Home | About Us | Subscriptions | Advertising | El Centinela
Catholic Sentinel | Portland, OR Tuesday, September 1, 2015
2015 Priest Reassignments, Archdiocese of Portland Cardinal Francis George dies Mothering with faith Sisters of the Holy Names, 2015 Live Nativity at St. John the Baptist 2014 Fall CYO results Catholic Charities Donor Lunch 2014 Year of Consecrated Life opening Mass Holy Spirit Sisters Jubilee 2014 Seaside youth conference Mount Angel 125th Northwest Hub Furlow at papal Mass 2014 Rosary Bowl NW Brother André 2014 Fall 40 Days for Life 2014 Inauguration of Fr. Mark Poorman Coffee shop at abbey First day of school, 2014 Regis High School 50th anniversary 2014 Crooked Finger Pilgrimage Mass with migrant farm workers Maronite Ordination Consecration to "Immaculate Heart of Our Lady of Fatima" CYO track Southern Oregon Evangelization 2014 Priest Ordination Christ the King youth 2014 priest reassignments Our Lady of Lavang Confirmation, 2014 Memorial Day 2014 2014 Transitional deacon ordination Padre Foster Granados visits Albany Bishop Smith ordination Canonization of Pope John Paul II, Pope John XXIII Bishop Peter Smith 2014 Easter Vigil 2014 Walk of Cross 2014 Chrism Mass CYO basketball 2014 St. Patrick of the Forest 150th Catholic Charities Celebration of Hope, 2014 Boys2Men Archbishop visits Oregon State Penitentiary 40 Day Vigil for Life, 2014 Pope Francis creates new cardinals St. Henry shelter 2014 CYO swimming Funeral of Fr. George Wolf Travel on a budget Lunar New Year, 2014 Tech in Catholic schools 2014 Right to Life Rally Archbishop visits Santiam Prison First Mass in Oregon Milwaukie Posada St. Francis, Sherwood, Toy Drive Central Catholic football Typhoon Haiyan Deacon Ordination/ Kresbach, Schmitt A Catholic fisherman St. Cecilia Centennial Southern Oregon Welcome Mass Shepherd of the Valley, Central Point, dedication Grotto Anniversary 2013 Champions of Faith Dinner Gardenripe farms Coleman hop farm Corvallis Year of Faith Archbishop Howard at St. Rose Hitchhiking priests Franciscan Spiritual Center Sacred Heart, Medford Migrant Mass Tanzanians' jubilee World Youth Day 2013 2013 Blessing of the Animals 2013 Freedom Mass Albany school closure Fabric art Megan graduates from Catholic school St. Vincent de Paul Hillsboro 2013 Deacon ordination Sister Theresa Lamkin St. Helen Mission, Brownsville Marist Brainiacs St. Mary, Eugene St. Francis eighth graders Ascension confirmation 2013 Pastoral Ministry Conference St. Joseph Salem — Year of Faith Archbishop Sample's Installation Mass 2013 Archbishop Sample Chrism Mass 2013 2013 Young Catholics Pope Francis inauguration Celebration of Hope Vlazny Farewell Mass Archbishop Vlazny Farewell St. Paul Church in St. Paul Valley Catholic Green Building Rite of Election 2013 Water summit 2013 Lunar New Year Alveda King in Eugene New Monsignors, 2013 2013 Right to Life Rally MLK Mass, 2013 St. Henry, Gresham, Centennial Jesuit High drama School uniforms Friar in the mall Holy Trinity food ministry January Book Covers St. Andre Bessette food Year of Faith Mass Nestucca Sanctuary Hillsboro Choirs Father Betschart installation Salem Religious Freedom Rally Year of Faith Vespers, Awards Roy's Catholic School Adelante Mujeres 10th anniversary New Blanchet House Missionaries of Holy Spirit Priest, religious photos Providence Nursing Schools Pioneros Fortnight for Freedom Mark Bentz Deacon Ordination OLL School Walk Through Gaga over science St. Philip Neri Centennial Ordination of Bishop Cary SVDP, Grants Pass Holy Cross School centennial Confirmation - Mount Angel Holy Land Pilgrimage Blanchet Watershed Chrism Mass, 2012 Bishop-designate Cary Pope in Cuba, 2012 SSMO 125th Jubilee Mass Pope Benedict in Mexico 2012 Catholic Charities Celebration 2012 Madeleine Mardi Gras Centennial Rally for Life, 2012 Martin Luther King Jr. Mass 2012 Day Laborers-Guadalupe Guadalupe 2011 Christ the King, Milwaukie, 50th Sesame Doughnuts Central Catholic Volleyball St. Peter Centennial Deacon Ordination, October 2011 St. Agatha Centennial Rosary Bowl 2011 St. Wenceslaus, Scappoose, Centennial Filipino celebration Polish Festival 2011 Holy War Football 2011 World Youth Day 2011 Sun Gold Farm Our Lady of Victory's New Church Freedom Mass 2011 St. Mary Church Steeple Removal Priest reassignments, 2011 Old Catholic Buildings Paige Rice, St. Mary's runner Graduation 2011 Easter vigils 2011 Pastoral Ministry Conference Basketball Holy War 2011 Search for Peace 2011

Extended Care Position - OLL School

Home : News : Local
10/2/2012 9:36:00 AM
He expressed faith though service - out of the limelight
Bielenberg family photo
Joe and Josephine Bielenberg attend August's Marian pilgrimage in Crooked Finger. Joe helped organize the first pilgrimage in 1954 and attend every one. He died last month at 93.
Bielenberg family photo
Joe and Josephine Bielenberg attend August's Marian pilgrimage in Crooked Finger. Joe helped organize the first pilgrimage in 1954 and attend every one. He died last month at 93.
Ed Langlois
Of the Catholic Sentinel

MOUNT ANGEL — Just as Joe Bielenberg's heart beat for the last time, the bells began ringing at St. Mary Church here.

Family and friends say the timing was fitting. Bielenberg, who died Sept. 23 at a Mount Angel care center, was a hard-working farmer who gave at least as much to the Catholic Church as to his fields and livestock.

A funeral drew a crowd to Holy Rosary Mission in Crooked Finger, the small church Bielenberg served quietly but mightily for more than six decades.

The Catholic Sentinel, planning a profile, interviewed 93-year-old Bielenberg two weeks before his death.

He was born in Nampa, Idaho in 1918. The family moved to a farm in the Cascade foothills at Crooked Finger in 1931. Young Joe's service began soon at Holy Rosary, where he was an altar boy and charged with starting the fire early to warm the church before Mass. Of course, he had to milk the cows first.  

He served in the Army during World War II, retiring as a captain from the 8th Armored Division, 20th Engineer Combat Battalion.

He married Josephine Wellnitz at St. Mary Church in Janesville, Wis. in 1948. In 1949, they moved west and settled back in the Crooked Finger area. Bielenberg operated a logging business briefly then became a farmer.   

At Holy Rosary, he took over from his father as the one who took up the collection on Sundays. He would do that job for decades. He also became a trusted church lieutenant, especially with the arrival of Benedictine Father Hildebrand Melchior, a priest full of plans. It sometimes took Bielenberg's skill, strength and good sense to concretize the dreams.

Bielenberg helped the priest with background logistics for a massive pilgrimage for the 1954 Marian year declared by Pope Pius XII. Father Hildebrand had said that although Holy Rosary was small in numbers, the enthusiasm of its members would help them "do something big for Our Lady.”

"I really let myself go around the bend that day," Bielenberg said, chuckling and running a hand through his thin hair. "Father Hildebrand had a lot of ideas. He said 'Joe do this,' and 'Joe do that.'"

More than 5,000 Willamette Valley Catholics came to Crooked Finger that August day to pray for world peace and the conversion of Russia. They walked from a local farm almost a mile to Holy Rosary. Bielenberg had prepared the route — a cow path the rest of the year — even spraying it with water at the last moment to prevent dust. Families erected shrines along the way.  

In a following year, Bielenberg led a crew that built a cabin as a new starting point for the pilgrimage. Eventually, it was Bielenberg who got the task of pacing the procession, walking in front at the right pace so the rosary timing went smoothly.
He worked hard on the pilgrimages, but the experience was prayerful.

"We knew we were assisting people in devotion," he said.

Bielenberg involved his whole family of seven children in preparing the grounds. They cleared trails, hauled sawdust, hung banners, worked in food booths, cleaned up and stowed banners and benches for the next pilgrimage.

The event has taken place every year since 1954 and Joe and Josephine Bielenberg attended each one.

For many years Josephine cleaned and decorated the church, provided pies and cinnamon rolls for the pilgrimages and church socials, decorated a shrine for the August events and helped clean the grounds. She was an active member of the Altar Society and is also a Catholic Daughter member for more than 50 years.

In 1963, it became clear that Holy Rosary was too small. Bielenberg and a crew split the church in half, pulled the sides apart and built in between. Bielenberg would say with a smile that parishioners "stretched" the church by a good 20 feet.

Bielenberg was also a leader in reinforcing the base of the tower and digging a well. He cut the maple trees that were used to make the current church pews. He and a crew dug a basement and, when Father Hildebrand gave only two hours notice before a cement truck arrived, hastily but expertly fashioned forms for the pour.

"The basement walls are a little rough," Bielenberg explained.

When it came time for confirmation at Holy Rosary, Archbishop Howard would need to be picked up and taken into the country. The archbishop never learned to drive.

On the first trip Bielenberg felt shy. What does one say to an archbishop?

But the churchman had grown up on an Iowa farm so the two talked agriculture for the drive of more than an hour.   

When it came time for a benefit dinner for the church, it was his cabbage used to make 150 gallons of sauerkraut. He designed the gazebo that was built in the grove of trees next to the church.  

In recent years, Bielenberg would visit Kennedy High School, where he'd show students his war memorabilia and tell stories.

Over the decades, Bielenberg was active with the Knights of Columbus, American Legion and various school boards and community activities. In retirement, he spent hours in his woodshop making hop baskets, wagons, wagon wheels, shrines, Good Friday crosses, toys, and other wooden treasures for his family and friends.

In the 1990s, he and his brothers built a grotto near Holy Rosary that folks here say will be a place of prayer for centuries.

"I liked to do quite a few things," Bielenberg explained. "But I liked to do them in the background."

On the farm, Bielenberg grew sprouts, broccoli, snap beans, strawberries and grains, plus seed for parsnips, onions and sugar beets. He raised hogs and beef. Bielenberg did not gain great wealth for all his labor, but his work fed his family and he was satisfied with that. His son Ed now tends the family land.

Bielenberg, his blue eyes lively and friendly to the end, was surrounded by family when he died. He shared an easy and deep affection with his children and their families. He loved to tell stories and people loved to listen.  

Bielenberg is survived by his wife, Josephine, and their seven children: David (Pegi) Bielenberg, Christine (Bob) Adelman, Timothy (Betty) Bielenberg, Bernard (Roxanne) Bielenberg, Diane (Pat) Blair, Therese (Mike) Swearingen, and Edward (Susan) Bielenberg. He is also survived by 23 grandchildren, 19 great-grandchildren, his sister, Margaret Gersch, and many nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by siblings Tony, Fritz, and Agnes Bielenberg.





Advanced Search






Mary Jo Tully ~ The Path to Resurrection

News | Viewpoints | Faith & Spirituality | Parish and School Life | Entertainment | Obituaries | Find Churches and Schools | About Us | Subscriptions | Advertising
E-Newsletter | RSS Feeds

© 2015 Catholic Sentinel, a service of Oregon Catholic Press

Software © 1998-2015 1up! Software, All Rights Reserved