St. Joe's, Dickinson, Celebrates Centennial
Grosz, Marge. "St. Joe's, Dickinson, Celebrates Centennial." Dakota Catholic Action, November 2002, 12.
DICKINSON - During the late 1800s, a
great number of Germans from Russia and Hungary flooded into the
city of Dickinson. At that time the city had only one Catholic Church
- St. Patrick's whose name reflected the congregation's primarily
Irish makeup. The ethnic groups worshipped together until 1901 when
Rev. Thomas L. Rabsteineck was assigned to Dickinson. The following
year St. Joseph's Parish became a reality.
One hundred years to the day after Bishop John Stanley dedicated
the church bells - October 20 - Bishop Paul Zipfel visited the parish
to celebrate the centennial Mass. Concelebrants included Fr. Dennis
Schafer, pastor, and 14 visiting priests.
The centennial Mass was followed by a dinner at Trinity High School,
with Fr. Jerry Kautzman serving as emcee for the program. A video
highlighting the parish history was presented by Fr. Ken Phillips,
a former pastor at St. Joseph's, and remarks were given by Bishop
Realizing the need for a second church in Dickinson, Bishop Shanley
visited the community on June 2, 1902, and signed the Articles of
Incorporation for St. Joseph's, along with Fr. Rabsteineck. Lots
4 and 5 on Block 3 Broadway were purchased for $406.25. Bishop Shanley,
Bishop of Fargo, (North Dakota at that time was all one diocese)
laid the cornerstone for the new church November 19, 1902.
Less than a year later the church was completed at a cost of $33,000.
The mayor of Dickinson, Dan Manning, proclaimed that October 21
- the day St. Joseph's was dedicated - be observed as a holiday
by all the citizens in the city. Bishop Shanley again visited the
community and consecrated the church's bells named Joseph and Monica
- on October 20, and dedicated the new church the following day.
The German-speaking people also had a high priority for education
and wanted their children educated in a Catholic school. St. Joseph
School was the first Catholic school in Dickinson, opening in 1904
with classes conducted by lay teachers in the church basement. The
following year the Sisters of St. Benedict from Minnesota took over
as teachers at the school. An old opera house was remodeled to serve
as a convent for the sisters, and classes were also held there.
In 1917 the "Aberle Era" began at St. Joseph's. Fr. George
Aberle - he was made a monsignor in 1949 - arrived at St. Joseph's
as an assistant to Fr. Otto Wolpers. He was appointed parish administrator
the following year and became pastor on November 3, 1919, a position
he held until his retirement in 1968.
Aberle sensed a hopelessness among his people when he became pastor.
They had just come through World War I (a time when Germans were
eyed with suspicion) and the flu epidemic of 1918. The Parish was
also faced with a large debt on the church. Aberle challenged the
parishioners to each borrow $50 or $100 personally to help pay off
the mortgage. They responded and the mortgage was burned, another
occasion for a grand celebration.
By 1924 the parish was in a position to build a school, which they
did at a cost of $85,000. The sisters and students took occupancy
of the new building on February 2, 1925.
As rural people retired and moved into Dickinson, Aberle saw the
need for a home for the elderly. In the summer of 1944, the parish
purchased the Paul Messer Hotel, two blocks east of the church,
and remodeled it to become the St. Ann Home for the Aged, staffed
by the Benedictine Sisters of Annunciation Priory. In 1947, the
Woodrow Wilson School was purchased and became St. Benedict's Home
for the Aged. Both of those homes are now closed, but they served
their purpose for many years.
Aberle continued to be the "builder" with the construction
of the new St. Joseph Church rectory in April of 1950 at a cost
of $56,000. Later that fall, a new addition was begun on the church
and the existing building was renovated. At that time the church
was enlarged by 250 seats. Bishop Lambert Hoch dedicated the renovated
church and blessed the new organ on October 22, 1952.
Msgr. Aberle also spearheaded the drive for a Catholic high school
in Dickinson. A joint effort of the three parishes in the city at
the time, Trinity High School became a reality in 1960, with the
first classes of 9th grade students (162) beginning classes there
in 1961. The school was staffed by the School Sisters of Notre Dame
and lay teachers. Bishop Hilary Hacker dedicated Trinity High School
in 1965 with all four high school grades in attendance.
Pastors and Associates
The "Aberle Era" was the longest tenure by a pastor at
St. Joseph's - 50 years, or half of its existence. Many priests
have served St. Joseph's over the past 100 years.
Pastors have included: Rev. Thomas Rabsteineck - 1901-1910; Rev.
C. Groetchel - 1910-1912; Rev. W. Schulte, OMI - 1912-1916; Rev.
F.W. Hake - 1916-1918; Rev. Otto Wolpers - April 1918-Oct. 1918;
Rev. George P. Aberle - 1918-1968; Rev. Edwin Volk - 1968-1982;
Rev. Thomas Knopik - 1982-1985; Rev. Michael Krank - 1985-1990;
Rev. C. Robert Kavaney - 1990-1998; Rev. Kenneth Phillips - 1998-2002;
and Rev. Dennis Schafer - July 2002-present.
Associate pastors included: Rev. Ph. Hartman, Msgr. George P. Aberle,
Msgr. Bede Dahmus, Rev. John Wingering, Msgr. A.J. Galowitsch, Revs.
Hugo Backes, Paul Kolling, OSB, John Kuhn, George Splonskowski,
OSB, Sylvester Treinen, Eugene Haspert, Jacob Schumacher, Charles
Backes, Chester Auglys, Michael Krank, Donald Hagerott, Jerome Kautzman,
Andrew Rassier, James Reardon, Edwin Wehner, Kenneth Schaefer, Donald
Becwar, Eugene Wehner, John O'Leary and Dennis Schafer.
The parish also has three deacons serving the congregation: Deacons
Ralph Stockert, Morris Martin and Terry Quintus.
With its strong German heritage and emphasis on Catholic education,
the parish has been a "hot bed" for vocations over the
years. The following men from the parish were ordained to the priesthood:
Revs. Florian Krank, Michael Krank, Eugene Frank, Frank Trenkenschuh,
OSC, Norman Dukart and Jeff Heidt. Terry Quintus was ordained to
the diaconate in September of this year.
Women from St. Joseph who entered religious life include: Srs.
Rolanda Hecker, Bertranda Bleth, Arcadia Olheiser, Paulette Laufer,
Edburga Thomas, Edwalda Fischer, Harlindis Fischer, Clementina Fischer,
Theodosia Laufer, Gemina Koffler, Salveria Metz, Norma Scharf, M.
Christina Metz, Eugene Braun, Edith Ehresmann, Jeanne d'Arc Kilwein,
Gertrude Berger, Margaret Kuntz, David Olheiser, David Schmidt; Srs. Clarice Carroll, Bertranda Dukart, Tarcisia Dolajak, Hortense
Krank, Pauline Ehlis, Johanna Brodman, "Phileta" Barbara
Ann Landis, Andrew Huschka, Johnita Meyer, Joseph Dukart, Conchita
Frank, Joan Nuss, Florentia Frank, Frances Marie Nuss, Angeline
Berger, Piona Frank, "Madeliva" Clementine Krank, Perpetua
Steiner, Faith Wanner, Linda Wanner, Mary Jane Berger, Susan Berger
and Patricia Caroll.
Today, as the parish of St. Joseph begins its second century, the
congregation consists of more than 650 households. It is no longer
considered the "German parish" in town but welcomes members
from all ethnic backgrounds. It is a parish that believes in a strong
work ethic combined with a strong faith that continues to see its
members through good and tough times.
Monsignor George Aberle
Church of St. Joseph, Dickinson, ND
Father Jerry Kautzman emceed
the banquet at Trinity High School
The church was filled to
overflowing for the Mass. Left to right: Deacon Ralph Stockert,
Bishop Paul Zipfel, and Father Dennis Schafer, pastor
Reprinted with permission of the Dakota Catholic Action.