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Francis Libermann

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Venerable François Libermann was a 19th century Jewish convert to Catholicism who was a member of the Spiritan order. He is best known for founding the Congregation of the Sacred Heart, which later merged with the Congregation of the Holy Ghost. He is often referred to as "The Second Founder of the Holy Ghost Fathers.

Early life

Jacob Libermann was born into an Orthodox Jewish family in the ghetto of Saverne, Alsace, France in 1804. As a young man, Libermann prepared to follow in the footsteps of his father, the Chief Rabbi of Saverne. He would later relate how he lost his faith in Judaism after entering yeshiva. However, after another rabbinical student gave him a Hebrew translation of the Gospels, he began to find himself drawn toward Catholicism. After arriving in Paris to further pursue his study of the Talmud, he made his decision after locking himself for several days in a university dormitory with a set of Catholic devotional books. Jacob Libermann was baptized on December 24, 1826, taking the name François Marie Paul. He entered a Paris seminary in the same year to study for the priesthood. The knowledge of his conversion was long concealed from his father, who was horrified to learn of his favorite son's actions. When the news of his baptism reached Saverne, the ranks of the ghetto closed against him and his father subsequently mourned him as dead.

Priest and Missionary

Libermann suffered from epileptic seizures, which prevented his ordination for nearly 15 years. It was only when these seizures ceased in 1841 that he was able to become a priest. After his ordination, Libermann created a small religious order centered around missionary activity towards newly freed slaves in Réunion, Haiti, and Mauritius.

As this group attracted more members, the Holy See merged his society with the older Congregation of the Holy Ghost, otherwise known as "Spiritans". Due to this event, Libermann is often referred to as the "Second Founder" of the Holy Ghost Fathers.


Francis Libermann died in February 2, 1852.


He was declared Venerable by Pope Pius IX in 1876. His letters, hundreds of which survive, are frequently used as a guide in the devotional life.

  • Francis Libermann High School in Toronto


"That moment for me was one of extreme pain. My complete loneliness, the gloom of the cell with its one sky-light, the thought of being so far from my family, my country, all this plunged my heart into the deepest sadness and weighed down my heart with oppresive melancholy. Then is was that, remembering the God of my fathers, I cast myself on my knees and implored Him to enlighten me regarding the True Religion. I conjured him to make it known to me that the belief of Christians was true, if it was so,; but if it was false, to remove me instantly far from it. The Lord, who is near to those who invoke him with their inmost soul, heard my prayer. I was at once enlightened; I saw the truth; faith penetrated my mind and heart. Setting myself to read Lhomond, I assented easily to all that it recounted of the life and death of Jesus Christ. Even the mystery of the Eucharist, though rather imprudently presented to my consideration, in no way repelled me. I believed all without difficulty. From that moment my greatest desire was to see myself plunged into the sacred Font; and my happiness was not long delayed. I was at once prepared for this admirable Sacrament, and received it on Christmas Eve. Next morning I was allowed to approach the Holy Table."[1]
--Describing his conversion from Judaism to the Roman Catholic Church.


  1. Fr. G. Lee, C.S.Sp., "The Life of the Venerable Francis Libermann," page 9.


Fr. G. Lee, C.S.Sp. "The Life of the Venerable Francis Libermann," Copyright 1911. Reissued by Roger A. McCaffrey Publishing.

Rev. Prosper Goepfert, "The Life of the Venerable Francis Mary Paul Libermann", with preface by The Most Reverend Dr. Croke, [M. H. Gill & Son]

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