The Passionists of Townhead have lost a great help in the person of Brother Alphonsus whom Almighty God in his judgment has called from this life to a better one.
Brother Alphonsus was called in this world Theodore Zeegars. He was born on 3rd of August 1820 at Vassum in Holland. When a youth, he was bound apprentice to a carpenter. His attention to the technicalities of the trade soon made him proficient and he had the prospect of a useful and prosperous life. Having always been a pious youth and having a desire to lead a retired life, he made application to be received into the Congregation of the Cross and Passion.
After some little time he was received by the Provincial and sent to England to enter the Passionist Order. He received the habit of the Order there on May 23, 1847 and was professed in the following year. He was endowed with a great spirit of piety and the gift of intelligence. Shortly after his profession he was engaged in different monasteries of the Province where building or improvements were going on and the different architects reposed the greatest confidence in him.
The rapid increase of the Passionists and the many churches and monasteries they built soon told on the finances of the Order, and Brother Alphonsus was sent by his Superiors to ask for alms in Spain and other countries of the Continent and also in the United States. The difficulty of not knowing the different languages was soon overcome, for Brother Alphonsus set himself with such assiduity that he soon acquired the language of whatever country he was in. Having fulfilled this mission with great success he was recalled to England and appointed to be a member of St. Anne’s Retreat in Lancashire. While there he was remarkable for his piety and attention to his routine of the house, he being invariably the first to be in choir at midnight and early in the morning.
From St. Anne’s he was sent to the city of Glasgow to superintend the completion of St. Mungo’s in Parson Street. About this time, Mgr. Paoli (Fr. Ignatius), the Archbishop of Bucharest was making application for Brother Alphonsus’ assistance in Bulgaria. The Father General of the Order gave him permission and in a few days Brother Alphonsus was traveling to the East. He was immediately sent to the building of the Cathedral.
Brother Alphonsus showed much tact and prudence in dealing with the various state officials regarding the buildings and transport of materials from one port to another. On one occasion when engaged in a Church at Galatz, the Sultan gave orders that all the materials Brother Alphonsus needed were to be given free and that the labour transit across the Danube was to be done at his expense.
After a few years, Brother Alphonsus was again recalled to these countries. His first work on his return was to complete St. Joseph’s Retreat in Highgate Hill. Then he went to St. Anne’s at Sutton, Lancashire where he built splendid schools for the parish. After that he was sent by his superiors to London to undertake the building of the magnificent new Church on Highgate Hill.
He was sent to Glasgow a second time. He now undertook the building of the new monastery in Parson Street. Father Osmond, C.P., a member of the community in Paris, drew the plans and left them with Brother Alphonsus to carry out. It was while he was engaged in the building of this monastery that he caught a chill that ended his life. For some time he had been ailing, but would not rest from the work that he had in hand. On Monday 22nd August he had to take to his bed. After a few days, it was seen that he was failing, and Father Rector deemed it advisable that he should receive the Rites of the Church. Doctor McLaughlan was in constant attendance, but with all the Care bestowed on him he still continued to decline till Friday last, 2nd September. Father Provincial who had arrived from London, seeing the end was drawing near, called the community to the sick room, and the prayers for the dying were being recited when Brother Alphonsus rendered his soul to God.
What a beautiful death. What a consummation of a good life. He retained his senses to the last. During the afternoon of the day he died, he found some difficulty in speaking so he asked for a slate and a pencil that was in his room and wrote these few words: “I am dying, I beg pardon for my faults. Pray for me.” This beautiful expression of himself gave great edification to his brethren who knew him to have led such a holy life and always gave good example.
On Saturday evening his remains were received into the Church and placed in the Lady Chapel. Great numbers of the faithful congregation visited the chapel throughout the Sunday to pray for the repose of his soul. On Monday morning at 11 o’clock there was a Solemn Requiem Mass. The Very Rev. Father Gregory, the Provincial, was celebrant. Fathers Leo and Romuald, deacon and sub-deacon; Father John M.C., Fathers Polycarp, Ignatius and Justin assisted in the choir. After the Mass, the body was removed to the hearse and was borne to Dalbath, followed by members of the congregation and the community of Townhead.
The parishioners of Townhead have been greatly affected by the demise of the good Brother as they were in the hopes of meeting him and congratulating him on the occasion of the opening of the new monastery which takes place in a few weeks. May he rest in peace.
Glasgow Observer, Saturday September 10th, 1892