|Centennial Celebrations: Area Churches, Town Exploring Their Heritage
in Joint Effort
Hewlett, Donna. "Centenial Celebrations: Area Churches, Town Exploring Their Heritage in Joint Effort." Minot Daily News, 30 April 2005, sec. 1C.
Around the world in 1905, the First Russian Revolution erupted,
Norway separated from Sweden and Albert Einstein published his Theory
In North Dakota, in 1905, two Catholic churches were being built
in Velva and Karlsruhe to accommodate increasing congregations.
Immigrants were coming into the area and they brought their faiths
and customs with them.
Filled with hope, these immigrants optimistically laid down roots
on the undulating plains and carved out communities built on faith.
With faith as their focal points, they built a sense of the familiar
in an unfamiliar place. Throughout the succeeding generations, this
rough hewn land gave way to strong communities and renewed cooperation.
|James Vetter, left, the Rev. Dan Mrnarevic,
center, and Betty Regstad are part of a St. Cecilia Centennial
Committee participating in the city of Velva’s 100th birthday.
This year, the sister Catholic churches of St. Cecilia and Sts.
Peter and Paul are celebrating their centennials and exploring the
heritage of church and community.
Velva church history
|A newer St. Cecilia Catholic Church
in Velva replaced a church that had been used from 1905 to 1957.
The first Mass offered in Velva by the Rev. J.J. Raith was recorded
in the spring of 1902. The construction of the church, under Raith’s
stewardship, was completed in the fall of 1905. Raith continued
to serve the mission in Velva until 1912. There were 75 parishioners
during that time. The Rev. James Buechler followed Raith and served
from 1912 through 1924. The Rev. Woeste then served the needs of
the mission from 1924 through 1925.
In 1925, a rectory was purchased and Velva became a parish. The
first resident priest was the Rev. John Duffy. Subsequently, the
Revs., Bernard Higgins, Gerald O’Donaghue, Karl Hobelsberger,
Ulric Proeller, Joseph Campbell, Joseph Senger and many more priests
devoted their talents and energies to the church and the congregation.
Karlsruhe church history
|Sts. Peter and Paul Catholic Church
in Karlsruhe has been the only church in the small town since
In 1902 about 45 families moved into the Karlsruhe area. Persecution
of German Russians in Russia under Nicholos Romanov’s reign
set about the mass exodus of Germans from Russia. Initially, Mass
was held in various homes. Buehler came from Harvey to celebrate
the first Mass in the village. In 1905, land was donated in Karlsruhe
by Magdelyn Mack to build the first Catholic church in the community.
Each family who owned land donated $10 for the materials to build
the church. Area farmers donated their labor and the church was
completed at a cost of $2,000.
The Rev. Ambrose Johanns was the first pastor to organize the Karlsruhe
parish in 1908. The original church was moved in 1915. The Rev.
Augustine Fox erected the present-day church in 1927, with a seating
capacity of 500 people. The Revs., Richard Fuetsscher, Aloysius
Zimmerman and Senger were among all the admired pastors who spent
time in Karlsruhe.
During the 1940s and 1950s, the peak congregation numbered about
1,000 and two Masses were meld to accommodate everyone. The Masses
were said in English and in German. Everyone went to church in those
days, according to lifelong resident, Eva Feller.
Since 2000, The Rev. Dan Mrnarevic has been presiding over both
St. Cecilia and Sts. Peter and Paul churches. The churches and the
communities are still grounded in faith and cooperation.
In Velva, there are 400 members and a lot of young people, according
to Mrnarevic. The total population in Velva is about 1,000. Over
the past couple of years, the congregation has been growing and
close to 40 baptisms have been performed.
“We have a good, vibrant, forward-thinking community,”
“There has always been a good working relationship with the
church and community. It’s improved over the past 25 years,”
said Mrnarevic in regard to the church in Velva. “Churches
all together are working more closely with their communities.”
Initially, in Velva, Mrnarevic said that there were so few Catholics
that they had to overcome some cultural and language barriers in
the first generation. However, people learned to rely on each other
and overcome differences to survive. Education, time, generations
and goodwill helped build a solid community.
Since the 1970s, with the introduction of Vatican II, ecumenicism
was emphasized and “this emphasis made cooperation easier,”
according to Betty Regstad, a member of St. Cecilia.
In regard to present-day relationships between community and church,
Regstad said, “The spirit is there. As Christians, we have
more that unites us than divides us.”
James Vetter, a member of St. Cecilia, said, “It’s
blended like the melting pot did for our country.”
Sts. Peter and Paul Church has always been the center of the community
in Karlsruhe. It has been the only church in the small town since
its inception. The influx of Germans who fled from Russia provided
a tight-knit community from the very beginning with the church as
the central focus. The total population in Karlsruhe is about 120
and there are about 120 parishioners.
|Eva Feller and Betty Kraft sort through
old photos as they make their selections to go into a centennial
book to commemorate 100 years of Sts. Peter and Paul Catholic
Church in Karlsruhe. Copies of the book will be available for
purchase at centennial events.
“When small towns were starting, the church was the center.
Social life and business centered around the church,” said
Milt Knarreborg, a member of Sts. Peter and Paul Church.
A committee from Sts. Peter and Paul Church is putting together
a book to commemorate their church and community heritage.
“I was impressed how well documented everything was and how
active everything was. Everything revolved around the church,”
The sister churches of St. Cecilia and Sts. Peter and Paul will
celebrate their centennials on July 10 with a Mass by the Most Rev.
Samuel Aguila, bishop of the Fargo Diocese. The Masses will be at
10:30 a.m. in Velva and at 4 p.m. in Karlsruhe.
The same spirit that united the pioneers in Velva and Karlsruhe
still remains as congregations pull together in support of church
“I’m amazed at the generosity of the people,”
said Mrnarevic. “The people love their church and they are
willing to volunteer.” They give their time and talents just
as they have done for generations.
“We all chip in. They love to do something for their church.
They feel ownership in the church,” said Mrnarevic. “It’s
Reprinted with permission of the Minot Daily News.