|Msgr. Joseph Senger: 50 Years a Priest
Johnson, Andrea. "Msgr. Joseph Senger: 50 Years a Priest." Minot Daily News, 2003.
|Monsignor Senger at Saints Peter and
Paul Catholic Church, Karlsruhe, North Dakota, August 2001.
Monsignor Joseph Senger has been a Catholic priest for 50 years.
Now, in his “middle age” at 75, Senger has started
a new post, as the Catholic chaplain at Minot’s Trinity Hospital.
Since he’s always loved ministering to people, Senger feels
his new job is a good fit.
“I feel at ease with people,” said Senger, who once
turned down a post at the Vatican because he didn’t want an
office job. He wanted to be a parish priest. “...I relate
well to people.”
A celebration of Senger’s 50 years as a priest was held at
his old parish of St. Cecilia’s Catholic Church in Velva on
May 6. Another celebration Mass was held in Senger’s hometown
of Orrin on June 19. That is where he celebrated his first Mass
in 1954. He still has family members who live in Orrin.
Senger was priest at Velva and Karlsruhe for 15 years. Prior to
that, he had served as the priest at St. Mary’s Catholic Church
in Grand Forks for 15 years. He also served at parishes in Milnor
and Knox. He was secretary to the Vatican’s Ambassador to
Germany, Cardinal Aloisius Muench, former bishop of Fargo, and was
at the Vatican for 1 ½ years as a young priest. He was chosen
for the assignment in part because he speaks German.
He had also been a priest at Bottineau. Now officially retired,
he still helps out at churches across North Dakota and in Minot
and Velva. He enjoys driving across state and seeing work that people
in small parishes put into their churches. He has also been the
chaplain at Trinity for the past three months.
Senger, whose heritage is German from Russia, graduated from Richardton’s
Assumption Abbey. He said he feels comfortable with North Dakota
and the ways of North Dakotans.
He’s a farmer at heart and enjoys growing things in the small
patch near his apartment.
He also has an interest in his heritage. Two years ago he went
to the Ukraine, where his ancestors lived, and saw the town where
many Germans from Russia are from. Strasburg, Ukraine, 50 miles
from the Black Sea still has churches and houses built by Germans
from Russia. However, Senger said no Germans are left there. The
large churches were turned into meeting halls, factories, or heavy
equipment garages. The soviet government knocked down church towers
and anything of a religious nature, but reused the buildings. Ukrainians
occupy the homes built by the Germans.
Many of the Germans from Russia who settled in North Dakota came
from the Black Sea region, said Senger.
Senger said several of the towns settled by Germans from Russia
in North Dakota were named after old towns in the Black Sea region.
Strasburg, ND, for instance, was named after Strasburg, Ukraine.
During his years as a priest, Senger has also had the opportunity
to get involved in other international efforts. This has made him
appreciative of the universality of the Roman Catholic Church, he
said. He served as director of the Propagation of the Faith for
the Fargo Diocese for 40 years. This is an organization that helps
missionaries overseas. He said he developed a love for the poor
and love for the worldwide church. He remembers a 1981 trip to Kenya
as part of this organization. It helped him to understand the many
tribes and cultures that can exist in one country, he said.
Now, as chaplain of Trinity, he still has the chance to minister
to families. He says Mass in the hospital chapel, visits hospital
patients, and stays with the families of very ill patients. He also
performs the sacrament of anointing of the sick. He said he enjoys
the chance to be with people through all the stages of their lives.
Reprinted with permission of the Minot Daily News.