There is one Catholic church where much of my family history has taken place, back to at least 1721. Multiple generations have witnessed baptisms, marriages, and funerals there.
St. Vincentius, Haselünne, Germany
The Front Door of St. Vincentius, Haselünne
A wonderful church archivist in Meppen, Germany, was able to locate many generations of my people at this church. It's incredible to read through your family's history as documented in sacramental records. It gives an insight into why and how they became the people they did.
I think of my great, great grandfather, Casper Kerkhoff, who was only a 2 year old boy when his father died and of my great, great grandmother, Lisette Golz, who was 3 1/2 when her mom died. Both funerals were held at St. Vincentius. And then in 1847, Casper and Lisette were married there, as their parents and some of their grandparents had been.
All of Casper and Lisette's children were baptized at St. Vincentius. The same baptismal font that had been used for many generations of my family was also used for my great grandfather and his siblings. What an incredible bond my great, great grandparents must have felt with their ancestors as they stood with their infant at that beautiful baptismal font.
I was blessed to travel to Haselünne in September, 2011. I stood in the place where my great grandfather, Anthony Kerkhoff, was baptized, as were many of my other ancestors. I was literally standing in their footsteps.
As happy and blessed as I felt to be there, I was also sad for my grandfather, Anthony's youngest child. Through stories my father told me, I knew that Grandpa Joe had always wanted to travel to the birthplace of his father. And I was very aware that I was not just standing in that church and in that specific place for myself, but I was also there for my Grandpa Joe. I wanted to somehow bring Grandpa with me, so that some part of him would be in Haselünne, too. My cousin Paul loaned me a pipe our grandpa used to smoke, and I carried that everywhere I went during my trip.
There is one connection to this church and town that I'm not sure my grandpa knew about. As I researched my family, I found out what Grandpa's middle name was. And I couldn't figure out where it came from. I hadn't found it for any other family member. It didn't seem to be a popular name in Cincinnati at the time. Why did my great grandparents choose it for him?
And then, seemingly out of nowhere, I realized exactly why Grandpa's middle name was what it was. He was named after the Catholic church where his father was baptized. My grandfather's middle name was Vincent. My great grandfather still identified so strongly with this town and church where he was baptized that, even after 33 years of being in the United States, he named his baby boy after it.
I'm the first of "my" Kerkhoffs (since the family immigrated to Cincinnati) to walk inside St. Vincentius and to attend mass there. As I sat in the pew, I thought of my great grandfather sitting there in the front of the church as he attended the funeral of his 14 year old sister. They shared a birthday (she was 2 years older), and I could almost see Anthony Kerkhoff in that pew. Was he clutching his mother's or father's hand? Or was he trying to be "brave?" I thought of my great, great grandparents' suffering as they attended the funeral mass of their only daughter.
I am forever connected to this small Catholic church. It has been and continues to be an incredible blessing to my Kerkhoff family.