Congregation of the Most Precious Blood at Albano. After his novitiate he returned, continued the work he had previously begun, and also began educating boys for the priesthood, so as to inaugurate a German province of the congregation. The Government interfering more and more with his school, he accepted the invitation of Archbishop Purcell of Cincinnati, brought to him by Monsignor Henni, to establish his community in America. Accompanied by eight priests, he landed, December 21, 1843, at New Orleans and, ascending the Ohio River, arrived at Cincinnati on New Year’s Day. From Cincinnati they proceeded to St. Alphonsus, near Norwalk, Ohio, where the first station was erected. Their missionary circuit included all the Germans within a radius of 100 miles; they began to erect convents and parishes and entrusted the schools to the Sisters of the Most Precious Blood, who had followed them on the 22nd of July, 1844. After this Father Brunner made several trips to Europe in the interests of his institution, and it was during the last of these that he died. He was an indefatigable missionary and a very prolific writer on religious subjects. Many of his writings, all of which are in German, still await publication.


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