More information about Blessed Francis Xavier Seelos, C.Ss.R.
Blessed Father Francis Seelos
From The Cheerful Ascetic
by Fr Michael Curley, C.SS.R.
Honors and Suffering in Baltimore
"Baltimore, is one of the loveliest and most beautiful cities in all North America,"Father Seelos wrote. The city had wide streets, lined with well-built houses with an aristocratic finish. The richer homes had attractive balustrades extending in front, with large magnolia trees, Virginia creepers, and sumac shading them. Light-colored doors, with silver-plated knockers and cut-glass knobs, and white marble steps leading to them, lent an air of quiet elegance.
People called it the "Monumental City" because, seen from afar, its numerous spires, columns, and towers appeared like a series of monuments. Looking out toward its spacious harbor, one could see a forest of ships of every type and variety, from the gaily painted fishing boats to the smart-looking Baltimore clippers, tied at the piers or serenely moving over the waters of Chesapeake Bay. The upper class had culture and education.
Though preponderantly non-Catholic, this group had nevertheless enough Catholics in it to draw attention to their presence. Most of the Catholics, however, were of the lower middle or poor class, among them a large number of immigrants struggling to obtain a foothold in their adopted land. (1) Saint Alphonsus' parish, the German-speaking national parish in Baltimore, which Father Seelos now directed, was not a close-knit organization within a neatly specified territory, but a widely scattered group of buildings and people.
Its physical assets--churches, schools, and suburban mission stations--were sprawling. The nature of the parish, much more complex than that of Pittsburgh, added immensely to the difficult of efficient administration. Seelos faced a far different situation from what he had known in 1845. To begin with, there was only one parish--that of Saint Alphonsus. Saint James', which was twenty minutes walking distance from Saint Alphonsus' and which had been operating independently nine years before, had been reduced since 1847 to the status of an outmission. The same inferior rank was given to Saint Michael's church group, two and a half miles away at Fell's Point.
It was the task of Father Seelos to provide daily religious services for these three groups, to Send his priests to each for Masses. confessions, sick calls, and proper religious instruction. He had in the city not one, but three, distinct congregations calling upon his available priests. Moreover, an entirely new German-Catholic center was being organized by the Redemptorists in the Federal Hill section of the city with Holy Cross church. Similarly, the newly emerging Saint Joseph's Catholic center on Belair Road outside the city, cared for by the Baltimore Redemptorists for over a dozen years, required periodic visits.
To make the task more exacting, the Fathers had to take care of the Negro Catholics, who numbered from five to six hundred, and of the Sisters of Providence, who ran a school for Negro children. (2) The polyglot nature of the parish was also apparent in its schools. Thirteen hundred children were enrolled in the Redemptorists' parochial schools, more in the aggregate than in any other parish, in widely separated buildings under instruction from different groups in the different sections. The diversity of buildings in various parts of the city and the multiple teaching groups made the whole school situation a tantalizing administrative task. There was little hope of having a consolidated Catholic school in those days when the parochial school system was only emerging. Seelos had to deal with and satisfy many groups under many different circumstances. (3) Other services were rendered by Saint Alphonsus'.
The Fathers heard the confessions of the School Sisters of Notre Dame, the Sisters of Providence, and the Carmelite Sisters, and said Mass for the Visitation Sisters and the Sisters of Charity. (4)
Likewise, the Fathers made occasional visits to Westminster and New Freedom in Pennsylvania and to Ellicott Mills and Catonsville in Maryland. (5) For all these commitments Francis Seelos had seven parish priests. At times he had the services of the resident provincial, Father Ruland, for confessions, and occasionally another resident, the English-speaking missionary, Father Clarence Walworth (a distinguished convert--webservant's comment--image to right above).
On the whole, however, the arduous work of Saint Alphonsus' fell on Seelos and the assistant parish priests. When anyone of them was disabled, as was Father Joseph Wissell in the summer of 1855, when he almost died from an attack of dysentery or when any of the parish priests were absent giving missions outside of the parish, as they often were, the strain on the available personnel was even greater. (7 )
The provincial chronicler, Father Wissel, who then lived in Saint Alphonsus,' wrote in 1855: "The number of parishioners is growing day by day and the Fathers are scarcely sufficient for all the spiritual necessities that must be provided. There is almost no time left for private study and recreation." (8)
Francis plunged into the parochial vortex in March, 1854. He assigned one of his assistants to Saint James' and another to Saint Michael's, both of whom were usually aided by one other priest from Saint Alphonsus'. In the same way he had one priest, Father Anwander, specially appointed to care for the Negroes, hearing the confessions of the Sisters of Providence, saving Mass for them whenever possible, and giving conferences.
As a rule they had Mass every Friday; on Sunday they had Mass, vespers, sermon, and Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament. One Father also gave much of his time to the Holy Cross group. (9) Seelos' executive technique of delegating authority to those Fathers in immediate charge of the separate groups was much in evidence now. It was a trait he evinced all his life as a superior and solid proof that he was a more competent administrator than many imagined.
Directing the varied and multiple activities alone would have been more than enough for most pastors. But Francis Seelos was not merely a desk executive. His way was pastoral, and he took a more than generous part in preaching, administering the sacraments, attending the sick, counseling the frustrated and weary, and leading converts to the Faith. Apart from his services to the nuns in the various convents, he usually functioned in Saint Alphonsus' church, though occasionally he went to Saint James'.
People in Baltimore were soon talking about his ability as a preacher. (10) It was noted, too, that in his instructions he displayed a special love for the poor. (11) The records show, likewise, that as pastor he had a yearly average of thirty-five baptisms and thirty marriages, most of them in Saint Alphonsus' church. (12)
His greatest field of operation, however, was in hearing confessions. Father Ruland called the rector a "much sought after confessor." (13) Many eyewitnesses testified that he always had a long fine of penitents. Young Benedict Neithart, then temporarily in Baltimore, said: "I chose Father Seelos as a confessor, for I, as well as others, looked upon him as a living saint. His confessional at the entrance of the church was closely besieged on all sides. I had to wait about two hours until my turn came." (14)
Another, Valentine Winheim, who worked in the rectory and who had Seelos for a confessor, said: "I habitually went to confession to him. . . . He was a very good confessor, was kind toward sinners, and he had a power that others did not possess." (15) Joseph Herzog, another Baltimorean penitent, confirmed this appraisal, saying: "I found Father Seelos patient, affable and full of charity. I never left the confessional without consolation and I desired to go to confession to him more than to anyone else. I felt he could read my heart. Sometimes he chided me but his chiding did not depress me but strengthened and consoled me." (16) A Carmelite nun remarked that Father Seelos' skill in the way of the interior life was such that he could look into her heart when she went to confession to him. (17)
No wonder the Sister of Charity who lived in Baltimore could say, "People would wait in line for three hours to go to confession to Father Seelos." (18)
He was particularly effective at winning converts. Several stories of this work have come down to us. One day, for example, an English-speaking woman knocked at the rectory door and informed Seelos that she was a Protestant from Pennsylvania. She begged to be received into the Church immediately and secretly. She went on to explain that she had not entered the Church at her home town because her Protestant relatives would forcibly oppose her. Moreover, she asked to go to confession and Holy Communion. Seelos replied that she would first have to take instructions from one of the Fathers in the Catholic Faith. The woman answered that a course of instructions was not necessary; she had studied the Catholic Faith thoroughly and stood prepared to enter the Church immediately. Seelos then went into particulars and examined her at length on her knowledge of the Catholic Church, its creed, its sacraments, and its practices. To his delight she responded to every question correctly. After making her profession of Faith, he baptized her conditionally, heard her confession, and gave her Holy Communion. She returned home that afternoon.
"Such knowledge of the Catholic Faith." said Father Ruland, who tells the story, "is not extraordinary. Because of their seeking, studying and reading polemical writings that come to their notice, many are thoroughly acquainted with its doctrines when they seek to enter the Church." The woman persevered in her new religion on returning to her hostile environment; and before she died a few months later, she had the happiness of bringing one of her relatives into the Church. (19)
Father Seelos had to work harder, however, for another convert.
The rector was giving final touches to Saint Alphonsus church--erecting the apex of the steeple, surmounting it with a beautiful cross, and painting the whole exterior. While the work was progressing, the scaffolding fell, carrying three workmen to the ground. One of them, a non-Catholic, died a few days later.
Seelos gave financial assistance to the widow and her little daughter. So charmed was the woman with the rector's attitude and kindly manner that she resolved to embrace the Catholic Faith. She was soon taking instructions from Father Seelos.
When her minister, the Reverend Cleveland Coxe, future Episcopal Bishop of Western New York, heard about the widow's action, he tried to stop it, offering to go to Saint Alphonsus' rectory and prove to Father Seelos in her presence that the Catholic Church taught error, particularly regarding the honor given the Virgin Mother of God.
Seelos accepted the challenge and allowed the minister to come to the rectory. Meanwhile, he studied the best arguments to refute her Father Augustine Hewit, a convert from Protestantism then residing in Baltimore, primed Seelos for the debate. (photo of Father Hewit to left).
Coxe came to the rectory with the widow. Seelos was cordial and fair, allowing him to speak as long as he wished. When he had finished, Seelos took up the minister's arguments and one by one refuted them. The discussion on the veneration due the Mother of God was becoming particularly lengthy when the widow broke up the debate by saying, "Mr. Coxe, it would be superfluous for you to continue further. Only now do I clearly see that the Roman Catholic Church is the true Church." It was a triumph for Father Seelos, but Coxe dampened any enthusiasm by saying to the rector, "You are a follower of Mary; I am a follower of Christ." (20) But the woman joined the Catholic Church.
One part of the parochial work Father Seelos reserved for himself---answering sick calls at night, if the sick call was within the limits of Saint Alphonsus'. Often he went out on a call leaving his hard-working subjects to their rest. On one occasion he was summoned in the middle of the night to the deathbed of a young woman. Only when he was on the second floor of the house did he become aware that it was a house of ill-fame. He went right ahead and gave the young woman the last sacraments, preparing her for death. When a scurrilous anti-Catholic paper found out about the sick call, it featured the tale about a midnight visit of a distinguished clergyman to a bawdy house. Some Fathers showed the hostile and basely insinuating report to Father Seelos. All he said was, "Well, I saved a soul." (21)
His zeal brought him to the Pittsburgh area in January, 1855, to give a mission at Saint Mary's in Allegheny, Pennsylvania, once an outmission of Saint Philomena's. The people of Allegheny and Pittsburgh had hoped he would come to conduct the mission, even saying special prayers for this purpose. When he arrived, they overwhelmed him with expressions of joy. Tears were in the eyes of some as they saluted him, while others knelt in the street for his blessing. Some, in old-country style, wanted to kiss his feet.
When he was hearing confessions, there was such a great rush to go to him that the doors of the confessional were almost unhinged. Seelos, reporting the mission, said, "I was ashamed that these people thought more highly of me than I deserved." (22) Nevertheless, the incident showed his effect on the people when they came to see him. Besides, it demonstrated his natural flare for the missions.
Similarly he teamed up with two Fathers from Saint Alphonsus' to give a mission at Saint James' church in June, 1855. The enthusiasm of the Allegheny mission was not evident here, however, for at that time there was bickering among Saint James' parishioners. The chronicler of the house classified the mission only as moderately successful, hinting vaguely but significantly at the cause of the disaffection. Father Krutil, who had been previously in charge of Saint James', appears to have been at fault here. He relinquished that charge at this time. (23)
Much as Seelos would have liked to confine himself to purely spiritual activities, many other duties, material and social, were incumbent upon him. During the twenty-one months of his first term as pastor in Saint Alphonsus', a new school was built for the children at Federal Hill. (24) Repairs were made at Saint James', with new confessionals, new bells. The biggest headache of all was the completion of the large Saint Anthony's Orphan Asylum begun before his arrival. Building the orphan asylum was a huge undertaking for those days. It was said to be capable of housing 300 orphans, though it had only forty at the start. The construction of the building was mainly the work of Father Anthony Schmid, who had the herculean task of raising the funds for it. (25)
Many other matters occupied Seelos' time. The German Catholic Central Verein held its first general meeting in Saint Alphonsus' Hall in April, 1855. The German societies had requested a Redemptorist to head the group, but Archbishop Francis Patrick Kenrick was noncommittal about the union of the German societies, neither approving nor disapproving of it. Father Ruland, the Redemptorist provincial, believed the top officer in it should be someone outside the Redemptorist Congregation. So it was determincd. (26)
Routine matters took much time--confirmation at Saint Alphonsus', Saint Michael's, and Saint James', (27) joining the Relief Society formed to aid clerical converts to the Faith, (28) and even holding ordination ceremonies in Saint Alphonsus'. This latter was a striking event. Archbishop Francis Kenrick elevated four young men to the priesthood on October 28, 1855. It was like a United Nations ceremony, for the four Redemptorist ordinandi were George Deshon, a native American, a former West Point professor and a convert to the Faith; James Bradley, born in Ireland; Dominic Kraus, born in Germany; and Francis Van Emstede, born in Holland. (29)
Seelos summed up his work in a letter to his sister, Sister Damiana of the Sisters of Charity, when he wrote:
"I cannot thank God enough for my vocation, although from morning till night I am overwhelmed with cares and worries. . . . White and Negro, German and English, conferes and externs, clerical and lay people, aristocratic women and unworldly nuns, the poor, the sick, ask for my assistance. One wants this, the other that. There is no rest. It takes a real effort to snatch a little time for spiritual reading or a visit to the Blessed Sacrament. Could I write you an account of the experiences of even one day, you would be astonished. . . .
He was honest enough to say:
"But often in the midst of all this work I do something dumb and everything goes topsy-turvy. Nothing astonishes me more than the extent of the patience which the dear Lord displays in my regard. He even elevates me before the people and showers His benefits upon me . . . . My greatest consolation is that so many and such good people pray for me, among whom you, my dear Sister, are surely not the least. Yes, continue to pray for me and get your Sisters who are really charitable in their kindness to pray for me, too. In return I will include all of you in mv poor prayers; especially will I remember you in my daily Mass." (30)
The mistakes about which he wrote may have been in the mind of the Redemptorist provincial when he gave an appraisal of Seelos at this time:
"Father Seelos is a Redemptorist in body, and soul. He is praiseworthy in his conduct, and much in demand as a confessor. As a superior, however, he is too weak and gives in too easily to difficult and stubborn characters. More prudence and vigilance are desirable in him." (31)
This charge of weakness in controlling strong characters, made against Seelos more than once, needs an explanation. Far from being weak in certain situations, he used common sense. When the Redemptorists came to America, they came with rules and constitutions originating in Europe, designed for a home mission society. When the Fathers were established in America in large parochial mission centers, as in Pittsburgh, Baltimore, and elsewhere, the conditions in which they operated were far different in many ways from those in Europe. Actually, the rules did not fit the circumstances in America.
For instance, the rule required each subject to seek permission of the superior of the house before leaving it. This could readily be done in the Redemptorist monasteries in Europe, where the subjects would leave the house for mission work only at stated intervals. In America, where the Fathers were entering and leaving the house many times a day, the strict following out of the rule would require the superior to be sitting all day in his office, giving permission to leave the house.
Similarly, according to the Redemptorist rule, all use of money required the superior's permission. When, however, the Fathers were working on building projects at some distance from the rectory, too strict control or use of funds by the superior could well have handicapped the work. Seelos' common sense told him he had to make an adjustment in applying the rule. And he did so.
Though Ruland did not identify the stubborn characters in his report, by reading the same report concerning other members of Seelos' community one can see whom the provincial had in mind. One of them was Father Anthony Schmid, whom he designated as a good builder but a poor Redemptorist. The provincial claimed Schmid left the house often without notifying his superior. Here again Ruland's appraisal failed to note that, if Schmid was away from the house and not present at all the religious exercises, he was out trying to collect money for a most necessary orphan asylum.
As Ruland (image to right) , the pious, unimaginative lover of regular order, saw the situation, Schmid was away too much; but as Schmid saw it, if an orphan asylum and a school were necessary to save abandoned souls, the way to get them was to go out and solicit the funds.
In the same report Ruland complained that Father Seelos had allowed Father Lawrence Holzer to do whatever he wanted during Seelos' regime in Pittsburgh--Holzer, who had built an orphan asylum there just as Schmid had in Baltimore. In both cases there was a question either of raising the buildings and saving the faith of orphan children or of staying home in the rectory to perform religious exercises. It was to Seelos' credit in his big fast-growing parishes that, when a man was in charge of a building operation, he allowed him leeway in accomplishing it. Had the provincial added all these important details, his report would have been more accurate and more just.
In the same report Ruland declared outright that Father Scelos was too weak toward Father Giesen because he gave in to him too much. Ruland said that Giesen was talented and capable, but hotheaded, and needed a strong rein on him. However, the provincial did give Giesen credit for a good heart. What Ruland did not say was that Giesen was a great worker. The baptismal and marriage records prove that.
Moreover, he was just two years ordained. If Seelos reproved the young man every time he made a mistake, he might well have soured him. Ruland never visualized such a possibility. Not to reprove immediately is not always a sign of weakness; it may be just the opposite.
Giesen was working at Saint James' at that time, and Ruland may well have been irked by the debts incurred in decorating and improving the church, as the Domestic Annals of Saint James' indicate. Here again, if Ruland's report had given the full information, especially noting that Giesen was a young man operating in an out-misison, away from Seelos, his appraisal might have been more objective. (32)
Eight months after becoming rector of Saint Alphonsus', Seelos was present at an event that was to have far-reaching consequences for him. A Provincial Chapter of Redemptorists had been summoned to assemble on December 6, 1854, at Saint Alphonsus, Baltimore, to elect two vocales, or representatives, who were to accompany the provincial, Father Ruland, to Rome for the forthcoming General Chapter to be held in the Eternal City in April, 1855.
Great interest was shown in the selection of the vocales because the chapter to be held in Rome was most important. It had been summoned by the Holy See to elect a superior general of all the Redemptorists living outside of the Kingdom of Naples.
Two candidates were leading in the field for the office of superior general. One of them was Rudolf Smetana, who had been vicar general of the Redemptorists in northern Europe for five years; the other was Frederick De Held, born in Austria, rector of Wittem, former provincial of Belgium, and former Visitor of the Redemptorists in England. The views of Smetana and the German Fathers and those of De Held and the Belgian Fathers concerning the vow of poverty and other matters were directly opposed to each other.
In America at this time there were a number of Fathers from Austria and from Belgium. Naturallv the Fathers in America, and especially those born in Europe, were interested in electing vocales supporting their choice for superior general. (33) Before the Provincial Chapter met in Baltimore on December 6, 1854, a number of the Fathers thought that Father Seelos would certainly be elected as one of the representatives from America to attend the General Chapter. (34) Seelos himself believed that he might be elected. (35)
He intimated as much to his family in Bavaria, for they looked forward joyfully to the possibility of seeing their beloved Xavier once more, especially his mother, who longed to see him at least once as a priest at the altar.
When the day arrived for the Provincial Chapter, Seelos, as rector of the house, was present among the thirteen members of the chapter. To be elected, nine votes were necessary. On the early ballots, Seelos received several votes. His chances faded, however, and when the chapter ended, two older men were elected: Father Alexander, the former vicegerent, and Father Joseph Mueller. He was not even chosen as one of the two substitute vocales. (36) He accepted the result as God's will, but he felt sorry because he had unwittingly caused his family to be disappointed as he had given them grounds to hope they might see him once more. (37)
The provincial, who had endeavored to be neutral about the election of the vocales, was surprised, but declared that he was glad that neither of his consultors, Gabriel Rumpler and Francis Seelos, had been selected as vocales because he needed them for the government of the province during his absence at the chapter in Rome. He felt that Fathers Alexander and Joseph Mueller could more easily be replaced by younger men than his two consultors, the novice master in Annapolis and Father Seelos, the rector of Saint Alphonsus.
Ruland now had to see to the appointment of an acting provincial to rule the province during his absence. He suggested to Rudolf Smetana, the vicar general then ruling all Redemptorists, except those in Naples, that Father Gabriel Rumpler was best fitted for the purpose, (38) and the vicar general obliged by naming him. (39)
The choice of Rumpler as acting provincial seems strange in retrospect. Unable to leave Annapolis where he was novice master, he had to direct the province from that small town with no immediate contact with his other consultor, Father Seelos. In fact, there was only one other priest at Annapolis, a young socius just out in the ministry. Moreover, Seelos' duties as rector of Saint Alphonsus, would not allow him to be constantly with the acting provincial. So for the most part, Rumpler was on his own. Apparently, this consideration did not enter into Ruland's calculations when he suggested Rumpler for the post of acting provincial.
Gabriel Rumpler enjoyed at this time a high reputation among many Fathers who believed in hard work and strict discipline. His career had demonstrated both qualities. This forty-year-old Alsatian born Father had been a lector in Wittem and had done splendid work during his thirteen years in America. He had republished Allioli's Gospel Story and had translated several of Saint Alphonsus' works into English.
Particularly in New York Rumpler had successfully combatted the recalcitrant trustees and pushed through the construction of the new church of the Most Holy Redeemer on East Third Street. His labors were praised by Bishop John Hughes and applauded by the people. In fact, at the time of his transfer from New York to Baltimore in 1849, he was so popular with his parishioners that they put him in an open carriage and pulled it across the city to the ferrv that would transport him to the train for Baltimore. (40)
Appointed to Baltimore as consultor to the new vice-provincial and as rector of Saint Alphonsus', he arrived there in March, 1849. (41) The restless energy of the man found an outlet in building the new Saint Alphonsus' rectory during April to October of that year. The new building, as has been mentioned, was so constructed that the top floor, set apart from the rest of the rectory, could serve as a small but exclusive novitiate. When it was completed, Father Rumpler was named novice master. (42)
Though he was strict, his reputed knowledge of American youth and his clear command of ascetic principles made his rule a successful one in its earliest days under the watchful eyes of Hafkenscheid. At least one of his novices, George Deshon, the former West Point officer, said so. Deshon declared that, though Rumpler was a strict novice master, he hoped he would continue in that office for many years. (43)
Rumpler was instrumental in acquiring a new site for the growing novitiate in 1853 at Annapolis, Maryland. From the granddaughters of Charles Carroll of Carrollton, the Redemptorists acquired the birthplace (Charles Carroll House to right) and property of the famous Catholic signer of the Declaration of Independence.(44) By April 1, 1853, the novitiate was moved from Saint Alphonsus', Baltimore, to the newly acquired home, ideally situated on the land between the Severn River and Spa Creek.
Besides being novice master, Rumpler was superior of the new foundation. Sent to aid him was young Father Joseph Wissel, as socius of the novices and a lector of the young men studying the humanities after their novitiates
The rigidity of Rumpler awakened ideas among some that a new master of novices was needed. Hafkenscheid himself, who was still provincial superior, appears to have had some misgivings about retaining the strict Father Rumpler in his post, but Hafkenscheid left America forever in June, 1853, and his successor as provincial, Father George Ruland, apparently had no such scruples.
When the first appointments under Ruland came out at the end of Februarv, 1854, no mention was made of the novice master. A rymor circulated that someone other than Rumpler would be named. For reasons undisclosed, perhaps because of a doubt about the advisability of reappointing Rumpler, the appointment came only in April, 1854, when Rumpler was renamed novice master and consultor admonitor of the provincial. (46)
Though physically frail and excitable and nervous in temperament, Rumpler had a driving will. He had entirely too much work to do. He was pastor of the parish, novice master, procurator, and gardener and gave classes to two groups studying the humanities. To accomplish his many tasks, he cut down his sleeping hours. Overwork took its toll. He often forgot at night what he had done in the morning and began to see great faults in what were really small human failings.
Wissel later said that during his own stay of eighteen months at Annapolis from April, 1853, to September, 1854, Rumpler showed signs of too great severity in carrying out the ascetic principles, causing Wissel to hope that Rumpler would be transferred when the new appointments came in 1854. (47)
Wissel was not the only one disappointed. Others in the community, especially the professed students, had no great affection for Rumpler's methods, and the novice master seemed to be aware of it. Beginning with the new term in the spring of 1854, he grew more imperious. After young Father Wissel had sought to quiet and comfort the young men, for his pains lie was changed in September of that year.
A young priest, Father Joseph Koenig then sent to help in teaching the young professed students, and a new socius of the novices, Father Fehlings, was dispatched to take the place of the departing Joseph Wissel. (48)
The new arrangements failed, however, to bring the serenity necessary for novices and young professed students. Within a month, both Koenig and Fehlings asked for a change from Annapolis. Furthermore, Koenig suddenly appeared at the provincial house in Baltimore to voice his complaints personally about the intolerable conditions in the Annapolis community. The complaints of Koenig, known as one who easily murmured against regulations, had to be carefully evaluated. Moreover, even though he had incurred the provincial's ire for a time. it least he should have been heard. The provincial, without seeing him, told him through Father Seelos to return to his post. Koenig, goaded to extremity by the provincial's refusal to see him personally, decided to wander off to Newark, an act of disobedience which ultimately triggered his departure from the Congregation. (49)
The new socius of the novices likewise registered his disapproval of Father Rumpler's rigorous methods, which he felt served to weaken the health of some novices and produce undue tension in others. Listing specific cases to prove his assertions, he sent them in a letter through Father Seelos to the provincial. Whether the provincial ever communicated the contents of this letter to Seelos cannot be ascertained. Apart from that, Fehlings asked Seelos that someone besides the novice master should be sent to hear the confessions of the novices.
When, some time later, the socius of the novices was publicly rebuked by the novice master, Fehlings concluded that the provincial had sent his confidential report to the novice master. This he regarded as a betrayal of confidence. Whether Ruland actually did send the confidential letter is not certain, but he did bring to Rumpler's attention the complaints against his methods with the young men. Rumpler could readily guess the identity of the one reporting. Under the circumstances, Fehlings felt thwarted and kept his peace.
Later in the fall of 1854, Ruland held the canonical visitation of the Annapolis community.