Submitted by: Dan Rich
The Mishawaka Enterprise 1/2/1903
Father Oechterings Life Work Done
Mishawakas Venerated Priest Passes Away, Mourned by All
Impressive Obsequies Which Forcible Attested His Popularity
Pastor at St. Joseph Catholic Church for 36 Years
Never have the bells of St. Joseph Catholic Church tolled a sadder message than that of Sunday afternoon last, announcing the passing from life of the faithful and beloved pastor, Very Rev. August Bernard Oschtering, who entered peacefully into rest at 2:30 oclock of that day at St. Joseph Hospital, fort Wayne. While not unprepared for the mournful tidings, the entire community was deeply moved by the tolling of the bells.
The faint hope of possible recovery entertained the week previous by Father Oechterings temporary improvement, had been followed by a relapse and a sinking, which too clearly foretold the inevitable ending of his noble life. Peacefully and with true Christian resignation, with messages of love and cheer for his beloved congregation, he passed to his eternal rest, leaving behind him the record of a useful Christian life in the service of his Master. Ardently beloved by his large congregation, he was likewise admired and respected by the entire community of which he had been such a useful and honored citizen and honored citizen for the past 37 years.
He had been in poor health at intervals for years. He was an incessant and ambitious worker for his church and when the condition of his health would become serious he would finally cease his labors and endeavor to recuperate. Becoming better he would return to his congregation and again take up the duties with accustomed vigor. He had been quite ill for some time, but it was not until Oct. 1 that he permitted a physician to be called in. It was found that he was suffering from jaundice. His condition could not be relieved and after a consultation between Dr. Maurice Rosenthal, of Fort Wayne, and Dr. W. F. Wood, of this city, it was decided that an operation was necessary to locate the cause of the trouble and on Nov. 25 an exploratory operation was performed by Dr. Rosenthal, assisted by Dr. Wood.
It was found that the aged priest was suffering from a cancerous condition of the pancreas and all the means that surgical skill could suggest were employed to alleviate suffering and to give a lease of lefe, if not complete recovery. For a time the patient was very low. The case was in doubt from the very first. Then reports came that he improving and his parishioners took hope. Within the last few days it was seen that the end was near and the news of his death, although expected, was a great shock to the community in which he had lived so many years. The operation appeared to have been successful in itself, but disease had progressed too far and his advanced age and complications prevented his recovery. Cancer of the stomach also developed and it became apparent that he could not survive long.
Very Rev. Father Oechtering was one of the most popular as well as most successful pastors of the Fort Wayne diocese of the Catholic Church. For over a third of a century he was head of St. Joseph Church in Mishawaka. He was born in the province of Westphalia, Prussia, Sep 8, 1837. His education was received in the schools of his home. Later he entered the College of Rheine where he completed his course in 1858. In July of that year he came to America to prepare himself for an extensive mission in the Catholic Church, for which he had always a very strong inclination. He appealed to the newly appointed Bishop Luers, of this diocese and the Bishop sent him to the Seminary of Mt. St. Marys of the West near Cincinnati, O.
He devoted him self assiduously to his theological studies which he completed in May 1861. On May 17, 1861 he was ordained a priest in the Cathedral, Fort Wayne, by Bishop Luers and soon after was appointed pastor of the much neglected mission of St. Josephs church, Delphi, Ind. He labored there from May 26, 1861 until Dec. 22, 1865, and his labors met with excellent success. He built up a large congregation and a successful school. In addition to these duties he also attended several small missions in the surrounding country.
In 1864 Father Oechtering accompanied Bishop Luers to Europe. This visit was one of especial importance to Father Oechtering for it afforded him an opportunity to visit his aged parents after an absence six years. The visit marked by the celebration of their golden wedding anniversary and a reunion of their eight children and the latters families.
Returning to America Father Oechtering was appointed in 1865 rector of St. Marys church, Avilla, Ind. His labors there were marked by hard work and for 18 months he served 11 congregations located in four counties. During his services in that district a new church was erected in Waterloo and and an old one in Kendalville was greatly improved. During his brief residence in Avilla, Father Oechterng delivered many lectures upon Catholic subjects before his different missions. These lectures were marked by deep thought and the happy result of correcting many prejudices and silencing many false accusers.
In 1867, at the request of the presiding bishop, Father Oechtering assumed charge of St. Joseph Church in Mishawaka and continued its pastor to the time of his death. In December, 1879, Bishop Dwenger, who had become bishgop of Fort Wayne diocese, recognizing the great ability of Father Oechtering, tendered him a much larger and more remunerative field of labor in Huntington, Ind., but the generous offer was declined as Father Oechtering had formed a strong attachment for the two and the citizens of Mishawaka. In 1875 he paid a second visit to Europe. Going to Rome he enjoyed an audience with the venerable pope, Pius IX. He also traveled through France, England and Ireland and returning home actively resumed his duties as pastor of St. Joseph Congregation.
Father Oechterings labors in Mishawaka were marked with great success. In 1886 it became evident that his church was entirely inadequate to supply the demands of the congregation and a fund for the erection of a new church was started by him. The fund gradually grew and in 1890 active preparations were begun for the erection of this new building. Owing to his ill health it became necessary to defer the improvement and Father Oechtering went to Europe where he spent five months, returning greatly benefited in health.
He immediately again launched into his enterprise and on Aug. 30, 1891, Bishop Rademacher, of Nashville, Tenn., laid the corner stone of the new church in the presence of a representative audience of 10,000 persons. The work progressed and on Oct. 22, 1893, the new church was dedicated by the same bishop. It occupies a conspicuous place in the city of Mishawaka and is one of the principal church buildings of northern Indiana. It was erected at a total cost of $55,000.
During his pastorate Father Oechtering also perfected many other improvements in the church property, among them a parochial school, the brick for which he paid for himself. The building will cost about $35,000. He also erected a rectory costing some $10,000. Father Oechtering had served as president of the Catholic school board of the Fort Wayne diocese and occupied other positions, to all of which he did marked credit. His especial work however, was the building up of his church and congregation in Mishawaka and through his vigorous efforts his congregation grew from about 90 families to about 500 representing about 3,000 people. Father Oechtering was a highly gifted man and rich in the love of his people. He worked with and among them with characteristic diligence and left nothing undone that in his opinion would be for welfare of his church and his people. His place will be difficult to fill.
Upon the death of Bishop Rademacher, of the Fort Wayne diocese, a movement was started to make Farther Oechtering his successor, but he declined, saying he could not part from his flock. In 1893 he was made irremovable rector at Mishawaka
Many instances of his generosity, his love and sacrifices for his fellow men could be cited. Once he removed his overshoes when the thermometer registered eight below zero and gave them to an unfortunate man whose toes were exposed. He seemed to have no fear of death and in 1870 and also this year when the homes of some of his flock were quarantined because of smallpox he visited the afflicted , carrying the last sacraments of his church to them. In reply to sharp criticisms of his course in this matter last summer he said: A good shepherd loves his flock. These unfortunates need my attention and I shall go fearing not contagion nor ever death.
During the past 10 years few national of state conventions of Catholic priests and laymen have been conducted withou hearing addresses from Father Oschtering. He was a most vigorous and fearless defender of his church. A few months ago he wrote an open letter denouncing Archbishop Irelands sermon on the Philippine friars question to the Catholic federation in Chicago. This letter brought him special prominence.
Father Oechtering leaves two brothers, Clement and Anton Oechtering, who reside on farms near Reisemdeck, Westphalia, Germany, and two sisters, Mrs. Marie Overesh and Mrs. Francisco Richter, of Westphalia. Miss Rose Oechtering, his niece, was with him to the end.
His other surviving relatives are Rev. John H. and Miss Antoinette Oechtering, of Fort Wayne, and Mrs. Wm. N. Schindler, of this city, his cousins.
The press of this vicinity, as well as of the State generally speak in high praise of the life and services of the departed, a few of whom are reproduced herewith:
- Editor: These comments have not been included.
It has been said that nothing is more truly indicative of the nobility of a mans nature than is his love for his mother. And in no one was this beautiful trait more noticeable than in Father Oechtering. The tenderness with which he cherished her hallowed memory was evidenced by the tears that would flow down his cheeks whenever her name was mentioned. Nor did he forget her as Death approached, for on of the last wishes he expressed was that his Shroud might be the alb which her hands had fashioned for him to wear when he celebrated his first holy mass, forty years ago. The wish has been complied with for before the remains of the venerable priest were place in the casket, the body was wrapped in this alb, or tunic, and the other vestments indicative of his priestly orders.
Th remains of the dead priest arrived from Fort Wayne, over the Lake Shore road at 6 oclock Monday evening, accompanied by the Rev. Fr. J. H. Oechtering, Miss Antoinette and Miss Rose Oechtering and a number of Fort Wayne clergymen.
The sad party was me at the station by the Rev. Frs. Eberle and Stuer, the dead pastors assistants, the Rev. Frs. Beasinger and Muinch, who are here on a visit, the Rev. Frs, Johannes and DeGroote and several other South Bend priests, and an immense concourse of sorrowing parishioners and friends of the deceased.
The body was taken to the church, where it lied in state, in front of the main altar, until the funeral Wednesday morning. Hundreds of friends gazed on the features of the dead priest during the evening and Tuesday, and all during both nights guards of honor, appointed by the various church societies, stood guard at the casket. The several societies held meetings Monday to complete arrangements for the funeral.
At 9 oclock Tuesday morning solemn requiem mass was celebrated by the Rev. John H. Oechtering, of Fort Wayne, assisted by the Rev. Fr. Vincent Muinch, of Carthagena, Ohio, as deacon; and the Rev. B. Beesinger, of Rensselaer, Ind. as sub-deacon.
Except for the masses that were said by the visiting priests during the early morning hours, there were no further services until the office for the dead was chanted by the bishop and the clergy, just before the funeral mass.
The funeral took place from St. Joseph Church, at 9 oclock Wednesday morning and the sad ceremony will be long remembered by all those who witnessed it. Only once in the history of Mishawaka when the citys great benefactor, Wallace Dodge, was buried has a funeral approached the immense proportions of todays sorrowful gathering. The spacious St. Joseph Church was large enough to accommodate but a part of the immense throng of those who sought by their presence at these obsequies to pay a final tribute of respect to the memory of the deceased. Hundreds failed to secure an entrance to the church but most of these remained to join in the procession to the cemetery.
Solemn requiem mass, the most solemn and beautiful ceremony in the liturgy of the Catholic Church, was begun at 9:30 oclock, immediately following the chanting of the office for the dead by a chorus of about 75 priests. The officers of the mass were: Rev. Fr. John H. Oschtering, celebrant, Fr. Yenn, deacon; Fr. DeGroote, sub-deacon; Fr. Keller, master of ceremonies; Frs. Louen and Scmitt, acolytes; Frs. Bessinger and Muinch, censer and incense bearers. The Rt. Rev Bishop Joseph Alerding assisted at the mass and pronounced the final-absolution. His deacons of honor were the Rev. Frs. Ferdinand Koerdt and P.J. Roach, of Fort Wayne.
There was no funeral sermon. One of the last wishes of Father Oechtering was that no eulogy be pronounced at his funeral and no monument be erected over his grave. His wishes will be respected and surely there is a singular fitness in omitting the funeral panegyric and dispensing with the granite tablet. For while the humble priest would have modestly disavowed it, it is nevertheless a fact that, when spoken in his praise, the ordinary expressions of commendation sink to the level of the commonplace, and as for monuments, no marble or granite pile could so well testify to his consuming zeal for the decency of Divine worship as does the beautiful church edifice erected through his efforts, and no testimonial to his self-sacrificing interest in the cause of Christian education could surpass that tarnished by the magnificent new St. Joseph School which he was privileged to see nearly completed before his death.
After pronouncing the absolution, Bishop Alerding announced that in compliance with the will of Father Oechtering, no funeral sermon would be preached, but he recommended the soul of the departed pastor to the prayerful remembrance of the sorrowing friends. At the conclusion of the right reverend bishops remarks the casket was closed and borne by Messrs. Adolph Kamm, Simon Yenn, James J. Becher, Jacob Buchheit, Michael Dosman and August Herzog to the waiting funeral car and conveyed to the cemetery.
The local factories were closed down all day on account of the funeral, and local business houses were closed nd all business suspended during the hours of the funeral.
Editor: He is buried in the Priests section in Section D, of St. Joseph Cemetery in Mishawaka.