The National Shrine of Blessed Francis Xavier Seelos is located in St. Mary’s Assumption Church, the first German Catholic Church in New Orleans and in the state of Louisiana. In 2000, the Catholic Church beatified Father Seelos, making him one step away from sainthood. Many miracles are attributed to his intercession both during his life and after his death.
The Shrine contains the official portrait of Father Seelos, which was used in Rome for his beatification. There are also many religious paintings, tapestries and photographs that depict Father Seelos and his life as a missionary. In addition to the relics, there is a display of Seelos’ personal belongings. There is a life-sized bronze statue of Father Seelos and his original cast-iron casket from 1867. The centerpiece of the Shrine is a sacred reliquary, which now houses the remains of Father Seelos.
Fr. Seelos came to New Orleans in 1866. He contracted yellow fever and died on October 4, 1867. During his short time in New Orleans, it is said that Father Seelos took on the hardest tasks and did the most penance, but was the most cheerful member of the community. Today he is known as the “Cheerful Ascetic.”
St. Mary’s Assumption Church, where Father. Seelos served as pastor, is still active. It is considered the most ornate of New Orleans churches, for its distinctive European baroque flavor. The hand-carved wooden statues of saints that make up the high altar are originals from Germany and are some of the finest pieces of 19th-century European polychrome sacred art in this country. Liturgical music is still played on the 1891 German organ. The confessionals are the same rooms that Father Seelos used more than 100 years ago. Mass is celebrated every Saturday at 4 p.m. and Sunday at 8:30 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. There is a Spanish Mass every Sunday at 10 a.m.
Behind the church and Shrine, there is a beautiful courtyard dotted with Southern Magnolia and Palm trees. There are several benches and fountains that are perfect for prayer and meditation. The gift shop contains a large selection religious gifts.
The Shrine is located across from St. Alphonsus Church, which was built by Irish immigrants and is now an art and cultural center of exquisite beauty. Both St. Alphonsus and St. Mary’s Church are listed on the National Register of Historic Places and are only a 10-minute drive from Canal Street.