Bishop Zipfel Celebrates Special Mass at St. Mary’s

Burke, Allan. "Bishop Zipfel Celebrates Special Mass at St. Mary's." Emmons County Record, 29 May 2008, 1 & 3.

The Most Reverend Paul A. Zipfel, Bishop of the Bismarck Diocese, celebrated Mass Saturday night at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Hague in honor of the town’s upcoming Centennial, the Golden Jubilee of the ordination of Father Leonard Eckroth and in anticipation of Sunday’s Feast of Corpus Christi. Pictured after the Mass are, left to right, Father Paul Eberle, associate pastor of the Cathedral of the Holy Spirit, Bismarck; Father Leonard Eckroth of Strasburg, who serves Sts. Peter and Paul Catholic Church in Strasburg and St. Mary’s; Bishop Zipfel; Father Albert Leary of Strasburg, and Deacon Jerome Volk of Dickinson, a Hague native.

Bishop Zipfel praised Father Leonard Eckroth for his apostolic life and 50 years of priesthood.

Saturday night at St. Mary’s Church in Hague

Fr. Leonard’s Golden Jubilee, Hague Centennial, Eucharist celebrated the upcoming Hague Centennial and the Golden Jubilee of the ordination of the Rev. Leonard Eckroth were honored Saturday night at St. Mary’s Church in Hague at a special Mass celebrated by the Most Rev. Paul A. Zipfel, Bishop of the Bismarck Diocese.

Prior to the 8 p.m. Mass, a dinner was served at the Hague Knights of Columbus Hall by the St. Mary’s Altar Society. St. Mary’s paid tribute to Father Leonard’s 50 years of priesthood by presenting him with new vestments.

Bishop Zipfel said Father Leonard had invited him to celebrate a Mass in recognition of Hague’s Centennial, which will be observed in July.

Karen Keller was the Commentator at the Saturday night Mass.

"I said that I would be pleased to be here, but I would need some history of the local community.  He handed me a book of over 400 pages filled with information about the German Russian people who began to settle in this territory about 1885," the Bishop laughed.

He said it was no surprise that the church became the regular gathering place for many of these good and hard working people, noting that St. Mary’s Church was dedicated on August 20, 1908.

"Although a fire destroyed it 10 years later, the new church where we worship today was reconstructed within a year—certainly a sign of great faith and love of the people for their place of worship."

He said even 100 years is not a long time when compared to the thousands of years of recorded history.

"Nevertheless it is difficult to span this short period of time and identify ourselves with those settlers who first poured into Emmons County to found the town of Hague at the beginning of the 20th century," Bishop Zipfel said. "They were hardy pioneers who overcame many obstacles. They survived blizzards, prairie fires, epidemics and tragedies of every sort. Clearly you and your ancestors have been courageous people whose strength it is always worth celebrating. Congratulations."

Lector for the Mass was Julianne Eberle.

The Bishop paid tribute to Father Leonard, who was ordained to the priesthood of Jesus Christ on June 2, 1958—50 years ago.

"Of course we rejoice with our jubilarian for the gift of these fifty years, not simply because he was ordained in 1958 and is still alive in 2008," he said, adding seriously, "No, not just living... but how he continues to live these years in an apostolic way. There is so much difference between survival and being alive."

He pointed out that Father Leonard’s apostolic life did not begin with his ordination.

"It began when the water flowed over your brow in baptism," Bishop Zipfel said.

He quoted the great Belgian Cardinal Suenens who phrased it dramatically in the late 60’s when he said, "The great day in the life of a Pope is not his coronation but his baptism, the day of his mission to live the Christian life in obedience to the gospel."

Referring to Father Leonard’s years of dedicated service, he said, "God did not promise a rose garden. He promised that whatever the garden, Eden or Gethsemane, He would be there, faithful through every infidelity."

Bishop Zipfel greets Robert Fischer of Hague.

"That’s true of every vowed existence: husband and wife, priest or religious. It is true of the powerful and the powerless. God tells you only enough for you to say 'yes.' Not a logical 'yes'; rather the 'yes' that was Mary’s."

Addressing Father Leonard, the bishop said, "On behalf of the thousands of people you have served in your parishes, and on behalf of the entire Church of Bismarck, I want to extend my heartfelt thanks. Try not to hear merely my voice saying 'thank you.' Hear the thousands who have been touched and wonderfully changed by your faith, service, and love. 'Thank you' from the children now grown, who are the backbone of the Church as we continue our journey into the new Millennium. 'Thank you' from the wounded, lonely people whose broken hearts you so often mended. 'Thank you' from the infirm, the aged and dying who, from God’s throne, today sing your praises. Thank you for building up the church in the Diocese of Bismarck."

Bishop noted that the Mass was also being held in anticipation of Sunday’s "great feast, the Body and Blood of Christ—which we used to call Corpus Christi."

He said perhaps the feast is somewhat unexpected because it duplicates Holy Thursday, but without the sadness.

Bishop Zipfel poses with the Altar Boys, Josh Krumm, left, and Nathan Eberle.

"As a matter of fact it duplicates every Eucharist which is a feast of the Body and Blood of Christ... It is a welcome feast because we really do take the Eucharist too much for granted, especially if we are regular guests at the Lord’s Supper."

Bishop Zipfel quoted words from the hymn, "Adoro Te Devote" by St. Thomas Aquinas: "Godhead here in hiding, whom I do adore. Masked by these bare shadows, shape and nothing more. See, Lord, at thy service low lies here a heart. Lost, all lost in wonder at the God thou art."

He said it would be a blessing if people found themselves in the grasp of wonder when reflecting on the Eucharist.

"Wonder is not doubt: 'I wonder if my life is really worth living?' but surprise, amazement, marvel, delight, awe, because it is something surprising."

Bishop Zipfel recalled the story of a man who lived in "this grasp of wonder"—Francis Xavier Nguyen van Thuan, who was the Archbishop of Saigon when the city fell to the North Vietnamese in the spring of 1975. The Archbishop was arrested soon after and was imprisoned for the next 13 years of his life. When he was finally released and exiled from Vietnam, the one question that almost everyone asked him was whether he was able to celebrate the Eucharist in prison.

Bishop Zipfel said the Archbishop’s answer to that question was stunning:

The organist and choir Saturday night at St. Mary’s Church are, left to right, Jennifer Krumm, Vivian Nagel, Joyce Pfeifer, Don
Nagel, Sally Schall, Phyllis Fischer and
Victoria Schumacher.

"When I was arrested, I had to leave immediately, with empty hands. The next day I was allowed to request in writing the things I needed most: clothes, toothpaste... I wrote my addressee: 'Please, could you send me a bit of medicine for my bad stomach?' The faithful understood what I meant and sent a little wine for Mass, which they labeled 'stomach medicine,' as well as some hosts sealed in a flashlight to protect them from the humidity. "The police asked me, 'Do you have a bad stomach?' 'Yes,' I answered. 'Here’s some medicine for you.'

"I will never be able to express my immense joy: every day, with three drops of wine and one drop of water in the palm of my hand, I celebrated Holy Mass."

Bishop Zipfel said, "Stripped of everything, the Eucharist became the Archbishop’s only strength.  Jesus Christ, who was also stripped of everything, was his intimate companion during these dark days of trial."

He said when a reporter asked Mother Teresa how she was able to care for the poorest of the poor for so many years without becoming burned out, she responded by pointing to the tabernacle—Eucharistic prayer.

The Bishop stopped during the recessional to visit with a boy.

Her prayer in front of Christ, crucified and risen and present in the Blessed Sacrament, transformed her so she could be an instrument to transform the world around her. She saw in the Eucharist a gift and a relationship... but also a responsibility.

"Such is the astounding beauty of this most central and Blessed Sacrament," Bishop Zipfel said.

The Bishop concluded, "Altogether a triple celebration: for the town of Hague; for Father Leonard Eckroth who celebrates his jubilee; a celebration of gratitude to God for the gift of Eucharist. Thank you, God for all these blessings."

Reprinted with permission of the Emmons County Record

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