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Holy Trinity Catholic Parish celebrates 150 years of knowing, loving, serving God

The Holy Cross Area Faith Community celebrates a sesquicentennial service on Sunday, Oct. 20. A 10 a.m. Mass at the church will observe the event. A banquet follows at 11:30 a.m. at Leifeld Hall. Bishop John M. LeVoir will preside at both events.

The Holy Trinity Cathedral as it stands today.

Holy Trinity Cathedral, a local landmark with its clock tower and colorful, ornate interior parallels the history of New Ulm.

In 1854, German immigrants traveled from Fort Snelling to where the Minnesota and Cottonwood rivers met to start the settlement of New Ulm.

In the fall of 1856, Catholicism began with a mission on Anton Kraus farm, now known as the Pfaender farm near New Ulm. Franz X. Weninger preached on the farm.

Catholics living in New Ulm and vicinity began building a small, wooden church on the north side of New Ulm. Church building went slowly. A partially-completed church was destroyed by New Ulm defenders in order to prevent attacking Indians from using it as a barricade in the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862.

Before the war, a log church, St. Joseph’s Church, was built in Cottonwood Township, about five miles south of New Ulm. Farmers worked on the church from 1859 to 1861 when the roof and windows were done. The property was sold in 1965 but a cemetery is still there.

Photo by Matthew Edens The interior of Holy Trinity Church is depicted in colorful splendor.

New Ulm Catholic settlers created a building fund with U.S. government funds from a indemnity for the loss of their first church in the U.S. Dakota-War.

Father Alexander Berghold became the Holy Trinity resident pastor on Jan. 10, 1869 although the church was not completed.

Baptist Carl Brewery, across the street from the former St. Mary’s School, was used for worship. The church was dedicated Sept. 11, 1870.

Berghold created plans for his various mission churches and began their construction without help from architects. He built new churches in New Ulm, Sleepy Eye, Springfield and Jordan in Scott County.

Berghold’s other accomplishments included founding St. Michael’s Academy in 1872 and St. Alexander Hospital in 1884.

Fr. Alexander Berghold was the founder and first pastor of Holy Trinity parish.

A versatile writer, Berghold’s works included “The Indians’ Revenge,” “History of New Ulm, “The Indian Massacre, “Guide to German Emigrants” and a book of poems, “Prairie Rosen.”

At 73, he had mastered eight languages.

In 1876, the Minnesota Legislature, under Gov. Pillsbury accorded Berghold the grateful appreciation of the state because, through his ceaseless endeavors, he attracted many settlers to Minnesota.

Berghold served 23 years at Holy Trinity parish.

On July 15, 1881, a powerful tornado heavily damaged Holy Trinity church, located at the site of the New Ulm Area Catholic Schools Middle School building. The church steeple was blown off just above the church roof. Bells were found on the street. The church roof and new wing for classrooms were destroyed.

A photo of the Holy Trinity Church as it appeared in 1874. The church was damaged by a tornado in 1881. Its steeple was replaced by a higher one, but after several years the church was deemed too small, and the current church (at left) was built and dedicated in 1893

The church parish promised to pray the Rosary every Saturday night if such a storm would not happen again. The Rosary is still said every Saturday night.

A new church steeple, higher than the one blown down by the storm, was soon built.

Berghold went to Europe to visit family in September 1888. When he returned, he began promoting the building of a new church that is now the present Holy Trinity Cathedral.

The old church alter was deemed too small to be used in the new church so it was removed and transported to Ivanhoe. A new altar that cost $1,500 was installed in October 1903.

The church sanctuary was created with many colors. Sanctuary artists were Alexander Schwendinger, Chris Heller and Anton Gag. The church was considered the most beautiful place of worship in Minnesota.

The current church was built and dedicated in 1893.

Over the years, many changes including renovations and redecorations were made to the church alter, sanctuary, paintings, statues, and pews. In 1940, two new entrances were built. A terrazzo floor was laid and the church interior was repainted. Original paintings were cleaned and restored.

On Nov. 18, 1957, it was announced that the Church of the Holy Trinity was to be the new Cathedral for the diocese created by Pope Pius XII in southern Minnesota.

Bishop Alphonse Schladweiler was ordained the first New Ulm Diocese Bishop in the Cathedral on Jan. 30, 1958. Bishop Raymond A. Lucker was installed in 1986, Bishop John D. Nienstedt Aug. 6, 2001. The Most Reverend John M. LeVoir was installed Sept. 15, 2008 as the fourth and current bishop of the diocese.

The Holy Cross Area Faith Community was formed, including the parishes of the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity, St. Mary’s, St. George, St. John’s and St. Gregory the Great. Msgr. Douglas Grams was appointed pastor of the five parishes. They share priests and staff who assist 6,400 members who comprise the community.

A new church organ was blessed by Bishop LeVoir Aug. 13, 2017. It replaced an organ built by the New Ulm firm of Vogelpohl & Spaeth.

Monsignor John Richter retired from the active ministry at the Cathedral July 26, 2017 after 53 years of service. He estimated he celebrated 30,000 masses.

“It’s been a joy to have served you for these past 15 years,” Richter said in is message about New Ulm. “It was my desire to help you get a little closer to God, and above all, to help you get to heaven.”

Richter accepted a position of chaplain at Divine Providence Community Home in Sleepy Eye.

“Although 150 years seems like a long time, it is a relatively brief span when we remember that Christians have awaited Christ’s second coming for 2,000 years,” Grams said in a message to the Holy Cross Area Faith Community.

“Tensions and challenges continue to be a part of our lives. But our faith allows us to know, love and serve God in this time and in the place we gather to be nourished by Scripture and the sacraments,” Grams continued. “May we respond to the signs of the times with the light of the Gospel and be a source of hope and inspiration for those who will follow.”

Members of the Holy Trinity Parish 150th Anniversary Committee are Msgr Douglas Grams, Elroy E. Ubl, George Glotzbach, JoAnne Griebel, Amber Bentler, Doris Weise, Judy Sellner and Marilyn Hesse.

Story b

y Fritz Busch

Photos by Elroy Ubl

or from his collection

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