Société des Missions Africaines –Province de Strasbourg
né le 23 avril 1881 à Wittersheim

weiss francis dans le diocèse de Strasbourg, France
membre de la SMA le 5 octobre 1902
prêtre le 17 juillet 1904
décédé le 1er février 1946

1904-1908 Cork, professeur

1908-1914 missionnaire à la Côte du Bénin
1914-1918 mobilisé
1918-1930 missionnaire à la Côte du Bénin
1920-1946 missionnaire en Géorgie, USA
économe et conseiller de la pro province en 1938

décédé à East Saint-Louis, le 1er février 1946,
à l'âge de 64 ans

Le père François WEISS (1881 - 1946)

Le 1er février 1946, à East Saint-Louis (USA), retour à Dieu du père François Weiss, à l'âge de 64 ans.

François Weiss naquit à Wittersheim (Bas-Rhin), dans le diocèse de Strasbourg, le 23 avril 1881. Il fit ses études à Keer, à Richelieu et au grand séminaire à Lyon. Ayant fait le serment en 1903, il était ordonné prêtre le 17 juillet 1904.

Affecté d'abord à Cork, il partait en 1908 pour le vicariat de la Côte du Bénin. Rentré en Europe en mars 1914, il passa la guerre comme aumônier militaire, et en 1919 retournait au Bénin. Il y resta jusqu'en 1931, sauf l'année scolaire 1925-1926 qu'il passa comme directeur à Saint-Pierre, déployant une grande activité pour l'établissement de la Province d'Alsace-Lorraine. Il aida ainsi le père Brédiger. Au moment de l'érection de la Province (1927), le père Weiss était retourné au Bénin comme supérieur de l'école normale d'Ibadan. Assez bien doué, d'une forte santé, il aurait pu encore passer de longues années en Afrique. Rentré en 1931 pour assister à l'assemblée générale, il partait l'année suivante pour les missions des Etats-Unis.

Le père Weiss devint conseiller du père Lissner, et travailla dans plusieurs paroisses, dont celles d'Atlanta et de East Saint-Louis.

Father Francis Joseph Weiss (1881 - 1946)

Francis Joseph Weiss was born in Wittersheim, Alsace-Lorraine, in the diocese of Strasbourg, on April 23, 1881.
He died in St. John’s Sanitarium, Springfield, Illinois, USA, on February 1, 1946.

Our knowledge of Francis’s early history is scant. It is known that received his second-level education in Our Lady of Lourdes, at Keer, near Maastrict, and in the Petit Seminaire des Roch at Chamalieres (Puy-de-Dome), both colleges of the Society, Francis studied philosophy and theology in the Society’s major seminary, at Cours Gambetta, Lyon. He was received as a member of the Society on June 5, 1903, and was ordained a priest in the seminary chapel at Lyon, by Bishop Paul Pellet SMA, on July 17, 1904. Ordained with him on that day was Alphonse Barthlen who was later to serve in America.

After ordination Francis was sent to Cork to learn English and to teach in St. Joseph’s College, Wilton, and an SMA Apostolic School. Knowledge of English was essential for work in the Society’s missions in British territories. In the colonies of Lagos or the Gold Coast education, as well as day-to-day business was conducted through the medium of English. And it was to the former territory that Francis was sent in 1908. Assigned to the Vicariate of the Bight of Benin, a vast jurisdiction covering most of south-west Nigeria, his first placement was to Lafiaji, near Lagos. Francis showed an aptitude for the education apostolate and from 1910 was appointed supervisor of all the Catholic Schools in Lagos. In this capacity he had to ensure that standards were reached and maintained so that the schools could avail of generous government subsidies. In 1914, on the outbreak of the Great War, Francis returned to France and entered the French army as a chaplain. After the armistice, in 1918, he went back to Africa where – assisted by Edward Hill and Ernest Robbens - he was Director of a college for training catechists and teachers based in the city of Ibadan, about eighty miles from Lagos. During his period in Benin Francis was councilor to the Visitor whose task was to ensure the spiritual and physical welfare of the confreres.

In 1926 Francis became Director of the Society’s Apostolic College at St. Pierre near Eichhoffen in Alsace. This was on the eve of the erection of a distinct Alsace Province of the Society – it came in 1927 – and Francis took an active part in the preparations. In 1929 Francis returned to Africa where he was appointed to the senior position of rector of Holy Cross Cathedral, in Lagos. However, within a matter of months his health broke down and he was invalided to Europe. Although he recovered his health quickly and participated in the General Assembly of June 1931, his superiors decided that he was no longer fit for tropical conditions. Since 1907 the Society had missions in the Southern States of America which were mainly staffed by Alsatian members When George Brediger, the Alsace Provincial, asked him go to America Francis readily agreed. Reaching his mission in October 1931 he served briefly in St. Benedict the Moor Church, in Savannah, Georgia. He settled in quickly to the new way of life so much so that in the summer of 1932 Ignace Lissner, superior of the ‘American Works’ appointed him pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes Church, in Atlanta. Fr. Lissner wrote in his letter of appointment that Our Lady of Lourdes was ‘the most important Colored mission-parish in Atlanta’. And indeed there had been much achieved since the foundation of the parish in 1912. When Francis took charge he found a fine three-storey combination church and school, a school, a convent with teaching Sisters, a social hall for meetings and a well-appointed rectory.

Francis was to remain in this pastorate up to the time of his death. During these years he saw his congregation steadily increase in spite of the many obstacles posed by poverty and racial discrimination. The residential Bible classes which he ran attracted many converts to the Church. His ready participation in Catholic organizations was a further sign of his commitment. He served as spiritual director of the Colored Catholic Laymen’s League of Georgia and was a prominent member of the Diocesan Council for Negro Parishes. Among the many practical acts of Christianity for which he was revered, Francis opened a ‘Catholic Colored Clinic’ in Atlanta, the first one of its kind, which was staffed by three Medical Mission Sisters. Francis had a talent for writing and frequently sat at his typewriter composing letters seeking support for his projects, or articles for various magazines and newsletters. Few samples of his work now remain. However the archives of the American Province at Tenafly holds a copy of an article he wrote in 1938 for the Echo des Missions Africaines de Lyon (the journal of the French Province) titled ‘Chez les Noirs: Les Noces d’Argent de la Paroisse N.D. de Lourdes d’Atlanta’. This contained a history of the parish sketched on the occasion of its silver jubilee. Although far removed from the center of the American Branch’s administration, Francis was a keen advocate of an American Province and when this was established, in March 1941, he served as a Councilor to the Provincial, Fr. Lissner.

Francis suffered a lot in the last months of his life. In December 1945 he was admitted to the Atlanta Hospital where he was Extraordinary Confessor to the Sisters. There he was diagnosed as having pulmonary tuberculosis of a virulent type. Before he fell ill Francis had decided to retire to his old country, Alsace, and to make his home with his only sister, married in Wolxheim. Subsequently he entered a sanatorium in Springfield where he died.

Francis liked to tell stories of his experiences as a chaplain in the First World War. He also liked to sing the popular Volk’s Lieder, from his school and college days.

He is buried in the SMA plot in the Catholic Cemetery of Savannah, Georgia, USA.