Friar James was born in Niederbreitbach / Wiedtal on 15 October 1830 as Peter Wirth. He was the fourth child of Theodor and Katharina Wirth. His father was a shepherd; his mother ran a small pub. When he was nine, Peter lost his father, with ten his mother. Because of this tragedy, the impoverished family was torn apart, and Peter was looked after by his godfather / uncle who was a teacher in Niederbreitbach. Over the years, his godfather made Peter his assistant at school, but for financial reasons, Peter could not attend the teacher seminar. He started instead an apprenticeship as a shoemaker. Peter was an introvert young man. He joined the Franciscan Tertiary, which worked in social and religious areas in Peter’s homeland. He felt more and more attached to monastery life.
|Thus, in summer 1854 together with a friend he founded a house of pious craftsmen. They nourished, educated and trained orphan boys. In 1862 it was possible to found the congregation of the Franciscan brothers of the Holy Cross with the help of father Gomm and the permission of the Bishop of Trier. The charitable community grew, but it soon lost its founder. Whilst caring smallpox patients he was infected and passed away on 28 March 1871. Today his remains are kept in the tower chapel of the St. Joseph House in Hausen / Wiedtal. The Franciscan brothers still look after old and ill, disabled and poor people in the same premises.|