Saint’s relic finds home at St. Wendelin Parish

Categories: Around the Diocese

By Sue Schulzetenberg-Gully

One of the first German immigrants in the Luxemburg area, Peter Maus, carried a 16-inch statue of St. Wendelin with him as he crossed the treacherous ocean during his voyage to the United States.

He credited his safe journey to the saint and vowed to build a shrine in thanksgiving.

Since then, the people of Luxemburg have been praying to St. Wendelin, the patron of country people and herdsmen.

They named Luxemburg’s parish in honor of him and Maus’ statue stands inside the church. In June, St. Wendelin parishioners received a more direct connection to him: a first-class relic. The relic, a piece of one of his bones, about three-fourths inches by three-fourths inches by one-half inch, arrived in a simple reliquary sealed with wax.

The wax has the stamp of Bishop Stephan Ackermann of the Diocese of Trier, Germany. The relic was accompanied by a letter from the bishop stating the authenticity of the relic.

“For years, we have been entrusted to St. Wendelin,” said Father Mitchell Bechtold, a native of the parish who was ordained a priest June 21 and is now parochial vicar of the parishes in Greenwald, Meire Grove, Melrose and Spring Hill. “Now he is entrusted to us.”

Journey to Minnesota

The relic, still in its simple, sealed reliquary, was set in a larger reliquary and placed in the church’s ambry (the place where the holy oils are kept) with the statue. The statement of authenticity is framed and displayed near the case.

Like the statue of St. Wendelin, his relic also had an adventurous journey to the United States. It began last December when Father Bechtold asked Father Ralph Zimmerman, a previous pastor of St. Wendelin’s, if the parish had a relic of its patron. Father Zimmerman said no.

Father Bechtold researched St. Wendelin and discovered his body was in the cathedral in the Diocese of Trier. He wrote a letter to the bishop of Trier. The bishop’s office responded with a handwritten letter affirming the request and the preference that the relic be brought to the United States by a person.

After more correspondence, it was determined that a delegation from Germany traveling to Rome would give the relic to seminarians from the St. Cloud Diocese studying there. The seminarians picked up the relic and brought it to the United States. Father Jeremy Theis, who was ordained June 21, delivered it to the parish office.

When Father Bechtold opened the box and showed it to Father Zimmerman, they were both astonished at the size of the relic.

“Usually relics are only a small fragment,” Father Zimmerman said. Father Bechtold kept the relic a secret until his Thanksgiving Mass, June 22 at St. Wendelin’s. At the end of the Mass, he showed the relic to the congregation and explained how it came to the parish from Germany.

Thankful for gift

He feels that process of the relic coming to Luxemburg was a work of faith helped by the intercession of St. Wendelin.

“St. Wendelin is not just a name,” Father Bechtold said. “Having received the relic affirms the intercessory role saints have, and will have, in the future.”

Sharon Spanier, a St. Wendelin parishioner, said the relic touches everyone, but life-long parishioners feel especially grateful to have a relic of their patron saint. “We’re blessed in many ways,” she said.

Char Volkmuth, St. Wendelin’s parish secretary, calls the relic “a unique gift.”

“He lived so long ago and so far away,” she said. “And now a piece of him is here with us.”