The History of St. Bernard Parish
There are many versions of St. Bernard Parish history. Some say the Wurst family were the first Catholics in New Washington and some say the Alts were. A third version states that the Wyandot Indians were the first Catholics in New Washington.
Father John Vogel, in his 1975 book, Indians of Ohio and Wyandot County, said that Wyandots were baptized by Jesuit missionaries. In 1749, the first mass in Ohio was said by Father Potier, a Jesuit, for the Wyandot Indians at the mouth of the Sandusky River. Two years later (1751), Father Armond de la Richardie built a log chapel for the Wyandots in Sandusky. This was the first Catholic Church erected in the state of Ohio.
In 1773, the Jesuits were suppressed by a papal decree by Pope Clement XIV. It was a blow to the Indian missions in Ohio. Jesuit mission activity was halted. However, many Wyandots retained their Catholic belief and practices for many years to come. Father Vogel, in his book, stated that in the 1820's Indians were seen in this area carrying rosaries and silver crosses, reciting prayers and singing Catholic hymns.
Father Fish, in his book Memoranda of McCutchenville, Tiffin, etc., stated that the Wyandots would travel from the New Washington area to Detroit to make their Easter Duty, since the missionaries were banned from coming to them.
The Wyandots were forced to leave the New Washington area in 1843.
The first missionary pastors to the white settlers of this portion of Ohio came from Tiffin, Peru, Thompson and Fremont.
The first missionary pastors sent to this area were Redemptorist priests. Among them were Rev. Francis X. Tschenhens, whose home parishes were St. Alphonsus, Peru, and St. Mary's in Tiffin. He became an active missionary in developing parishes throughout the area. Father Tschenhens trave3rsed the country up and down in search for Catholics and celebrated mass at various missions, among which was New Washington. Baptisms administered by him in New Washington are recorded as early as 1837 in St. Mary's Baptismal Register at Tiffin. In that year there were three recorded by him on February 16, 1837, seven for 1838, while there were five for May 2, 1839.
One finds many contradictory statements concerning where the first Mass was held in New Washington by white settlers. Some have written that the first Mass was held in the home of a Mr. Wurst, while other write of John Alt, and still others write of a Dr. Boehler.
At these Masses we do know that Father Tschenhens read the Mass in Latin and preached all sermons in German. He traveled on horseback and often over impassible roads.
Due to a shortage of funds, the Redemptorists asked their Provincial to be relieved of their missions. Their request was granted, and in January, 1840, they withdrew to Pittsburgh.
The Sangunists, the Precious Blood Fathers, founded in Germany in 1814, took over at St. Alphonsus, Peru, Ohio, and served the New Washington area from 1845-1859.
New Washington was attended by the Precious Blood Fathers, first from Peru, where they were stationed between 1844 and 1845; then from Thompson until 1859. Up to 1859, the following Precious Blood Fathers attended St. Bernard's. Rev. Francis S. Brunner, May 27, 1844 to June, 1845; in 1847, Rev. John Wittmer; and in 1848, Rev. John Van den Broek.
For short periods between 1841 and 1856, the following priests are mentioned as having attended New Washington: Rev. August Berger, Sebastian Ganter, Clement Shweitzer, John Albright, Andrew Heibstridt, Nicholas Gales, Willibald Willi from Thompson, Peter Kreusch, M. Kreusch and P.A Capeder.
In May 1856, Rev. Peter Wilhelmy succeeded Peter Kruesch and in the same year Rev. Rochus Schnely became pastor. From December, 18456, until October 4, 1857, Rev. Ehrhard Glueck attended the congregation; the last three priests coming from Thompson. The new congregation of St. Bernard's underwent about the same trials and had to overcome the same difficulties as all the congregations of its time. The first resident pastor was Rev. Amadeus Dambach, who took up his priestly duties at New Washington on December 7, 1859, and remained until May 9, 1865. He, too, was a Sanguinist Father, as were all who preceded him, with the exception of Father Tschenhens and Father Peter Kreusch, Rev. Michael Baker was the next resident pastor to be appointed, taking up his charge July 24, 1865, and remaining until June, 1881.
Note: Many of St. Bernard Parish family histories have referred to the first pastor as Rev Sheennig of Pittsburgh. This was also mentioned in J. I. Smith's 1889 History of New Washington and Cranberry Township.
The centennial booklet, An Historical Sketch of Saint Bernard's Parish, New Washington, Ohio, 1844-1944, discusses the question of Father Sheennig on pages 22-24. The author of this booklet quotes the Diocesan Historian and Archivist of the Pittsburgh Diocese, Rev. John Conova. Fr. Conova speculates that Sheennig might actually have been a misspelling of the name of Father X. Tschenhens, a Redemptorist missionary stationed in Peru who served that area of the state in the 1830's and who went back to Pittsburgh in 1840. This is the most likely answer to the riddle of Fr. Sheennig. (Information from Wm. Kevin Cawley, Associate Archivist, the University of Notre Dame.)
The Bishop of Cincinnati came to dedicate St. Bernard's Church in 1846. The congregation had made preparations to give their Bishop a formal welcome at the edge of town. However, he arrived by horseback early and was at the church before they started to meet him. During his visit he baptized Margaret Young, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Peter Young. She became a sister of the Sacred Heart of Mary in Cleveland.
There are many contradicting statements concerning who the original families were who formed St. Bernard's Parish.
According to Baskin and Battey's 1881 History of Crawford County, Ohio, they claim that St. Bernard's was first organized by sixteen families. According to J. I. Smith's 1889 New Washington and Cranberry Township, there were thirteen founding families. And in 1886, Rev. J. G. Vogt in History of St. Bernard's Congregation was formed by 12 "German Catholic families."
Among the various histories of St. Bernard's are mentioned the following 1844 founding fathers: Peter Yochum, John Fortner (also spelled Peter Fordner), Joseph Wurst, Mathew Loehnhoff, Gasper Dallas (also spelled Casper Dallas), Peter Young, John Alt, Peter Gulong, Paul Miller, Jacob Streiger, John Delaver, Nicholas Kiefer, Peter Mueller, John Burger (also spelled John Berger), Timothy McCarthy, Mathew Craemer, Mathias Kramer, George Bechtel, Jacob Lux, Joseph Studer and Joseph Kramer.
It would be correct to say that many of these families helped found St. Bernard's Parish. Moreover, one hundred and fifty years later, many of these descendants are still members of the parish.
On May 21, 1844, a lot was purchased from a Mr. Intifer for the sum of thirteen dollars. This is the lot between the present Gochenour Meats and the Golden Gems Senior Citizens Center; the site of the former Albert Shealy building (right side). A builder by the name of William Pratt constructed it for the sum of one hundred dollars. The building was forty feet by sixty feet in dimensions and constructed of timber the early Catholics furnished. It was completed in 1845.
There is some historic belief that the first church faced south rather than north. The 1812 War Road once passed by on the south end of the building, and hardware on the south of the building resembled that of a 19th century front door.
Almost immediately upon receiving the appointment in 1865 to St. Bernard's, Father Michael Baker began to raise money for the building of a new church. The congregation had outgrown the 1844 church with no room to grow in "uptown" New Washington.
On March 31, 1868, Father Baker sold the old church and bought a five-acre plot comprising ten town lots fronting E. Mansfield St. from Mr. Adam and Elizabeth Rossman for $1,400. In April of the same year, he began the building of the present brick church, with the cornerstone also being laid that year.
A great deal of the work, such as burning the brick, hauling stone and sand, waiting on bricklayers, and furnishing lumber was done gratuitously by its members.
The building is one of Gothic architecture, one hundred and ten feet by forty-six feet, with a large square spire that rises in the air almost one hundred feet.
The interior was very beautifully stuccoed, the walls having been painted in imitation of mottled marble and arranged in the form of an arcade with a background of hard cement, relieved by groups of triple columns, crowned with capitals after the Corinthian order of architecture. The original marble altar had a life-size statue of the Virgin Mary and her child, costing $1,500.
The entire church was built at a cost of $25,000, exclusive of the gratuitous labor of the members. It was dedicated by Bishop Gilmore of Cleveland in October 19, 1879.
In 1874, a frame schoolhouse was built at the St. Bernard grounds at a cost of $1,000. In 1876, a brick parsonage was erected at a cost of $4,500 (at the site of the present parsonage).
In today's 1944 St. Bernard's Church, all that remains from the original church are the pews and oak-walnut woodwork. The frescoes, stained glass windows, altar and lighting fixtures are twentieth century.
St. Bernard's Church once had a round stained-glass window behind the altar. Today, one can see the plaster marks in the wall where the window once was.
The Gothic style of St. Bernard's Church with its vaulted ceilings was an imitation of the great cathedrals of Europe. This traditional style of architecture was to put worshipers into a proper mind for services.
The priest that had the present St. Bernard's Church built was Rev. Michael Baker. He was born in France on November 1, 1831. His father, John Baker, was a soldier under Napoleon and served his country with distinction. Michael was raised on a farm and in 1843 moved with his parents to the Untied States, locating in Cuyahoga County. When eighteen years of age, Michael began learning the carpenter's trade, a business he followed until 1855, when he started training for the priesthood. For ten years he studied in Cleveland and upon his ordination he received immediately the appointment to New Washington. He died in Frenchtown, Ohio, and is buried in New Riegel.
It has been said that Father Baker's carpenter training greatly helped him in managing the building program at St. Bernard's.
During his term at St. Bernard's, Father Baker had a priest house, church and school built.
Once the present St. Bernard's Church was built in 1868, Father Baker ordered that parishioners sit in assigned pews in alphabetical order. Some families are still seen in St. Bernard's sitting in the same areas of the church that their great-grandparents once sat in.
At the departure of Father Baker in 1881, the parish debt was only $7,000, even with major building programs.
In June, 1881, Father Laurence Heiland was appointed to New Washington. Up to this time all sermons conducted in German, but occasionally used some English. Father Heiland decided to use the English language at most occasions. Father Heiland reduced the church debt from $7,000 to $1,500.
J. I. Smith, in his 1889 "History of New Washington and Cranberry Township", wrote the following item about St. Bernard's in the 1880's:
"Its resources in this respect are not at all exhausted as there are over three hundred and fifty children within its fold. Growth has certainly been a characteristic feature of this congregation, not only in membership but in property. The congregation owns a church, the finest structure in our little city, a good parsonage, a schoolhouse, and a large cemetery, absolutely free of debt. Its members also are in comfortable circumstances, some of them being among the leading businessmen of our village, while others are among the most successful farmers of this community."
About this time a division was made in the congregation. Those families living in the North Auburn area called a meeting to make plans whereby services could be held on Sunday and a Sunday school started in their area.
The decision was to erect a suitable building. Therefore, a frame structure was erected on a corner of the old Faeth farm and from 1880 to 1881 Rev. Amadeus Dambach was pastor of what was the beginning of St. Mary's Parish (now called Mother of Sorrows).
Rev. Dambach was called away in the summer of 1881 and the church was then made a mission to St. Bernard's, New Washington. From 1881 to 1888, Father Heiland administered to the two congregations. On July 6, 1906, members of St. Mary's heard the welcome news that they were to have a resident pastor, a favor long besought of the Bishop, and Reverend G. M. Schmitz arrived to take up his duties among them.
A Catholic grade school was attached to St. Bernard's since its inception. The school was held in the church until the year 1852. At that time Father Peter Kreuseh, pastor of St. Bernard's, had an addition built on to the 1846 church (the left side of the Albert Shealy building). This school building was only open for a few months a year, owing to lack of funds.
When Father Baker took charge, he persuaded the parish to support the school more generously. A second schoolhouse, a frame building, was erected by Father Baker in 1867 at a cost of $1,500 and, by prudent management, he succeeded in putting it on a solid basis.
Note: J. I. Smith, in the History of New Washington and Cranberry Township, stated that the second school was built in 1874 at a cost of $1,000. Most local historians believe this date to be wrong. A schoolhouse can be seen on a map in the 1873 Atlas of Crawford County behind the location of the present rectory.
Reverend J. G. Vogt succeeded Father Heiland in 1888. During his administration the church debt was reduced from $7,000 to $750. He also held English services regularly on the first Sunday of each month.
Father Vogt held Sunday School with an enrollment of about 150 pupils every Sunday afternoon at 2:30 P.M., in addition to this, St. Bernard's School was in session 10 months a year, employing two teachers who taught in both English and German languages.
At this time there were again changes to the parish plant. Some of these changes were the replacing of the original plain glass windows in the church with stained glass (two of which still remain in the sacristies).
In 1895, the original section of the current schoolhouse was built at a cost of $6,000.
St. Bernard School was dedicated on Sunday, November 3, 1895. The following is the New Washington Herald coverage of the event:
OF ST. BERNARD'S
NEW SCHOOL BUILDING
A Great Event in the History of St.
One of the greatest events in the history of St. Bernard's Congregation took place on last Sunday, November the 3rd, namely, the dedication of its beautiful parochial school building. The dedicatory services commenced at 3:00 P.M. The weather was all that could be desired, and as if made of the solemn occasion.
Long before the appointed time the self-sacrificing parishioners gathered around the new building and their continuances bespoke, better than words could have done, the joy and satisfaction of being permitted to participate in the crowning exercises of its dedication to the cause of Christian education. Many Catholics from neighboring parishes had come to rejoice with their New Washington friends, and by the time the exercises took place, standing room was scarcely to be had within the spacious and beautiful church. The blessing of the school building was performed by Rev. F. A. Schreiber, of Shelby Settlement, Richland County, as celebrant, assisted by Rev. Ignatius Rauh, of St. Stephens, as deacon, and the pastor, Rev. J. G. Vogt, as sub-deacon. After the blessing of the school, Rev. Ignatius Rauh preached a very elegant sermon in the German language, in which he mainly dwelt upon the necessity of a thorough Christian education of the child, portraying in a forcible language that, since the child is composed of body and soul, the development of both was absolutely necessary for its temporal and eternal welfare. The exercises closed with benediction of the Blessed Sacrament.
The evening was set apart for a lecture and literary entertainment. The literary program, skillfully prepared by the good Sisters in charge of the parochial school, was most successfully carried out by the well-trained school children. The hearty and well-deserved applause given the little artists proved that the large audience was more than well pleased with their efforts. The literary exercises were interspersed with appropriate songs, well rendered by the choir and children.
The main feature of the evening was the lecture on Christian Education given by Rev. F. A. Schreiber. The speaker clearly defined the correct meaning of education and instruction of illiteracy and ignorance. He said that true education was impossible without a thorough understanding of the family and parental duties, intimately connected with the school was the family, the honored group of father, mother and child. He impressed upon his hearers that the family is church, because from the family the state obtains its citizens and the church her children. He then dwelt upon the duties of parents in regard to their children, showing that they were primary and conscientious duties which they could not neglect without the greatest detriment to the welfare of the child. He dwelt upon the necessity of proper home training, without which the school and church were insufficient for the fulfillment of their respective duties, that the school was simply an annex to the family and only supplementary to the home training of the child. He particularly impressed his hearers with the fact that a child without religious training lacked the very essence of true education, and that the irreligious child must, of necessity, become an irreligious citizen, and that unchristian and irreligious citizens were dangerous to the state and nation, and that an unchristian and irreligious nation could not advance in true civilization and enlightenment. he also quoted the testimony of many distinguished Protestant writers in support of these truths. He concluded by praising zeal and generosity of pastor and people in the cause of education as set forth by this magnificent and well-appointed edifice. Great attention and interest was shown by the audience throughout the whole lecture. The people, and foremost among them the most intelligent and learned, speak of it with high praise and admiration.
The schoolhouse is fifty-seven feet wide by sixty-two feet long, and has a basement and two stories. In the basement is a neat chapel to hold Mass in on weekdays. The firs story contains three large, well-lighted and well-ventilated schoolrooms and a smaller room to be used as a library. The second story is a large hall with stage for lectures, plays, literary exhibitions, etc.
Wm. P. Ginther, of Akron, Ohio, was the architect, and Louis Faeth of this place was the contractor and builder.
Note: It is unclear when St. Bernard's first had nuns for teachers. Many articles state that St. Bernard's was taught by lay teachers until 1889, when the Sisters of Saint Francis of Tiffin, Ohio, took charge. However, Sisters are referred to in the 1895 dedication article and a convent is on insurance maps in 19897.
Dick Steinmetz of Tiffin, Ohio recently informed the writer of the history of the St. Bernard's school bell. The Tiffin Tribune, August 17, 1899 stated: "In 1899, Fire Chief Weimer sold the bell from the 3rd Ward Engine House (after the volunteer fire department was disbanded five years prior to this) for $90 to Rev. J. G. Vogt of St. Bernard's in New Washington."
This bell, purchased in 1871 and installed in the 3rd Ward Engine House, was used--as were all of the firehouse bells in the cupola of the engine houses--to alert the volunteers to a fire in their area. This 3rd Ward Engine House was located directly across from where St. Mary's School is today.
In 1899, Father Vogt was called to French Creek, Ohio, and was succeeded by the Reverend John P. Kunnert on September 23 of that same year.
Father Kunnert was born in Mandercagne, Luxemburg, on October 27, 1856. His parents were Henry and Magdalena (Scheverens) Kunnert. Henry raised thoroughbred horses and cattle and was a judge at many European agricultural events. Magdalena was also an accomplished judge of horses, and managed the family farm upon her husband's death.
Mr. and Mrs. Kunnert were the parents of seven children. Among whom were one son in South America, and one son, a railroad contractor for the Big Four Company in Cleveland, Ohio.
Father Kunnert stated in his writings that the homestead in which he was born had been the birthplace of his father, grandfather, and great-grandfather.
John Kunnert was of an unusually bright mind in youth and was afforded excellent educational advantages. At age eighteen, he graduated from agricultural college at Ettebrick, Luxembourg. Subsequent, he went to Bostogne, Belgium, and entered the Petit Seminary where he remained for five years. Upon his graduation, he went to France for two-and-a-half years to study at Luxeuil les Bains, a Petit Seminary in the Province of Haute Saone; from there he returned to Belgium Seminary completing a degree in philosophy in a year, graduating in 1882.
Father Kunnert then came to the United States to visit relatives in Kirby, Ohio, in Wyandot County. After a few months in Ohio, he went to Cleveland and entered St. Mary's Theological Seminary, where he continued until the spring of 1886. A week after he left the institution, he went to Upper Sandusky and said his first Mass. He was soon afterward given charge of the Catholic Church in Harrisburg, Ohio, Stark County, and also had charge of a mission known as Maximo Mission. He remained there until December, 1888, when he was transferred to St. Peter's Church in Cleveland, where he remained for fifteen months. In the spring of 1890, he returned to Harrisburg, Ohio, acting as a pastor at that place until September, 1899, when he was called to New Washington.
During Father Kunnert's administration, many useful and needed improvements were made and the church debt was entirely removed. Some of the improvements were: the installation of stained glass windows, the purchase of altars from Luxembourg, and the purchase of statues. Other improvements were: digging of a basement under the church, the installation of a church furnace, the slating of roofs of the rectory and church, the lowering of the church tower for safety reasons, electrification of parish buildings, the purchase of an additional twelve acres for a cemetery addition, and the construction of a new sister's house.
Note: When Father Kunnert was soliciting contributions for the stained glass windows, he went to families and fraternal groups. He was able to raise money to replace all but one window in the church.
He finally appealed to three elderly bachelors who always sat in the last pew on the east side of the church. After much encouragement from Father Kunnert, they agreed to donate the money for the final stained glass window.
In their honor, Father Kunnert had inscribed on the window "Von Den Ohne Sorgen," which in German means "Those with little cares."
To this day, those "care free" bachelors are remembered with the stained glass window "Marriage Feast at Canna."
Father Kunnert was also remembered for his kind courteous nature. He was known to make friends wherever he went. He also took a very great interest in the civic affairs of New Washington.
(It should be remembered that during Fr. Kunnert's time, the 1920's, there was much anti-Catholic feeling in this area and the Ku Klux Klan was growing in neighboring towns. Kunnert's personality put a dent in the New Washington branch of the Klan and kept its membership low.)
Father Kunnert loved animals. He kept a "menagerie" of farm animals on parish grounds. It was said that "for many years the only lawn mower the church had was a sheep buck on a rope."
He inherited his father's love for horses and had a mare whose sire was a brother to the famous race horse, Star Pointer. His riding horses also served him for going to and from his mission at North Auburn.
He owned a farm at Upper Sandusky, and showed sheep yearly at the International Livestock Exposition in Chicago.
The following are some Fr. Kunnert stories from the Mother of Sorrows Parish History:
Favorite Father Kunnert Stories
(As told by Fred Cramer)
It has been told that Fr. Kunnert and Johnny Hiler enjoyed engaging in the popular sport of racing their horses together. On Sunday morning, Johnny would go up the North Auburn road from his home to Strohm's corner (on the Waynesburg Road, now New Washington Road) and there wait for Fr. Kunnert to come to church for Mass. When he arrived, they would race their horses to the church. We never heard who won!
Father Finsel and Father Kunnert
(Father Finsel told thisJ
One day Fr. Kunnert was a passenger in Fr. Finsel’s car, and they were traveling too fast. For some reason, Fr. Finsel lost control and was heading for the ditch. He said, “Oh Lord, save us.” Fr. Kunnert said, “I second the motion.”
Father Kunnert Loses His Favorite Horse
(As told by Zita Studer)
Father Kunnert came to St. Mary's School to give religious instructions to the children. Zita Herzer (Studer) was in his first class one morning. He started to teach, but she could tell that his heart wasn't in it. He then told how his horse had died the day before.
He had been to Bucyrus and the horse was anxious to get home. It was a beautiful cold day, with the sun shining brightly and the snow sparkling. The sleigh was light and the horse, being tall and leggy, could really travel fast. Father held him in, but the horse wanted to go faster, so he finally let him go at his own speed. They were both enjoying the fast ride.
When they got home, Father put him in the stable and removed the harness. Shortly after, the horse laid down and stretched out. This worried Father, so he sent someone for the vet, but by the time he arrived, the horse was dead.
After Father told this, he turned his back to the class and cried. The children didn't know what to do, seeing a big man cry, and especially a priest. They felt so sorry for him. After Father regained his composure, he told the children how to care for a horse.
Another Father Kunnert Story
(As told by Joseph Studer)
Since Father Kunnert sometimes arrived late to start Sunday Mass, people usually stood in front of church to visit until he arrived. One particular Sunday, he was very late. Believing he was not coming, they went to the church to say the rosary and other prayers. When finished, they went outside prepared to return home, only to see him come racing down the road. Someone took care of his horse, and as he went into the church to prepare for Mass, he was "kidded" about being late for Mass. With a serious expressions he asked, "Oh! Has Mass started yet?"
Father Kunnert resigned from St. Bernard's on June 13, 1929k and returned to his native Luxembourg. He died in Luxembourg on December 26, 1930. The Herald stated that his death was sudden.
Note: Many residents may also remember Father Kunnert's housekeeper, his niece, Celine Kieffer. She moved back to Luxembourg and corresponded with a number of local residents. Celine, it was said, always placed fresh flowers on the graves of the New Washington veterans who were buried in the American Cemetery in Luxembourg. She died in March of 1974.
As mentioned in last week's article, Father Kunnert was responsible for purchasing the St. Bernard's altar in Luxembourg. He also purchased many statues to adorn the altars.
In Father Kunnert's day, the left altar was topped with a statue of Our Blessed Lady and Divine Child. Next to the left altar was a statue of St. Catherine of Alexandria. (Some of you may remember St. Catherine holding a large spiked wheel, which later made a handy hat rack when the statue was moved to the back of the church.)
St. Catherine was the patron saint of students, nurses and spinsters. She was an Egyptian queen who was ordered to death by the Roman Emperor Maxentius. He ordered her body stretched out on a spiked wheel, but before torture could begin, angels appeared and shattered the device causing its blades to hack up bystanders--Catherine was later beheaded.
On Father Kunnert's main alter were the statues of the Blessed Virgin and the Sacred Heart. On the top of the altar was a marble statue of St. Bernard.
St. Bernard of Clairvaux was a French saint; a saint quite agreeable to the many Alsace--Lorraine settlers in New Washington.
Bernard was born in 1090 of French nobility. He was a poet for a while and then joined the Cistercians, an order of Benedictine monks. Bernard had obvious monastic leadership potential and soon founded his own monastery.
His emblem was a beehive because of his "honey-sweet" style of preaching and writing. To this day, St. Bernard is known as the patron saint of bees and beekeepers.
St. Bernard's feast day is August 20, and the St. Bernard's festival in New Washington is usually held the Sunday nearest this date.
Next, on Father Kunnert's altar, was a statue of St. Anthony of Padua, the patron saint of harvests, the poor, and those looking for lost objects.
Anthony was a Franciscan monk who preached against heretics. It has been said that a novice who borrowed Anthony's prayer book without permission hastily returned it after suffering "a fearful apportion"--hence the saint's association with the recovery of lost articles.
On the right altar was a statue of St. Joseph, patron saint of carpenters, fathers, and of a happy death.
During Father Sossong's tenure, new statues were added to the side altars. A copy of Michelangelo's Pieta was on the left side altar and the "Death of St. Joseph" was on the right side altar. Two life-size angels, who held up lighting devices, were also purchased. At this time, St. Catherine and St. Anthony were moved to the back of the church.
After World War II, Fr. Sossong replaced the Blessed Virgin and Sacred Heart statues with the statues of St. Isidore and St. Wendelin.
St. Isidore was the patron saint of farmers. He was born near Madrid, Spain, in the twelve century. He spent his whole life as a hired hand, working the lands of a rich man.
St. Isidore was famous for the hours spent daily in prayer and good woorks--so much as that his employer began to wonder when any farm work was getting done. He paid a surprise visit to the fields and discovered, sure enough, Isidore praying under a true…while angels behind a time of snow-white oxen plowed the field.
In the winter, it was told, Isidore would empty sacks of grain to fee the starving birds, and those sacks would be miraculously refilled with grain that yielded twice as much flour.
The Saint Isidore statue was donated to St. Bernard's by Mary Pfahler, in memory of her husband., Second Lieutenant Erwin Pfahler, who was killed in action in Germany in World War II.
St. Wendelin is the patron saint of livestock farmers. Wendelin was the son of a Scottish king, who, because of his excessive piety, was condemned to herd sheep. He ended up in southwest Germany, and is still venerated there for his simple sanctity and heavenly veterinary skills.
In 1417, a great fire in the German city of Saabrucken was miraculously extinguished through the intercession of the saint, who died in the vicinity in 607.
In 1929, when Father Kunnert resigned, the following priests administered to St. Bernard's parish: Fathers Jaeger, Sattler, Gailagher, and native son Leo Miller. On September 6, 1929, Rev. William Bernard Sossong became pastor of St. Bernard's (St. Bernard's first American-born pastor).
Father Sossong was a native of Carnegie, Pennsylvania. He attended St. Vincent College, Latrobe, Pennsylvania, and St. Francis Seminary, Loretto, Pennsylvania. He came to New Washington after serving at Millersville, St. Mary Parish.
In June, 1931, the renovating of the school buildings was started and an addition to the church undertaken, by way of enlarging the sacristies. The entire improvement at this time amounted to $25,500. In 1942, very necessary improvements in the rectory were made at a cost of $2,000. During 1943, the church was re-frescoed and both the interior and exterior beautified for an expenditure of $7,600
On November 24, 1944, after eight men from the parish lost their lives during World War II, Father Sossong started a daily rosary for peace. The custom continued at St. Bernard's until the late 1960's.
In 1949, Fr. Nicholas Traunero succeeded Fr. Sossong as pastor. During Fr. Traunero's tenure, various repairs throughout the parish plant had occurred. The church vestibule was enlarged and, in 1954, the entire exterior of the church was veneered with the decorative brick we see today. Fr. Traunero remained as pastor until 1959.
In 1959, Fr. Frederick Mehling became the new resident pastor of St. Bernard's. Under his administration, a building fund was started for the building of a new rectory.
On February 2, 1964, Fr. Charles Reuss was installed as pastor of St. Bernard's. Numerous changes were made during Fr. Reuss's pastorate. In April 0f 1965, work was started on the new rectory, the old rectory being razed the preceding winter.
On April 1, 1966, construction began on the new school auditorium with an estimated cost of $180,100. An addition to the convent was also made during this time. The rectory building and th convent addition were completed on October 1, 1966. The new school addition being completed and opened on January 3, 1967. On September 15, 1967, the interior of the church was repainted.
On June 10, 1968, a fierce thunderstorm produced a lightning bolt that struck the church tower, piercing a hole in its roof and started a fire. The New Washington Fire Department responded and the fire was extinguished within minutes with little damage.
Also, during Fr. Reuss's tenure, the first school board was organized. Members were elected for four-year terms.
Fr. Reuss was transferred to Sacred Heart parish in New Bavaria, Ohio, on June 13, 1969. Fr. Arthur Badger ministered the parish until July 27 when Fr. Michael Tyman took over until the arrival of the new resident pastor.
On August 8, 1969, Fr. Richard J. Hoshock arrived as the new pastor, but due to poor health, he had to leave within a year.
On July 1, 1970, Fr. Omer Rethinger, pastor of Mother of Sorrows was given charge of St. Bernard's due to the resignation of Fr. Hoshock. From that point on the two parishes were untied to form a single co-parish. Also that year, the St. Bernard's Folk Choir was formed.
During Fr. Rethinger's pastorate the schools at both parish facilities were joined together to form a single parochial entity. First and second grades would be taught at North Auburn, while third through eighth were taught at New Washington. Also, during this period, liturgical reforms according to the Second Vatican Council were adopted at St. Bernard's being previously adopted at Mother of Sorrows under Fr. Nietfeld.
In October, 1972, the Rt. Rev. John Donovan appointed Deacon Lenny to the parish to help with coordinating religious education programs. This was an historic event as Deacon Lenny was the first appointed deacon for the Diocese of Toledo. The deaconate, which had existed in earlier times, was restored by the Second Vatican Council.
In the summer of 1975, Fr. Rethinger was re-assigned to St. Anne's in Fremont, Ohio, and Fr. John Laudick took his place as pastor of St. Bernard/Mother of Sorrows; and in 1976, Msgr. Julius Siesel made his retirement home in New Washington and gracefully offered his priestly services to the parishes.
During Fr. Laudick's ministry here, a new roof was installed on the church and the entire interior was renovated in the winter and spring of 1983. Changes to the interior of the church included repainting, the cleaning and touching up of the two flanking murals and the stations, the stripping of the pain from the walnut and oak wainscoting and column bases, the installation of carpeting to the nave and sanctuary, and the addition of ceiling fans and new lighting. Other changes were made to make the church conform to liturgical reforms.
The work culminated in an impressive dedication Mass officiated by the Rt. Rev. Bishop James Hoffman on June 2, 1983. Except for a few minor changes, the interior of the church remains the same today as it did at the dedication.
During this time, Tuesday night bingo was started to help support St. Bernard’s school.
Fr. Laudick left for Lima at the end of June, 1983, and Fr. Brunning resided here until the new pastor was to arrive.
In the first part of August, 1983, Fr. Robert DeSloover arrived to take up his priestly duties here. During Fr. DeSloover’s tenure, new boilers were installed in both St. Bernard’s Church and in the school of North Auburn. Additional lighting was installed in both churches and a wireless microphone system was put in at Mother of Sorrows Church. The two original stained glass windows in the sacristies of St. Bernard’s were restored and a replica of those windows was installed above the doors to the choir loft. An automatic bell was added to St. Bernard’s to ring the bell at the regular Mass and also to ring the Angelus. Father DeSloover also re-established a weekly parish rosary, which was discontinued in the 1960’s.
In early 1993, the interior of Mother of Sorrows Church was repainted and the pews stripped and refinished.
Fr. DeSloover was reassigned in 1993, and Fr. Thomas Kuhn, current pastor and former U. S. Navy chaplin, replaced him.
In 1994, St. Bernard – Mother of Sorrows celebrated their 150th anniversary. The theme of the celebration was, “Cherish, Celebrate and Challenge.” The year-long celebration ended with a Mass in October of 1994.
Fr. Kuhn left in 1997 and Fr. Robert Dendinger replaced him. In 2003, St. Bernard Church’s roof leaked and part of the church ceiling fell on to the altar area. The roof was replaced and the ceiling repaired in 2003. In 2004 the Mother of Sorrows priest house and convent were torn down. Also in 2004, the bishop announced the possibility of rearrangement of parishes in the future.
ST. BERNARD – MOTHER OF SORROWS PARISH
St. Bernard Parish, New Washington, began in 1843. Mother of Sorrows Parish, North Auburn, was a break-off from St. Bernard in 1879. From 1881-1906 and again from 1970-2005 (i.e., 60 out of 125 years) Mother of Sorrows has been the responsibility of St. Bernard Church. For the past 35 years, St. Bernard and Mother of Sorrows has had all of the money together, the school is united with K-1-2 at Mother of Sorrows and grades 3-8 at St. Bernard. We have been calling ourselves, “one parish, two locations.” There is one School Advisory Council. There is one Pastoral Council. There is one Finance Committee.