Father Paul Eberle Comes Home; Serves Three Churches in County

Burke, Allan. "Father Paul Eberle Comes Home; Serves Three Churches in County." Emmons County Record, 15 July 2009, 2-3.

Father Paul Eberle has returned to his roots in Emmons County where he grew up playing high school sports. As of July 1, he serves Sts. Peter & Paul Catholic Church in Strasburg, St. Mary’s in Hague and St. Michael’s, a rural church east of Linton.

He succeeds Father Leonard Eckroth, the priest who led the faithful of the parish for most of Father Paul’s boyhood. Father Leonard served the parish for 22 years and is retired in Bowbells.

Father Paul said he was surprised when Bishop Paul A. Zipfel first brought up the possibility of the Strasburg parish to him early in the spring. Since his ordination on June 2, 2005, he was the Associate Pastor at the Cathedral of the Holy Spirit in Bismarck.

"When the Bishop mentioned it, my first reaction was excitement," Father Paul said."Then, there was a little apprehension. I know most of the people well, and they know me well. However, the positives far outweigh the negatives," he laughed. Father Paul’s schedule will be even more filled than Father Leonard’s since he serves St. Michael’s, in addition to the Strasburg and Hague churches. Father Gary Benz of Linton previously served the rural church.

Most people would need a calendar to keep track of the Mass times. There are daily masses at Sts. Peter & Paul—8 a.m. on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays and 4 p.m. on Wednesdays. Mass is 10 a.m. on Fridays and 8 p.m. on Saturdays at St. Mary’s. St. Michael’s has one Mass on Sundays at 10:45 a.m.

In addition, there are Masses at 9:15 a.m. on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays at the Strasburg Care Center. Then, there are the wedding and funeral Masses, special events of the parish such as baptisms and confirmations and visits to hospital patients and shut-ins.

"We are fortunate to have Father Albert Leary in Strasburg," Father Paul explained. "He helps out at the Care Center and with some of the daily Masses in Strasburg."

Father Leary is retired but enjoys keeping active by assisting in the parish. Road time, except during hard winters like the last one, provides an opportunity for reflection. The round trip to Hague from Strasburg is 25 miles, and it is close to 60 miles for St. Michael’s.

There are fringe benefits to living in Strasburg. Father Paul’s mother, Viola, lives in Hague and invites for occasional suppers.

"My mom drops off some knoephla soup sometimes, too," he laughed.

Eberle family

For most of his growing up years, Father Paul’s parents, Viola and the late Joseph M. Eberle, farmed near Hague. The family moved into Hague after Joe’s health began to fail.

The Eberles had 16 children. They include: Janet (Gary) Gerhardt of Bismarck, Tom (Andrea) Eberle of Bismarck, Don (Laura) Eberle of Hague, Patty (Mark) Becker of Bismarck, Steve Eberle of Strasburg, Mary (Tony) Vetter of Osakis, Minn., Willie (Connie) Eberle of Bismarck, Beverly (Eric) Johnson of Hayfield, Minn., Michele (Ron) Schatz of Bismarck, John Eberle of Hague, Debbie (Steve) Salwei of Bismarck, Mike (Amy) Eberle of Mandan, Peter and Paul (Peter is eight minutes older) and Matthew (Jennifer) Eberle of Mandan. The 16th child was Luke, who was stillborn in 1983.

Most of the Eberle children attended St. Benedict’s Elementary School and Emmons Central High School, both in Strasburg. Father Paul’s first five years of school were at St. Ben’s and grades 6 through 8 were at Hague Public School. His freshman year was at Zeeland High School, and he completed his high school years in Strasburg.

The Eberle twins were known as athletes. They were part of the Strasburg Clippers football and basketball teams and competed in track. Basketball highlights were the Clippers’ overtime loss in 1995 to Litchville-Marion-Montpelier for the Regional Championship and their double-over-time loss to Linton in 1996 in the regional tournament.

"I have forgiven the Lions," Father Paul joked. Father Paul was a forward and point guard on the basketball team and a running back on the varsity football squad. In track, he participated in the 400-, 800- and 1600-meter relays and the 400- and 800-meter dashes.

The decision

As part of its vocations program, the Bismarck Diocese encourages parishioners to send in names of young men and women they feel would make good priests and nuns. Someone provided the names of Father Paul and his identical twin, Peter. One evening, the Eberle twins, best friends all of their lives, were visiting about the possibility of entering the priesthood. It wasn’t like they were on the verge of making a decision, but the subject had come up as it had off and on since they were in junior high school.

"It seemed far-fetched, but we were open to what God might want us to do," Father Paul recalled. Coincidentally, or miraculously, the phone rang a few minutes later. It was Monsignor Gerald Walsh, then the Vocations Director for the diocese. He explained that their names had been mentioned and then set up a time to meet with the boys in Strasburg.

"That got the ball rolling," Father Paul said. "We thought more about it, but did not make a decision at that time."

Paul and Peter graduated from Strasburg High School in 1996 and attended the University of Mary in Bismarck for a year. That was when they both decided to enter the Cardinal Muench Seminary in Fargo, which has a relationship with North Dakota State University where they did their undergraduate work to earn degrees. After two years, Peter made the decision to leave the seminary. "We talked about it for a long time," Father Paul said. "It was the right decision for him."

Paul and Peter graduated from NDSU in 2000 with Paul earning a B.A. Degree in Philosophy and Peter earned a degree in Sociology. Peter now works in Bismarck at Missouri Slope Care Center. He and his wife, Holly, have two sons, Adam and Zachary.

Having completed the program at Cardinal Muench Seminary, Paul entered the Kenrick-Glennon Seminary in St. Louis, Mo., for his final four years of religious studies.

After two years, Paul felt he needed to take time to discern whether the priesthood was truly his calling. He moved back to North Dakota and spent a year working as a carpenter and for I. Keating Furniture World in Bismarck. "The priesthood is a big commitment," Father Paul said. "I wanted to be sure I was doing was God wanted me to do."

He prayed about it, feeling that God wanted him to decide one way or the other. "Over that year, I felt a deepened sense of trust in what God was calling me to do, and I then could say 'yes' to the priesthood," Father Paul said. Now, that calling has brought him back to his Emmons County roots where he will minister to relatives, life-long friends and people who have moved to the area. He said he asks for prayers in his new assignment and for Father Leonard in his retirement.

"Everyone has welcomed me and is being very supportive," Father Paul said. "I am excited to be on this journey together in our faith."

Father Paul Eberle stands in the sanctuary of Sts. Peter & Paul Catholic Church in Strasburg. He began his new pastoral duties on July 1 at Sts. Peter & Paul, St. Mary’s Church in Hague and St. Michael’s Church, rural Linton.

Reprinted with permission of Emmons County Record.

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