Fr. Francis Mariappa of Fort Saskatchewan is the head of the Pallottines in Western Canada.


Fr. Francis Mariappa of Fort Saskatchewan is the head of the Pallottines in Western Canada.

January 26, 2015

Father Gottfried Seifert joined the Society of the Catholic Apostolate, better known as the Pallottine Fathers, in Germany in the early 1950s.

"There was no divine intervention or any great revelation," he says of his priestly vocation.

The young lad had to decide what to do with his life and since he felt called to a life of service, the priesthood seemed like a good option.

Seifert chose the Pallottines because he knew the order and was familiar with its charism. He was ordained in 1958 and was sent to Canada the following year.

For the next 56 years he served in Ontario, Calgary, Edmonton and Red Deer as a teacher, pastor, preacher and provincial superior. Now, 82 and retired, Seifert lives a monastic life in Vegreville and continues to substitute for pastors who are away.

He is one of four German Pallottines left in Western Canada out of about two dozen who came over the years. They range in age from 77 to 82 and all still serve in some capacity.

Determined to survive, these men of God made a bold move in the mid-2000s. They invited their Indian confrères to take over their ministries and in 2009 they transferred all their assets to them. Now they watch as their order flourishes again.

Today, in addition to the German Pallottines, eight Indian Pallottines work in the Edmonton Archdiocese. There are also Indian Pallottines in the dioceses of St. Paul, Calgary, Prince George and Vancouver.

Father Francis Mariappa, the 43-year-old pastor at Fort Saskatchewan, has been in the archdiocese since 2007 and is the Pallottines' delegate superior for Western Canada.


The first German Pallottines came from England to Quebec in 1944. More came to Manitoba a few years later. Another group came to southern Ontario, Calgary and Edmonton in the mid-1950s. Still more arrived in the early 1960s to teach at St. Francis High School in Calgary and St. Mary's in Edmonton.

Over 50 plus years, the German Pallottines sent about 25 priests to serve in Canada. During the same period, the order produced only two local vocations. With their numbers declining, the Pallottines were forced to withdraw from the schools to do parish work.

The Pallottine order started in Rome in 1835 when Father Vincent Pallotti petitioned for the approval of what he called the Union of the Catholic Apostolate. Permission was given by Pope Gregory XVI and, on April 10 of that year, nine priests and six laymen were enrolled.

In those days, participation of the laity in the Church was minimal.

Pallotti intended to change that and sought to inspire the Church to permit and encourage ordinary Catholics to take their rightful place. The Catholic apostolate meant for him that Christ's mission was for all the faithful, not just for ordained priests.

"He was talking Vatican II theology well before Vatican II (in the mid-1960s)," Seifert once said. "This was utterly new and Pallotti was attacked for it. He was too advanced in that sense."

In Red Deer, the Pallottines created a faith enrichment centre, which Seifert says became the cradle of the Union of the Catholic Apostolate in Canada.

Members of the union are lay people who follow the postulates of the order. Today the union has some 120 to 150 lay members in Alberta and Saskatchewan.

In the mid-2000s, the German Pallotines tried to bring more priests from Germany. But vocations were minimal and in 2005, the first Pallottines from India arrived.

Currently, Indian Pallottines serve in several parishes in the Edmonton Archdiocese, including Our Lady of Angels in Fort Saskatchewan, St. Anthony's in Lloydminster and St. Thomas More in Edmonton.

Fr. Gottfried Seifert

Fr. Gottfried Seifert

The German Pallottines, however, continue to operate St. Boniface parishes in Edmonton and Calgary. They also have priests in Okotoks and at St. Mary's Cathedral in Calgary.

Seifert is proud of his order's accomplishments in more than five decades of service in Canada.

"As teachers, we helped to form the minds and the values of young people," he said. "Secondly, I think we offered dedicated pastoral work in the parishes we served, and we brought Pallotti's vision (of openness, inclusion and acceptance) everywhere we went."


In an interview, Mariappa, the Pallottines' superior, recalled his reluctance to become a priest. "I had no intention of joining the seminary in the first place. I wanted to become a businessman, and I wanted to join the military."

However, God slowly led him to the priesthood. He was ordained in 2001, and worked as an associate pastor for four years, in charge of a special project to build a seminary.

Upon coming to Canada, he began to serve in Fort Saskatchewan. For two years he was the associate pastor, and has been the pastor for the past five. He was appointed the Pallottines' provincial delegate superior of Western Canada almost two years ago.

Mariappa said there is no difference between German and Indian Pallotines. "We all belong to the same family."

The Indian Pallottines came to Canada "because we didn't want to see the Pallottines' work just given up," he said.

"(The German Pallottines) didn't have any members to come over to take over their apostolate so we were invited to come. They wanted to see the Pallottine work continued in the dioceses where they had worked."


Mariappa said the Pallottines are flourishing in India. "We have about 185 priests in our province, Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary." In addition, nearly 150 students are in formation. Altogether, the order has about 2,000 priests around the world.

Unlike other orders of men, the Pallottines were not negatively impacted by Vatican II because they were already preaching openness and lay involvement.

"St. Vincent Pallotti knew the priest alone cannot do all the works of the Church," Mariappa said. "He believed that all are called to revive faith, rekindle charity and carry out the mission of the Church."