Holy visit in New Ulm
Serve with love beyond family, Luxembourg Cardinal tells Mass goers
NEW ULM — Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich, archbishop of Luxembourg, visited New Ulm on Sunday as part of a Midwest pastoral visit.
Hollerich’s visit was part of a longstanding tradition of his predecessors. Hollerich is the fifth bishop of Luxembourg to make a pastoral visit to the Midwest, following in the footsteps of Bishop Jean Joseph Koppes in 1901, Bishop Léon Lommel in 1965, Bishop Jean Hengen in 1975 and Archbishop Fernand Franck in 2000 and 2007.
Hollerich’s visit to New Ulm is pastoral, but it is also a cultural event for people of Luxembourg descent. One of the goals of Hollerich’s pastoral visit is to experience some of the Luxembourgish communities in the United States and to meet the descendants of immigrants from Luxembourg.
The New Ulm region is known for its German heritage, but the community also has strong roots in Luxembourg. Several families in the New Ulm and Sleepy Eye area can trace their families back to Luxembourg. The Luxembourg Heritage Society of Southern Minnesota was formed in the area in 2007.
Cardinal Hollerich attended Mass at the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity, Sunday. Mass began with New Ulm Mayor Terry Sveine speaking on the communities connection to Luxembourg.
Sveine said like many Americans of Luxembourg descendants, he lived most of his life thinking he was half German. It was not until a visit to Luxembourg and researching his mother’s “Schmitz” family tree that he learned of the family’s Luxembourgish origins.
Sveine pointed to evidence of Luxembourg heritage in the Holy Trinity. A half window over the entrance to the church has the name Philip Kioes. Kioes was a Luxembourger and early parishioner of the New Ulm church, as well as a caretaker for 25 years.
A window over the south side entrance reads “Lizzie Schroeder” and is a homage to Holy Trinity’s third priest, Father John Schroeder. Elizabeth was his sister and housekeeper at the rectory in the 1890s. Both were from Luxembourg.
A painting of St. Cunigunda has overlooked services at Holy Trinity for 100 years. She is depicted holding a miniature church. She is a saint and patron of Luxembourg born in 922 AD. Her husband Henry II, was the Holy Roman Emperor and Cungunda used her wealth to found churches and monasteries.
Last, one of the church bells overheard of the transept is named after St. Donatus, the Saint for protection from storm and lightning damage. St. Donatus is heavily revered in Luxembourg. Sveine suspected the Luxembourg settlers named the bell after him reflecting concerns remaining from the tornado of 1881.
Hollerich spoke during Mass and thanked those who made his pastoral visit possible.
He said it was a wonderful opportunity to meet different people. During his sermon, Hollerich spoke of the need to serve others.
He said being a servant is the biggest test of faith and the greatest is to serve our sisters and brothers.
“Living faith is how we treat our sisters and our brothers,” he said.
Many live in service of their family, and Hollerich encouraged the congregation to expand this service further, beyond family.
He believed the best way to keep faith in a changing culture was to be a humble servant and to do it with “love and affection.”
Following Mass, a special reception was held at Turner Hall for the cardinal hosted by the Luxembourg Heritage Society of Southern Minnesota.
It was a chance for people with Luxembourgish ancestry to meet and discuss a shared heritage. Several Luxembourgish heritage groups attended the event, including the Luxembourg Society of North West Iowa.
Hollerich met with several distant relatives. Two different families with the Hollerich the last name attended the reception. Along with the Cardinal, they swapped common family traditions.
During the reception, Hollerich gave a speech about his life in Luxembourg. He was born in 1958 in Differdange, Luxembourg, but was raised in Vianden, Luxembourg.
He said Vianden was a wonderful place to grow up — you could play in the woods or at the ruins of a castle.
In 1981, he entered the Jesuit community in Belgium. From 1985-89, he studied Japanese language and culture, and theology at Sophia University in Tokyo. He is a member of the Japanese Jesuit province and served as a professor of German, French and European Studies at Sophia University.
Pope Benedict XVI named him archbishop of Luxembourg on July 12, 2011, making him the eighth bishop and third archbishop of Luxembourg.
Hollerich said after being named archbishop, the Catholic Church in Luxembourg faced one of its most difficult periods.
He said unlike the United States, Luxembourg had no separation between church and state. For more than a century, priests’ salaries were paid by Luxembourg’s government. This changed in 2015 when the Luxembourg government signed an agreement to completely separate church from state. The salaries of those hired by Roman Catholic Churches before 2016 will continue to be paid by the government but not new hires.
Hollerich said there were several factors contributing to this major shift but it is difficult to adapt after 100 years of functioning one way. However, Hollerich is optimistic this will be a great opportunity for the church. With no more state subsidies, the church needs to be more responsible.
“It is a new reality, and we need to get more humble,” Hollerich said. His hope the Catholic Church in Luxembourg can become a missionary church.
Since the separation, a Council of Religions was formed that includes all faiths from Luxembourg. Hollerich serves as president with a rabbi serving as vice president.
Following the reception, Hollerich visited St. Mary’s Church in Sleepy Eye and the Catholic Cemetery, which also features Luxembourg heritage.
Hollerich’s pastoral tour will next visit communities in Wisconsin; including La Crosse, Port Washington and Belgium.