Fr. Bob Thesing, S.J. was ordained in 1976. As a priest he has pastored four different parishes in Cincinnati and Chicago, has worked as a retreat director at the Jesuit Renewal Center in Milford, Ohio, and has supervised young Jesuits in the Detroit Novitiate and at Loyola University Chicago.
The focus of Fr. Joe’s Ministry has been adult faith formation. He has done that in a variety of settings: associate pastor, staff member and director of several retreat centers. Most recently he has been the director of the Claver Jesuit Ministry collaborating with two parishes and actively involved with several neighborhood organizations.
Sister Margie Niemer is the Pastoral Administrator of St. Bernard’s. She started in this role in August of 2018. She is a member of the Franciscan Sisters of Oldenburg.
A community of faith and worship was planted in Winton Place on May 18, 1919. The first pastor, Fr. Martin Varley (1919-1924) was Christ-centered and enthusiastic. The young priest and parishioners set a spiritual tone that has lasted a century: radiating Christ’s love.
Lay leadership and collaboration took hold immediately, first in the process of building the church (dedicated in July, 1920) and then groundbreaking and construction of the school (April, 1925). Lay organizations led by men (The Holy Name Society) and women (The Madonna Society and PTA) helped knit a strong community and were responsible for essential fundraising.
Fr. Henry Westerman (1924-1939) oversaw the building of the school and its student body. He was fortunate to have the Franciscan Sisters of Oldenburg as dedicated and gifted teachers. As the school expanded, the Annex was built for grades one to four. The school was closed in 1972 as times and demographics changed.
The second half century continued to develop along the lines of spirituality, community, collaboration, lay leadership and works of social justice and charity.
Parish life after the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) brought new challenges and sometimes wrenching changes. The arrival of the charismatic community of New Jerusalem led by Fr. Richard Rohr brought an influx of mostly young people. Having worshiped with St. Bernard, New Jerusalem’s departure to their own worship space in the former school basement (Portiuncula) created a rupture . During that time, traditional choirs and music yielded to music groups led by guitarists. It was a time of loss as well as gain as more traditional parishioners left in reaction to the changes.
In the 1970's and 80's, Fr. George Jacquemin’s youthful openness fostered a communal worship style, an active Parish Council and a closer relationship to our sister parish Mother of Christ (Winton Terrace). Community building grew through annual festivals, the Turtle Derby and parish picnic.
In his long pastorate (1984-2012), Fr. Jim Shappelle became a beloved spiritual leader with a love of the scriptures and his willingness to be of service to all in need. In addition to his pastorate, he served as chaplain to several schools and was on call to local cemeteries and hospitals.
We entered the 1990’s having survived some pretty tumultuous times, with the knowledge that we were stronger because of them. The very core of our identity as a small, faith-filled community threatened to be the cause of our demise. Had it not been for our unique association with New Jerusalem and Mother of Christ, we may not have survived those times.
We were fortunate during those years to receive the gifts of some some special and talented priests: Fr. Mike Paraniuk who was a gifted preacher and a definite non-traditional priest, and several Jesuits from the nearby St. Peter Claver community. In short, we had an unusually well-rounded liturgical life, always enhanced by our very gifted musicians.
2000 to date - the tumultuous new century. Being small, our parish has faced various merger scenarios: different visions for the future have tested its unity, precipitated departures, and left wounds in need of healing. In 2012, St. Bernard embarked on a new future blessed by the Jesuit pastorate of Fr. Robert Thesing, S.J. and the dedication of our pastoral associate, Bob Ivory. During this period, we once again relied on lay leadership to take us to the next step. After a 3-year process, we were one of only a few parishes to turn to a Pastoral Administrator, Sr. Margie Niemer, OSF, who joined us in 2018. Fortunately, we have been blessed to have the ongoing talents of Fr. Bob and Fr. Joe Folzenlogen, S.J., as sacramental ministers.
A look at our history
Of course, nothing could have prepared us for COVID19. What does a small, faith-filled community do in the absence of being surrounded by community!
Celebrating 100 Years
Beginning in May of 2019, we began a year-long celebration of our 100th Anniversary. Our Anniversary events included:
May devotions in our first-ever living rosary followed by a breakfast
Prayer in front of church, followed by an ice cream social
Mass led by the Archbishiop concelebrated by several of our past and present priests and attended by parishioners old and new, followed by a formal luncheon at the local Harmony Lodge
Concert and sing-a-long (cancelled by the pandemic)
Closing Mass followed by breakfast in our new Shappelle Center