Born James Hehl in Heimertingen Bavaria on November 12, 1846 he came to the United States as a young boy. At seventeen he entered the Passionist novitiate, professed his vows on March 30, 1864 and received the name Bernard. He was ordained on December 23, 1869. His first assignment was as pastor of Holy Family Church, Union Hill, New Jersey where the parish was in confusion. With diligence he reorganized the parish.
After six years there he was transferred to St. Michael’s Church, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania as assistant pastor and in 1884 was made pastor for fourteen years. He organized various Societies for men, women and children. He built a Casino, school, and dwelling for the Brothers of Mary. He also organized the Diocesan League of the Roman Catholic Young Men’s Societies, and was made the first Grand President of the Federation of the German Catholic Young Men’s Societies in the United States which led him to travel extensively throughout the country to preach and speak on this topic in many cities.
In February 1898 he was suddenly stricken with paralysis due to a stroke. While he regained some physical and speech abilities he was never full healthy again but remained a man steadfast in prayer.