A Sung Requiem Mass, in the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite, will be celebrated on Msgr. Weber’s birthday, Thursday, Novemeber 6, 2008 in the newly-restored Church of St. Mary, Salem. All are invited to assist at this Mass offered for the repose of the soul our third pastor, offered at the beautiful high altar he installed in 1905.
Our third pastor, the Reverend John Bernard Weber, arrived in Salem on January 22, 1897. Born in Germany on November 6, 1869, Father Weber studied for the priesthood at St. Francis Seminary in Milwaukee, and was ordained on June 24, 1893. Father Weber continued Father Weixelberger’s plans for a new stone church, but changed the proposed location from N. Main Street to its present location on Vermont Street. The cornerstone of the new stone church was laid on July 4, 1898, with the church opening for the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass in 1899. The three altars and the pulpit, carved in Bavaria, arrived in 1905, with the appointments from the first church used in the intervening years following the opening of the church. Amidst great fanfare and enthusiasm, St. Mary’s Church was solemnly consecrated by the Right Reverend Thomas O’Gorman, Second Bishop of Sioux Falls, under the title of Our Lady, Help of Christians, on June 18, 1907.
Father Weber began the building of the first school building in 1901, and invited the Sisters of St. Francis from Milwaukee to serve as teachers. In 1929, the High School was opened and served the parish until it closed in 1970. Father Weber was named a Monsignor on January 16, 1923 and a Protonotary Apostolic by the Servant of God, Pope Pius XII in 1952, the same year he celebrated the 60th Anniversary of his Ordination to the Priesthood.
In June of 1956, Msgr. Weber resigned as pastor and moved in with his niece, Frances Weber, and her husband, Steve, on their farm northeast of Salem. Msgr. Weber died six months later, on December 11, 1956, and his Solemn Requiem Mass was celebrated on December 15, with the Reverend Urban J. Rodenbur (third native son of St. Mary’s to be ordained a priest) as Celebrant. Father Henry Kolbeck, another native son of the parish, served as the Deacon of the Mass, and the Reverend Patrick C. Conway, future pastor of St. Mary’s, serving as Subdeacon. The body of the famous third pastor of Salem lies in St. Mary’s Cemetery, awaiting the Resurrection of the Body on the last day.
In 1985, St. Mary’s Parish celebrated its centennial, and the church was formally placed on the National Historic Register. In 2010, St. Mary’s will celebrate its 125th anniversary.