150 years is reason to celebrate in Union Hill

| September 18, 2015 | 0 Comments
The parish cemetery across the road from St. John the Evangelist Church in Union Hill includes graves of parishioners from the earliest days. The parish will celebrate its 150th anniversary with a 10 a.m. Mass Sunday, Oct. 11, with Bishop Andrew Cozzens.

The parish cemetery across the road from St. John the Evangelist Church in Union Hill includes graves of parishioners from the earliest days. The parish will celebrate its 150th anniversary with a 10 a.m. Mass Sunday, Oct. 11, with Bishop Andrew Cozzens. Bob Zyskowski/The Catholic Spirit

When parishioners observe the 150th anniversary of St. John the Evangelist in Union Hill, Ron Pint may not be the only one who was there 50 years earlier when the parish observed its centennial.

St. John the Evangelist Church in Union Hill, completed in 1883.

St. John the Evangelist Church in Union Hill, completed in 1883.

Descendants of his and other families who founded the parish continue to live in the farmland west of New Prague and make St. John their spiritual home.

Bishop Andrew Cozzens will preside at the 10 a.m. anniversary Mass Sunday, Oct. 11. The sesquicentennial celebration will continue with a reception at the Knights of Columbus Hall in New Prague following Mass.

Union Hill is five miles west of New Prague on Hwy. 19 and approximately 40 miles southwest of the Twin Cities.

Pint is a descendant of John Pint, one of the 44 founding families of the church in Union Hill and lives right next door.

“It’s a good parish,” Pint told The Catholic Spirit. “I’ve live there 76 years, all my life.

“I was baptized there, made my first Communion there and my confirmation there. I was married there, and I’ll probably by buried from there,” he said with a chuckle.

Like the majority of the founding parishioners, Pint’s ancestors immigrated from Germany, he said.

Victorin Ruhland’s thorough parish history, written for the centennial 50 years ago, noted that the availability of land to farm attracted the settlers, most of whom came from the Rhenish Provinces or Rhineland in what was then part of Prussia.

Repelled twice in their attempts to establish a parish because they were seen to be too close to other churches, the earlier settlers finally succeeded in getting permission from Bishop Thomas Grace in 1867. Father Alexander Berghold was the first pastor.

The parish cemetery at St. John the Evangelist in Union Hill holds the grave of Franciscan Father Elgar Bockenfeld, pastor of the parish for nearly 44 years until his death in 2010.

Leadership of the parish was transferred to the Franciscan Fathers in 1875. Francisan Father Fabian Rechtiene led efforts to build a brick gothic church that was completed in 1883 and is still in use.

Among the Franciscans who served the people of Union Hill was the well-loved Father Elgar Bockenfeld, pastor from 1966 to 2010, nearly 44 years.

Father Elgar’s remains are buried in the parish cemetery across the road from the church.

Today St. John the Evangelist is a part of the Western Catholic Community that is served by and part of St. Wenceslaus in New Prague. Father David Barrett of the St. Wenceslaus staff serves St. John the Evangelist (and St. Scholastica in nearby Heidelberg) as regional associate pastor.

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