SS. Peter and Paul Church, Strasburg

"SS. Peter and Paul Church, Strasburg." Emmons County Record, June 1948, 3, 4.

Peter and Paul’s Parish, Strasburg, Emmons County, will observe the Golden Jubilee of their parish and also the Sixtieth Anniversary of the arrival of the first settlers in Emmons County by a two-day celebration, June 22-23. A religious celebration will mark the observance on June 22, and a civic celebration on June 23.

The religious observance on June 22 will begin with a Solemn Pontifical High Mass, celebrated by Most Rev. Vincent J. Ryan. A sermon in the German language will be preached by Right Rev. Abbot Guthbert Goeb, O.S.B., and a sermon in English by Bishop Ryan. The Most Rev. William T. Mulloy, Bishop of Covington, Kentucky, will grace the occasion by his presence in the sanctuary.

Catholic Action meetings will mark the observance in the afternoon. These will be divided into two sections, a section for the adults and a section for the young people. Among the speakers who will participate in the afternoon programs are Most Rev. Vincent J. Ryan, Most Rev. William T. Mulloy, Right Rev. Abbot Guthbert, Very Rev. George P. Aberle, and Rev. Blaine Cook.

There are three Strasburgs. The ancestors of the people who settled in the area of what is now Strasburg, North Dakota, in the 80’s of the last century originated from the Strasburg area of Germany, now part of France. From Germany they migrated to south Russia, in the days of Empress Catherine about 170 years ago, where they built a city and called it Strasburg. A century later their descendents came to Emmons County and gave to their new home the name Strasburg.

The first settlers arrived in the neighborhood of what is now Strasburg in 1888. Five sturdy young men made up the party of trail blazers who were the first ones to visit the then wild region of Emmons County where the little city of Strasburg is now located. Their names were Joseph Baumgartner, Joseph Burgad, Sebastian Bauman, Joseph Feist, and Joseph Kraft. All have departed from this life, but their widows are still living and are to us a reminder of how close we are to the days when the first furrows were turned in Emmons County.

Many others of the German-Russian group followed the pathfinders, and in a few short years there was a sizeable community in the neighborhood of Strasburg. Father Bernard Strassmeier, O.S.B., already in charge of the Indian Mission of Fort Yates, which was to serve so zealously for over fifty years, heard of the new colony across the river and some twenty miles away, and paid them a visit the following year after their arrival. He offered the first Holy Mass to be said in the area in the home of Frank Baumgartner in the year 1888. Father Bernard and his assistant, Father Francis Gerschweyler, were to serve the new colony during the next three years. As there was no church, mass was offered in the homes of the settlers.

The State of North Dakota was organized as a diocese in 1889. Bishop John Shanley, the first bishop of the new diocese, which was called the Diocese of Jamestown, arrived in the state in 1890. The following year the care of the Strasburg community was assigned to St. John’s Parish. McIntosh County, to which Father Henry Smith was appointed as the first pastor. St. John’s, McIntosh County, is rightly called the mother church in the area.

In 1893 the first church was erected in the Strasburg area. It was located 2½ miles east of the present city of Strasburg. This mission church was attended as a mission of St. John’s until 1899. Father Benedict Peter, O.S.B., from St. Gall’s Priory, Devils Lake, was named the first pastor of SS. Peter and Paul’s Church. He took possession in 1899. Shortly after his arrival, the first rectory was built adjacent to the Church.

The present SS. Peter and Paul’s imposing brick structure was started in 1909 during the pastorate of Rev. Aloysius Strigl, O.S.B. It was completed the following year by his successor, Father Max Speckmeier, O.S.B., and the first Mass was celebrated at midnight, Christmas 1910. The church was consecrated by Bishop Wehrle, June 29, 1916. Among the former pastors of SS. Peter and Paul’s Church were Rev. Joseph Thuille, Rev. Justin Schweitzer, Rev. Anton Nussbaumer, Rev. Clemet Dimple, and Rev. Augustine Fox—all members of the Benedictine Order. The present pastor of the parish, Rev. Charles Daleiden, O.S.B., was appointed to the parish by the Most Rev. Vincent J. Ryan on August 10, 1947.

Sisters at Strasburg

The people of Strasburg owe a debt of gratitude to the two communities of sisters, the Ursulines and the School Sisters of Notre Dame, who have served the parish in the capacity of teachers. These two communities of nuns have made a great contribution to the educational, cultural and religious life of the people in Emmons County.

The first Catholic school at Strasburg dates back to November 7, 1910. It began in the basement of SS. Peter and Paul’s Church, six weeks before the superstructure was completed. Four Ursuline nuns from Calvariensburg, Germany, were the first teachers. Mother M. Seraphine, the sole survivor of the first group of Ursulines now in the Diocese, is still living and resides at St. Agnes Convent, Kenmare, where she quietly celebrated her golden anniversary a few years ago. The old church was converted into a convent to house the sisters and it still serves this purpose.

In a short time the number of pupils became too large to be provided for in the basement of the Church. In 1918 the present school building was completed and named St. Benedict’s School. Two years later a complete high school course was added. The parish is now planning on extensive improvements in the school building, including a substantial addition.

In 1942 the Ursuline nuns, who were the first sisters at Strasburg, found it necessary to withdraw their sisters from Strasburg in order to found a new motherhood in the diocese of Belleville, Illinois. It was difficult to find sisters to take their place, for the demand for sisters everywhere is much greater than the supply. The School Sisters of Notre Dame, who are located at Mankato, Minnesota, finally agreed to furnish sisters for the school. At the present time the enrollment of the school is 232.

Three priests now working in the Diocese of Bismarck came from Strasburg – Fathers George P. Aberle, Wilfred Fischer, and F.C. Lauinger.

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