The History of Father Alexander Berghold



A bronze statue of Fr. Alexander Berghold stands in a park in New Ulm.
  • In Nov. of 1862, a seminarian named Alexander Berghold from Mooskirchen, Austria came upon an article containing gruesome pictures and news coverage of violence in America that occurred in August of that year.  The site of the violence was New Ulm, MN.
  • He came to America on May 1, 1864, and was ordained on November 1, 1864.
  • Fr. Berghold was assigned to Belle Plaine, MN.  In August 1866, he  assisted in the preaching of a mission in Mankato, and since he was so close to New Ulm, decided to visit.  His first view of the town offered him the view of a red brick structure in the process of being built.  It was a church on the land on which the Holy Trinity Convent, formerly the Holy Trinity Middle School, now stands.  When the New Ulmites realized they had little chance for getting a priest, they decided to build a church, hoping that Bishop Grace would be more inclined to send a priest to a community that already had a church.
  • Two years later, Fr. Berghold went to visit his mother in Austria, and when asked by the Bishop what he would like to do upon his return he replied, "I should like to be the first pastor of New Ulm."
  • The first Mass in New Ulm was offered on January 10, 1869 in a newly built hall on the south end of the city.  Seventeen children were baptized that day.  Holy Trinity Church was dedicated on September 12, 1870.
  • Fr. Berghold then contacted a German noble woman, Pauline von Mallinckrodt, who had just founded the Sisters of Christian Charity.  She agreed to send sisters to staff a Catholic school.
  • In 1872, the convent was built, called St. Michael's Academy.  It served as the first Catholic school in the New Ulm area.  In 1881, the parochial school was dedicated.
  • In 1881, after a tornado leveled parts of New Ulm, and killed a dozen people, Fr. Berghold began the idea of a hospital.  He asked people to invest their money in the hospital and promised them in return, a home and care in their old age.  The Sisters of Christian Charity ran the hospital until the Poor Handmaids came in 1884.
  • He then added on to the church, and in the course of time, replaced the church with what is now the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity.  There  is a v-shaped stone above the arch leading into the Cathedral with a Latin inscription that reads, "1890 - The reverend founder and pastor of this church brought me here from Rome, where for many centuries I lay hidden in the catacombs of St. Valentine.  Alexander Berghold."
  • In 1890, Fr. Berghold was at odds with the Bishop over Fr. Berghold's attempt to preserve the German language in New Ulm.  On December 7, 1890, after 22 years, a church, a school, a hospital, and plans for The Way of the Cross, Fr.Alexander Berghold closed his rectory door for the last time at the age of 52. 
  • Then, through the heavy snowfall he walked; walking between the ranks of the Society of Christian Mothers who formed a guard of honor from the rectory porch to the waiting carriage.  Tears streaming down his face, his emotions prevented him from pronouncing his blessing upon the people, and he repeatedly made the sign of the cross.  People tried to clasp his hand one more time, but when seated in the carriage, he covered his face with his hands.  It was said that whatever his later assignments, his heart always remained in New Ulm.
  • After a lengthy trip to California and Mexico, Fr. Berghold assumed a pastorate in New York.  In 1899, he returned to the Archdiocese of St. Paul and was appointed pastor of New Market. From 1906-1907, he was chaplain at the St. Joseph Home for Children in St. Paul.  In 1907, he returned home to Mooskirchen.
  • In 1917, Archbishop John Ireland sent an invitation to Fr. Berghold to attend the Golden Jubilee of the Holy Trinity parish in New Ulm. One morning Fr. Berghold received a summons to appear in court.  He became very nervous thinking his outspoken nature may have come to haunt him.  But when he arrived in what would be considered the county seat, he read the documents - documents inviting him to the Golden Jubilee, promising him travel expenses, and informing him of the existence of his priest's pension that could not be sent to him during WWl.  Fr. Berghold took the pen to sign the document verifying he was alive.  He took a deep breath, prepared to write, slumped to the floor and died. 
  • A few years earlier, Fr. Berghold wrote what perhaps was his epitaph, "May the Church in America live, flourish, and grow!"