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Brunner, Francis de Sales


Founder of the American province of the Society of the precious blood; b. Mümliswil, Switzerland, Jan. 10, 1795; d. Schellenberg, Liechtenstein, Dec. 29, 1859. After early training at home he was sent to the Benedictine school at Maria Stein in 1809. He entered the bene dictines, changing his baptismal name Nicholas to Francis de Sales; was ordained March 6, 1819; and then spent ten years teaching and doing missionary work in neighboring areas. Because of personal spiritual problems, he left the Benedictines and joined the trappists at Oelenberg, Alsace. When the revolution of 1830 forced his removal from French territory, he returned to Switzerland, gradually separated himself from the Trappists, and began working as a missionary in eastern Switzerland under the direction of the papal nuncio at Lucerne.

In 1838, after a chance meeting with members of the Precious Blood Society at Cesena, Italy, Brunner joined the newly founded institute. He was sent to make a foundation in Switzerland, and he gathered around him several young men at Castle Loewenberg near Llanz in Canton Graubnden, where four years earlier he and his mother had established the precious blood sisters. In 1843, after a brief training period and ordination, Brunner and his companions immigrated to the New World. There John Baptist Purcell, then bishop of Cincinnati, Ohio, assigned the newly arrived missionary group to north central Ohio with headquarters first in Huron and then in Seneca County. During the next 16 years, Brunner succeeded in firmly entrenching the Society of the Precious Blood in Seneca, Putnam, and Mercer counties. He established nine religious houses, all except one in Ohio. Brunner made several highly successful journeys to Europe to gather recruits from German-speaking areas; in 1858 he returned to establish a convent and a recruiting center for America in Schellenberg. His remains are buried in a crypt in the church there.

[p. j. knapke]

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