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Sister Mary Myles and Sister Cerella Celebrate 50th Jubilee in Hometown

Burke, Allan. "Sister Mary Myles and Sister Cerella Celebrate 50th Jubilee in Hometown." Emmons County Record, 4 July 2002, 8-9.


Sister Mary Myles Schwahn and Sister Cerella Baumgartner celebrated 50 years as School Sisters of Notre Dame at a special Liturgy and reception June 26 at Sts. Peter & Paul Catholic Church in Strasburg.

Father Leonard Eckroth presided, and diocesan priests concelebrated. Musicians were Victor Schwahn and Kasey Bosch.

Sisters Mary Myles and Sister Cerella renewed their vows during the Liturgy. Father Leonard gave the history of service to the parish, first by the Ursuline Sisters and then by the Sisters of Notre Dame. Sister Rose Schwab was the last of the Sisters of Notre Dame to serve the parish.

"We are still reaping the benefits of the Sisters being here for so many years," Father Leonard said. "Members of our parish are well versed in the practice of their faith."

Father Leonard noted that it is a "sad thing now" that there is a shortage of nuns, and he said he hoped the 50th Jubilee would inspire young people to pursue vocations.

Sister Mary Myles and Sister Cerella reminisced about their growing up years in Strasburg and their opportunities to serve as School Sisters of Notre Dame.

They thanked their families and friends for their support over the past 50 years and thanked everyone who made the jubilee possible.

Ecumenical service Sister Mary Myles spoke at the Sunday Ecumenical Service under the tent.

Here are some excerpts from her remarks:

"In preparation for this talk, I sat down, opened the door of my heart and read about the history of Strasburg and wrote down my thoughts that came to me from the past."

"The Centennial is certainly a time to reflect back on the history of Strasburg and all the People and Religious who have helped shape the history of Strasburg to make it the town that it is today. One hundred years of dedicated service are indeed a great tribute to this community."

"What a great and precious challenge this was and has been for our ancestors and Religious who have gone before us. We have real reason to be proud of our town and the people who risked so much amid the challenges that people encountered to make it the best town in North Dakota."

"In reading the history of Strasburg, the people's strong faith in Christ, the love of neighbor and helping each other during those depression years was one of deep committed service."

"On January 15, 1907, Fr. Alois Strigl, OSB, came as the new pastor and Sts. Peter and Paul's Parish grew rapidly. With the continuing rapid growth of the community, Fr. Alois began to earnestly consider building a bigger and better church."

"In the middle of October of the same year, Fr. Max Spechmeier, OSB, replaced Fr. Strigl who was recalled to Richardton because of ill health. Fr. Max began to have Mass in the fully completed basement of the church and also gave regular catechetical instructions. This marked the beginning of the St. Benedict Parochial School."

"The first Mass in the new church was celebrated on Christmas Eve 1910. The cost to complete the magnificent edifice in 1910 was $45,000. At that time that was considered a major step in faith."

"With the completion of the church were plans for a Catholic school in the full basement of the church. A solemn High Mass in honor of the Holy Spirit formally opened the school."

"It was the wish of Bishop Wehrle to have the Ursuline Sisters come over from Germany and teach in Strasburg. The Ursuline Sisters arrived in Strasburg, September 21, 1910, and the old church was remodeled for their convent."

"The Ursuline Sisters were very dedicated and loved the people in Strasburg and the people loved them. Eventually the convent was remodeled for the students who boarded. This helped immensely, accommodating the parents and the sacrifices they were making to have their children attend the parochial school in Strasburg."

"By 1917 the enrollment had increased so that the church basement was not large enough anymore and also the children were unable to continue their education beyond grade school."

"In 1920 St. Benedict school was built. There were 300 grade school students. Then in 1923 the High School was built and there were enough students to operate the high school."

"I was taught by the Ursuline Sisters up to the fifth grade. One of my favorite teachers was Sister Magdalene Schammel whom I admired very much. I wrote to her many times and she was a great inspiration in my life."

"While the Sisters were in Strasburg they were happy to have some of their students enter the Order: Sister Mary Rita Wagner, Sister Agnes Ternes, Sister Constance Eberle, Barbara Eberle, Elizabeth Eberle, Adeline Eberle and Bridget Holzer. From 1910 to 1943 the Ursuline Sisters prayed, worked and carried on the task for which they had come... teaching the children and youth for 33 years."

"In 1942 a change occurred at the Strasburg Convent. The School Sisters of Notre Dame whose Motherhouse is in Mankato, Minn., replaced the Ursuline Sisters. St. Benedict School became noted for students who were well educated and went on to great achievements in their lives."

"One of the trials the School Sisters of Notre Dame encountered was the Anti-Garb Bill. The school was a parochial school until 1931 when the school building was rented out to the school district for its financial administration because the parish was unable to bear the financial burden. It was therefore known as a Special Public School. When the Anti-Garb Bill passed in 1948 the school operated as a public school. In order for the Sisters to continue teaching in a public school they could not wear their religious habit but had to go into secular dress. As Sister Richard Anthony stated in one of the parish books, "You could never imagine with what fears and trepidation we approached the opening of the new school year. The first time that we made our appearance in secular clothes, it was almost a traumatic experience. Now should that have taken place today, it would be 'no sweat' as they say, because Sisters are accustomed to donning these clothes worn as a religious habit."

"As a senior in high school, I vividly remember the day the Sisters arrived in the classrooms with the secular dress and the curiosity we all had."

"Not very long after the School Sisters of Notre Dame arrived a number of young women entered the community from Strasburg. Some responded to the desire of becoming a School Sisters of Notre Dame but later decided that was not their life-long commitment. The Sisters who are School Sisters of Notre Dame today from Strasburg and towns in the area are: Sister Cerella Baumgartner, Katherine Mattern, Rose Schwab, Mary Rose Brown, Mary George Kuhn, Dora Kuhn, Alene Kuhn, Daniella Kuhn, Mary Daniel Leintz. Sister Francene Baumgartner, Sister Irma Lientz and Mary Costa Leintz are deceased. Sister Rose Schwab was the last School Sister of Notre Dame as parish minister in Strasburg."

"The vocations to the priesthood are: Father Jonathon Fischer, OSB, and Father Pete Kramer, Father Kenneth Wald, Father Tom Welk, Father Lee Ebach, Father Jerome Schwegman. Arvin Wester, my classmate from the class of 1949, is a retired minister who ministered in the Reformed Church in America for 46 years. Deceased priests are Alban Engel, Landolin Engel, Wilfred Fischer and Francise Lauinger.

"The following Sisters entered the Benedictine Sisters: Frances Kraft, Judith Fischer, Ursula Mitzel, Consulata Biegler, Fortunata Bichler, Narcissa Brickner, Appolonia Kuss, Radequnda Engel, Margaret Mary Engel, Barbara Weber, Assumpta Wagner, Elizabeth Ternes and Julia Ternes."

"We were prepared for the Ecumenical Movement that came about with Pope John XXIII because of the dialogue we had experienced during our school years between the Catholic and Dutch Reform students. The minister from the Dutch Reformed Church came to school and took the students for religion and the priests taught religion to the Catholic students. We joined together with love and friendship that grew in our school, a spirit of unity so that when one person rejoiced, all rejoiced, and when one was grieving, everyone grieved with them."

Father Leonard Eckroth poses with Sister Cerella, left, and Sister Mary Myles.
Sister Mary Myles, left, and Sister Cerella are pictured with the beautiful cake at their reception.
Sister Mary Myles is pictured with her brothers and sisters. Left to right are Imogene Schwab of Strasburg, Sister Mary Myles, Rose Powell of Hernando, Miss., Al Schwahn of Tampa, Fla., Larry Schwahn of Buffalo, Minn., and Kathy Reimer.
Sister Cerella poses with her family; left to right, Harvey Baumgartner of Milwaukee, Wis., Nyla Schwab of Milwaukee, Wis., John Baumgartner, Helen Kraft, Sister Cerella from Mother House, Mankato, Minn., Virginia Draeger of Milwaukee, Wis., and Elmer Baumgartner of Florida.
Concelebrants with Father Leonard Eckroth are, left to right, Father Jerry Kautzman of Dickinson, Father Don Glover (Missionary from Taiwan), Father Leonard and Father Bruce Krebs of St. Anthony¹s in Linton.
Relatives and friends of Sister Mary Myles and Sister Cerella filled Sts. Peter & Paul Church for the Liturgy.
Joe Schwab, Jr. of Fargo, a nephew of Sister Mary Myles, reads the Intercessions.
Margaret Senger, right, is Sister Cerella¹s godmother.
Pictured after the Jubilee are, left to right, Sister Mary Myles, Father Vince Schwahn of Mexico City, Mexico, and Father Leonard Eckroth.
The church was specially decorated for the Jubilee.

Reprinted with permission of the Emmons County Record.

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