Pierz, Francis Xavier

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Missionary; b. Kamnik, Carniola, Slovenia Nov. 20, 1785; d. Ljubljana, Carniola, Jan. 22, 1880. After study with the Franciscans in Kamnik and at the diocesan seminary in Ljubljana, Pierz was ordained on March 13, 1813 by Bp. Antonius Kautschitz. He spent the first 22 years of his priestly career in Yugoslavia as assistant at Kranjska Gora and Fuzine and as pastor at Pece and Podbrezje. His experiments in the development of fruit stock suitable for the region were recognized by the Carniolan Agricultural Society. In 1830 he published a text on the science of fruit growing, Kranjski Vertnar (The Carniolan Gardener), which remains a standard reference work in Slovenia. In 1834 Pierz went to the United States to work with his countryman Rev. Frederic Baraga, later the first bishop of Marquette, Michigan.

Baraga stimulated his interest in the evangelization of the Native Americans and persuaded him to volunteer for work among the Ottawas. From 1835 to 1871 Pierz labored among the natives of Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota, achieving his most notable success with the Chippewas of Minnesota. He arrived there in 1852 and, from his headquarters at Crow Wing, traveled by foot and horseback to virtually every Chippewa village in the territory. As government policy restricted the Native Americans' domain, he worked to have their vacated lands settled by German and Sloveniane Catholics. Many Catholic communities in the Diocese of St. Cloud, Minnesota owe their origin to his efforts. He also brought the Benedictines to Minnesota from their foundation in Pennsylvania. In 1873, when he was 88 years old, he returned to his native land.

Bibliography: g. mcdonald, "Father Francis Pierz, Missionary," Minnesota History 10 (1929) 107125. j. seliskar, Acta et Dicta 3 (1911) 6690. w. p. furlan, In Charity Unfeigned: The Life of Francis Xavier Pierz (Paterson, N.J. 1952).

[w. p. furlan]