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GLEISSNER, JOHN BAPTIST

GLEISSNER, JOHN BAPTIST (1865–1953). John Gleissner, Catholic chaplain of Texas A&M University, son of Frank and Carolina (Plats) Gleissner, was born in Burgkunstadt, Bavaria, on October 31, 1865. He began his education when he was eight years old as a student of the parish priest. At the age of twenty-one he graduated from Steyl College, near Venlo, Netherlands, with honors and a desire to become the priest of his hometown. Complications caused him to decide to move to the United States in 1888 to study at the seminary of Our Lady of the Angels in Niagara Falls, New York. After completing his work there, he asked to be sent to China as a missionary, but his request was denied because of his frail health. Instead, his superiors assigned him to N. A. Gallagher, bishop of Galveston, Texas, who ordained him in his cathedral on July 10, 1889. Gleissner was sent to St. Martinsville (now Tours) immediately after his ordination. At St. Martin's parish he built a school, staffed by the Sisters of Divine Providence, as well as a new convent and a new church. Gallagher transferred him to Hearne in 1896. There he became pastor of St. Mary's parish and its surrounding missions, about fifteen in number. When he became ill, he was sent to St. Mary's Infirmary (see ST. MARY'S HOSPITAL) in Galveston to recover. On September 8, 1900, Gleissner found himself in the middle of one of the worst storms in United States history (see GALVESTON HURRICANE OF 1900). In later life he wrote a moving account of his experiences that day.

Gleissner was sent from Hearne to St. Joseph's parish in Bryan in 1904 to take over as pastor for a couple of months, a "temporary" assignment that lasted for nearly fifty years. He came into contact with students from the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Texas (now Texas A&M University) soon after his arrival. He saw the need for campus support for Catholic students and requested a place to say Mass for them on Sunday. The college offered him a classroom in the Chemistry Building. By 1926 Gleissner had so promoted his cause that the Knights of Columbus of Texas had built St. Mary's Chapel for the A&M students. He not only tended to the spiritual needs of the young men at A&M, but also to their physical needs during wartime. He was made auxiliary chaplain during World War I and ministered to the needs of Barracks No. 5 during the flu epidemic of 1918. He was eventually made a dean, and, in 1931, a monsignor. In spite of his status and his age of nearly eighty, in addition to serving again as auxiliary chaplain at A&M, he was appointed head chaplain at Bryan Army Air Field during World War II; he also served some 6,000 German prisoners of war held in camp in Hearne. In 1949 Gleissner celebrated the diamond jubilee of his ordination to the priesthood. He was still active in St. Joseph's parish and at A&M when he was taken ill and died on February 28, 1953.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

Catholic Archives of Texas, Files, Austin. Sister Mary Loyola Hegarty, C.C.V.I, Serving with Gladness: The Origin and History of the Congregation of the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word, Houston, Texas (Milwaukee: Bruce, 1967). "Gleissner Memoirs," St. Joseph Parish, Bryan, Texas: 100th Anniversary, 1873–1973 (1973).

Mary H. Ogilvie

Citation

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Mary H. Ogilvie, "GLEISSNER, JOHN BAPTIST," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fgl14), accessed October 02, 2014. Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.