“Lord Jesus Christ, by Your own three days in the tomb, You hallowed the graves of all who believe in You, and so made the grave a sign of hope that promises Resurrection.”
— Order of Christian Funerals
“I must tell you that it was a pilgrimage for me,” he said. “Because I know my family — those who came before me — walked that same walk.”
Those early parishioners, now at rest in Our Lady Help of Christians Cemetery, are never far from memory, thanks to the Communion of Saints and the enthusiasm of people who never forget where they came from.
“It’s more than history for us as Catholics. This ground is hallowed,” said Father Daniel Merz, pastor of St. George parish in Linn and the Frankenstein parish.
Seven people with ties to Our Lady Help of Christians brought stories of the faithful departed to life on Sept. 30 during the Osage County Historical Society’s Cemetery Walk.
Fr. Merz noted that one of the reasons cemeteries exist is the Christian belief that God will “raise up in the flesh those who have died, and transform our lowly body after the pattern of Jesus’ own glorious body.”
“When we walk through a cemetery, we do so in the hope of the Resurrection, mindful that we will one day rise with these members of our family of faith whose memory we honor,” he said.
In addition, the hardships faced by past generations offer hope and encouragement to people still weathering difficulties in this life.
“Just as these people made it through tough times and now await the glory of the Resurrection, so too will we,” the priest stated.
For the Cemetery Walk, people gathered in church, where Fr. Merz welcomed them in German.
They then wandered in small groups through the cemetery, where seven reenactors, wearing clothes from the past, told first-person stories of the people buried below their feet.
Mike Broker portrayed his grandfather, John Bengal (1841-1927), a local veteran, railroad worker and farmer who with his wife adopted two “Orphan Train” children from New York.
Sherrie (Dudenhoeffer) Paulsmeyer spoke of her grandmother, Laura (Troesser) Dudenhoeffer (1905-35), a loving and devoted mother and homemaker.
Mary “Sis” (Gabelsberger) Dudenhoeffer presented the life of her great-grandmother, Frances Willhelm Gabelsberger (born in 1852), who emigrated after her husband from Bavaria to Chicago, then to Frankenstein to farm and to raise their large family.
David Gabelsberger told the story of his grandfather, Anton “Tony” Gabelsberger Jr. (1880-1952), who served as lead stonemason for Our Lady Help of Christians Church and helped construct many other buildings around Missouri.
Kenny Gelvin portrayed his great-grandfather, Peter Gelvin (born in 1845), a successful farmer who delivered loads of wood in the wintertime and helped sheep farmers process wool.
Holly Neuner took the role of her grandmother, Frances (Bogler) Jaegers (1888-1947), a prominent businesswoman who with her husband ran the Jaegers General Store, a gathering place for generations of local residents.
Fr. Merz took the role of Father George Fugel (1870-1936), who was pastor for four years and is the only priest buried in the cemetery.
During Fr. Fugel’s months-long illness, parishioners took turns keeping vigils at night in his rectory.
Fr. Merz noted that Fr. Fugel’s brother, Father John Fugel, recommended that he be buried in a lot close to the edge of the cemetery.
“That way, when people would go to visit their family members and pray for them, they would visit him, too,” Fr. Merz explained. “Otherwise, there wouldn’t be as many family members to go visit a priest.”
“Everybody has a story”
Free-will offerings from the Cemetery Walk benefited the historical society and the parish’s cemetery fund.
Mrs. Neuner, a member of Sacred Heart parish in Rich Fountain, who was in charge of organizing the event, has always been interested in history and genealogy.
“People just like to hear and carry-on the stories about the ones who have gone before them,” she stated.
“Everybody has a story,” she said. “It doesn’t matter if they live to be 100 or they just live a couple of a days. Everybody has a story. Everybody has an impact on somebody’s life.”
Mrs. Neuner’s grandmother died years before Mrs. Neuner’s parents got married.
“I never met her,” said Mrs. Neuner. “But I heard a lot of stories from my dad and his siblings. She always sounded like a very interesting woman to me.”
Mrs. Neuner said she hopes everyone who attended the Cemetery Walk learned something new about their community and maybe even about themselves.
“We had a wide variety of years and personalities,” she said. “And I think we had a little something for everyone.”
Some of the information in this article came from Neal Johnson, editor of the Unterrified Democrat newspaper in Linn.