Settling Back Into Parish Life: Father Eberle reflects on three years spent at St. Louis Seminary

Baker, Evan. "Settling Back Into Parish Life: Father Eberle reflects on three years spent at St. Louis Seminary." Dakota Catholic Action, February 2018.

Amid farm and ranch country the Church of St. Charles in Bowman is noted for the deep faith of its parishioners, and pride in their church building, especially the petrified wood gleaned from the surrounding fields that serves as the back wall of the sanctuary.

Petrified wood taken from the surrounding fields serves as the back wall of the sanctuary of St. Charles in Bowman served by Fr. Paul Eberle.

It is there, along with St. Mel’s in Rhame, and St. Mary’s in Marmarth, that Fr. Paul Eberle, newly-appointed pastor as of June, shepherds his flock. Fr. Eberle is fresh off a three-year stint serving as a spiritual director to seminarians at Kenrick-Glennon Seminary in the Archdiocese of St. Louis.

“I’m enjoying getting to know the people and the community here. It’s great being back in parish life,” Eberle said. “I’m very grateful to Bishop Kagan for assigning me to these great parishes. I love being a part of my parishioners’ lives; baptisms, funerals, the sacraments in general.”

Ordained June 2, 2005, Fr. Eberle was first assigned to the Cathedral of the Holy Spirit. He then served at Sts. Peter and Paul in Strasburg, St. Mary’s in Hague and St. Michael’s in rural Linton. He was then assigned pastor at St. Anthony’s in Mandaree, as well as St. Joseph’s in Twin Buttes prior to departing for St. Louis. When asked what he would miss about his three years at Kenrick-Glennon Seminary Eberle replied, “Being involved with the lives of the seminarians, playing sports with them, the overall camaraderie I’ll certainly miss.”

At Kenrick-Glennon Seminary Fr. Eberle met with 35 seminarians, once every two weeks for spiritual direction. He also served as a confessor.

Fr. Paul Eberle, ordained for the diocese in 2005, has recently returned to parish life at St. Charles in Bowman, after spending three years as spiritual director at seminarians at Kenrick-Glennon Seminary in the Archdiocese of St. Louis.

“It helped me be more attentive to people’s hearts, their desires, and more confident in responding to them. Furthermore, it strengthened my spiritual life, my relationship with Jesus, my prayer. I see that coming through in my interactions with my parishioners, with words of encouragement, counsel, and guidance. I sense the Lord’s closeness to me personally, and have a sense of gratitude for that intimacy with God”.

How about the city of St. Louis itself? “Attending Cardinal baseball games, and at the time, St. Louis Rams football games. Plus, in a way, the winters there were very mild. Getting used to the cold again will be an adjustment.”

Even though his time in St. Louis offered a time for his own spiritual growth, Fr. Eberle missed many aspects of the Diocese of Bismarck. “The people, my family, the feeling of being at home. North Dakota as my home. Then, of course, ice fishing and hunting.”

Fr. Eberle cited several differences between his roles as pastor at a parish versus spiritual director at Kenrick-Glennon Seminary. “There’s not the immediate connection to a parish. However, I appreciated the opportunity to assist on weekends at various parishes throughout the Archdiocese of St. Louis.”

“At a parish, it’s much broader, you’re involved in the everyday lives of your parishioners of all age groups, and the sacraments is the focal point. It’s the whole gamut of the parish family.”

Fr. Eberle has been met with open arms of his new parishioners at St. Charles, in Bowman.

Deacon Ken Schmit of St. Charles in Bowman, said, “His love of God, and his serving God in his priesthood shines forth from him. He is a very warm, caring and tender hearted man of God. Attending daily Mass is like receiving spiritual direction several times a week.”

“When Fr. Eberle arrived, we were in the middle of a big renovation. He noticed that we were running wheel barrels, swinging sledgehammers, and he put his jeans on and joined us,” parishioner John Burke exclaimed. “We told him that we wouldn’t give him any steaks until we hear a few sermons out of him.”

Fr. Eberle is often in attendance at many athletic events, and community gatherings, in Rhame, Marmarth, and of course, in Bowman as well. He might also be found playing an impromptu game of football with kids after Sunday Mass, sharing a meal with a family, and riding his bike around town during the summer. “I appreciate being the pastor in a rural parish. Their faith is strong and very important to them,” Eberle said.

“Fr. Paul came to us with a great deal of energy and joy. It seemed to flow from his love of the Holy Eucharist, which showed in his reverent presiding at Holy Mass,” parishioner Rosemary Kadrmas, (mother of Fr. Chris Kadrmas) proclaimed.

“I’m humbled and amazed at Fr. Paul’s genuine attentiveness to the needs of his parishioners. Even before I moved to Bowman, roughly a month after Fr. Paul, he heard I was coming and called me—a stranger to him—just to welcome me to the community, and answer any questions I had. His care for us is a direct reflection of how deep his relationship is with God. Praise God we have such a caring shepherd to guide us,” said new St. Charles parishioner Rachel Pankratz.

Fr. Eberle added, “My vision and prayer for our parishes is that we daily grow closer to God and are strengthened in our faith. My desire is that we grow in love for God and are always attentive to the needs of those around us in the parish and community. I’m also very grateful for the parish staff and volunteers, for their hard work, and dedication, I look forward to every day!”

Reprinted with permission of the Dakota Catholic Action.

Permission to use any images from the GRHC website may be requested by contacting Michael M. Miller