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Saint Paul (Minnesota)

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Archdiocese comprising the counties of Ramsey, Hennepin, Chisago, Anoka, Dakota, Scott, Wright, Rice, Lesueur, Carver, Nicollet, Sibley, Meeker, Redwood, Renville, Kandiyohi, Lyon, Lincoln, Yellow Medicine, Lac-Qui-Parle, Chippewa, Swift, Goodhue, Big Stone, and Brown, which stretch across the State of Minnesota from east to west, in about the center of its southern half.

During the Seventh Provincial Council of Baltimore (5-13 May, 1849) the fathers petitioned the Holy See to erect a bishopric in what was then the village of St. Paul. No action was taken on the matter in Rome for over a year, owing to revolutionary disturbances and the absence of Pope Pius IX (1846-78) in Gaeta consequent thereon. The See of St. Paul was actually established on 19 July, 1850. Its jurisdiction extended over an area of some 166,000 square miles, i.e. over what was then the Territory of Minnesota (established 3 March, 1849). The constituent parts were: a larger western part, to the west of the Mississippi, formerly part of the Diocese of Dubuque, and a smaller eastern part, between the Mississippi and St. Croix rivers, formerly part of the Diocese of Milwaukee. The size remained the same even after the admission of the State of Minnesota into the Union (11 May, 1858), and up to the erection of the Vicariate Apostolic of Northern Minnesota (12 Feb., 1875), of the Vicariate Apostolic of Dakota (12 Aug., 1879), and of the Diocese of Winona (3 Oct., 1889), when it was reduced to its present area. At the time of its erection the Diocese of St Paul was assigned to the province of St. Louis, afterwards (12 Feb., 1875) to that of Milwaukee. On 4 May, 1888, it became itself an archdiocese, and as such comprises at present the suffragan Sees of Duluth , Crookston, St. Cloud, and Winona, in Minnesota; Fargo and Bismarck, in North Dakota; Sioux Falls and Lead, in South Dakota.

The diocese was named after the town of St. Paul, which had its origin late in the thirties of last century, along the left or eastern bank of the Mississippi, near the military post of Fort Snelling. Father Lucien Galtier had built a log chapel there, and had opened it for services on 1 Nov., 1841. The rude oratory was placed under the invocation of St. Paul, the Apostle of the Gentiles, and the name was then attached to the settlement itself.

The earliest Catholic record of what became afterwards the Diocese of St. Paul is in the Rune Stone, discovered in 1898 near Kensington, Minnesota. A strange inscription on it tells us of a visit made in 1362 by thirty Norsemen to the above locality, where ten of them were slain by the natives, and the remainder addressed a salutation to the Blessed Virgin Mary and called upon her for protection. Although not all the Scandinavian scholars are agreed on the authenticity of this text, still the internal evidence seems to be all in its favour; and nothing has been found so far to contradict its contents. Minnesota is a classic land in the history of early Catholic voyageurs and missionaries. The first, as far as records go, were Groseilliers and Radisson, who spent some time on Prairie Island (1654-56) and in the neighbourhood of Knife lake, Kanabee County (1659-60). In 1679-80 Du Lhut visited the countries around Lake Mille Lacs, the western extremity of Lake Superior, and the Mississippi. It was during these journeys that he met the Recollect Father Louis Hennepin and his two companions Michel Accault and Antoine* Auguelle, and rescued them from their captivity among the Sioux Indians. During an excursion down the Mississippi Hennepin beheld and named the Falls of St. Anthony in what is now Minneapolis. Nicolas Perrot, in 1683, established a small trading post, Fort Perrot, near the site of the present town of Wabasha, Minnesota; and in 1689 he proclaimed the sovereignty of the French king over the regions of the upper Mississippi. In his company was the Jesuit Father Joseph-Jean Marest, who spent considerable time among the Sioux about the years 1689 and 1702. A contemporary of Perrot, Le Sueur, established in 1695 a trading on Prairie Island, and in 1700 another, Fort L'Huillier, on the Blue Earth River, about three miles from its junction with the Minnesota. In 1727 a post, Fort Beauharnois, was established on the western shore of Lake Pepin, near the present town of Frontenac, Minnesota; the missionaries stationed there were the Jesuit Fathers Michel Guignas and Nicolas de Gonnor. Another, Fort St. Charles, was erected in 1732 on the southern shore of Northwest Angle Inlet, Lake of the Woods, by the explorer de Lavérendrye. The missionaries of the post were the Jesuit Fathers Messaiger and Aulneau, the latter of whom met a cruel death at the hands of savage Sioux. Religious ministrations were, of course, the chief object of the missionaries. Even the lay voyageurs did what they could towards the religious betterment of the natives. Groseilliers and Radisson instructed the older people in the elements of Christianity, and baptized a number of children whom they believed in danger of death.

No permanent settlements were made within the area of the Diocese of St. Paul until some time after the organization of the Government of the United States. In Sept., 1818, a mission was opened at Pembina, North Dakota, for the Catholic settlers, who had gone there from Lord Selkirk's colony near St. Boniface, Manitoba. The first priest, Father Dumoulin, and his immediate successors were sent from St. Boniface, the nearest episcopal see. Within the years following upon 1826 many settlers of the Red River valley were compelled to depart, owing to floods, grasshoppers, and other afflictions; and a number of them, generally Canadian and Swiss French, came to the vicinity of what is now St. Paul. Bishop Loras of Dubuque, accompanied by Father Pelamourgues, visited the few Catholics in 1839; in 1840 he sent them a resident priest in Father Lucien Galtier, who in 1844 was replaced by Father Augustine Ravoux, for more than sixty years a priest in the Diocese of St. Paul. The first Bishop of St. Paul was Rt. Rev. Joseph Cretin (1851-57), Vicar-General of the Diocese of Dubuque, appointed 23 July, 1850. His consecration took place at Belley, France, 26 Jan., 1851; on 2 July of the same year, he took possession of his episcopal see; his death occurred on 22 Feb., 1857. The small log chapel built by Father Galtier was soon, replaced by a large structure of brick and stone, which contained accommodations for church, school, and residential purposes. Another stone building was begun in 1855, but not finished until after the bishop's death; it is still used as the cathedral of St. Paul. The Catholic population, which consisted of several hundred, or perhaps a thousand, grew considerably in numbers, and counted about 50,000 at the end of the bishop's career. The increase was largely due to the bishop's own efforts, who invited Catholic settlers to the fertile plains of Minnesota. In addition to the French Canadians large contingents of Irish and German Catholics arrived, who located in St. Paul, in places along the Mississippi, St. Croix, and Minnesota Rivers. Wherever it was possible parishes or missions were organized, and provided with resident priests, or at least visited occasionally by priests from other stations. At his arrival in St. Paul Bishop Cretin found only a couple of priests with small congregations at St. Paul, Mendota, and Pembina; at his death there were 29 churches and 35 stations with about 20 priests attending to the spiritual needs of the Catholic people. Great efforts were made for the education of the young and for the preparation of worthy candidates for the priesthood. in Pembina there were the Sisters of the Propagation of the Faith. The Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet came to St. Paul 3 Nov., 1851, and soon opened schools for both elementary and higher education at St. Paul and St. Anthony Falls. In 1855 the Brothers of the Holy Family took charge of a school at St. Paul for boys in both the grammar and higher grades. The Benedictine Fathers from St. Vincent, Pennsylvania, sent some of their men to Minnesota in 1856, and soon a college was opened near St. Cloud in Stearns County. A seminary was conducted in the bishop's own house, where the necessary training was imparted to young Levites of the sanctuary. Works of charity or of general benefit to society were not neglected. A hospital was founded at St. Paul by the Sisters of St. Joseph; the St. Vincent de Paul Society and other similar associations were organized; and a Catholic temperance society was established in 1852. Among the more noteworthy Catholic pioneers were Jean-Baptiste Faribeault, Antoine* Pépin, Vital and Gervais Guérin, Joseph Turpin, Abraham Perret, Benjamin and Pierre Gervais, Joseph and his son Isaac Labissonniére, Pierre and Sévère Bottineau, August L. Larpenteur, Louis Robert, Charles Bazille, and William F. Forbes. Of the early priests, apart from Fathers Galtier and Ravoux, the following may be mentioned: Thomas Murray, Daniel J. Fisher, John McMahon, Francis de Vivaldi, Dennis Ledon, Marcellin Peyragrosse, George Keller, Claude Robert, Louis Caillet, Felix Tissot, Anatole Oster, Francis Pierz, Michael Würzfeld, Demetrius Marogna, O.S.B., and Cornelius Wittman, O.S.B.

After the death of Bishop Cretin the see of St. Paul remained vacant for over two years. Father Augustine Ravoux was appointed administrator; under his regime the present stone cathedral was completed and opened for service in 1858. The second Bishop of St. Paul was Rt. Rev. Thomas Langdon Grace, O.P. (1859-84). He was born, 16 Nov., 1814, at Charleston, South Carolina, entered the seminary at Cincinnati in 1829, and the priory of St. Rose, Kentucky, in 1830, where on 12 June, 1831, he made his religious profession as a member of the Order of St. Dominic. In 1837 he went to Rome for further studies, and was ordained there to the priesthood by Cardinal Patrizi, 21 Dec., 1839. After his return to America in 1844 he was employed in the ecclesiastical ministry first in Kentucky, and afterwards for thirteen years at Memphis, Tennessee. In 1859 he. was called to the Bishopric of St. Paul by Pius IX; his consecration took place at St. Louis, 24 July, 1859; and on 29 July following he took possession of his see, over which he presided until the day of his resignation, 31 July, 1884. He was then made titular Bishop of Menith, and afterwards, 24 Sept., 1889, titular Archbishop of Siunia; his death occurred on 22 Feb., 1897.

Several modifications were introduced in the territorial arrangement and the direction of the diocese during his incumbency. By the creation of the Vicariates of Northern Minnesota and Dakota the northern part of Minnesota and the territory west of Minnesota were erected into new ecclesiastical jurisdictions. In 1875 Bishop Grace received a coadjutor in the person of Rev. John Ireland, then rector of the cathedral. The number of the Catholic people in the diocese continued to grow, largely through the bishop's activity in inviting settlers; at the time of his resignation in 1884 it amounted to about 130,000. In addition to the races already represented there came also many Catholics from Bohemia and Poland. The number of priests grew with the increase of the people, and they were so chosen as to correspond to the needs of the flock; in 1884 they were 153 in all. Side by side with the diocesan clergy there laboured fathers of the Benedictine Order, Jesuits, Franciscans, Dominicans, and Oblates. Charitable institutions were kept up and multiplied wherever necessary. Hospitals were opened at Minneapolis and New Ulm, orphan asylums were erected at St. Paul and Minneapolis, and homes were established for the aged poor. The education of the children was promoted in all possible ways. Catholic schools were founded and provided with Catholic teachers; the Brothers of the Christian Schools were called to St. Paul; and new academies for girls were opened. The growing needs in the field of charity and education necessitated the coming of more religious women. In the course of time the Congregations of St. Benedict, St. Dominic, St. Francis, Notre Dame, the Visitation the Grey Nuns, the Good Shepherd, the Sisters of Christian Charity, the Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ, and the Little Sisters of the Poor furnished their quota. Like his predecessor, Bishop Grace never lost sight of the education of candidates for the priesthood. In 1860 he opened a preparatory school for young boys who felt a vocation for the priesthood. Among its pupils was Rt. Rev. John Shanley, late Bishop of Fargo. Unfortunately, after some years of existence it had to be given up for lack of accommodations.

To Bishop Grace succeeded his coadjutor, the Rt. Rev. John Ireland, D.D. (1884-). He was born at Burnchurch, Co. Kilkenny, Ireland, 11 Sept., 1838, and came to St. Paul with his parents in 1852. Bishop Cretin sent him to Meximieux and Hyres, France, where he completed his college and seminary course; he was ordained to the priesthood at St. Paul, 21 Dec., 1861. During the Civil War he served as chaplain to the Fifth Minnesota Regiment, and was afterwards stationed at the cathedral. In 1875 he was appointed titular Bishop of Maxonea and coadjutor to Bishop Grace of St. Paul, in whose cathedral he received the episcopal consecration, 21 Dec., 1875. Upon the resignation of his predecessor he became Bishop of St. Paul; and on 15 May, 1888, he was raised to the metropolitan dignity as Archbishop of St. Paul. The ecclesiastical Province was organized with the suffragan Sees of Duluth , St. Cloud, Winona, Jamestown (Fargo), and Sioux Falls, to which were added afterwards those of Lead (1902), Crookston, and Bismarck (1910). The creation of the Diocese of Winona diminished the territory of the archdiocese by the southern section of Minnesota. In 1910 an auxiliary bishop was appointed in the person of Rt. Rev. John J. Lawler, titular Bishop of Greater Hermopolis. The Catholic population kept steadily on the increase, so that at present it numbers about 260,000. Much of this growth is due to the archbishop's own efforts. From the day of his consecration as bishop he organized a systematic movement for the colonization of different parts of Minnesota. Various settlements such as De Graff, Clontarf (Swift Co.), Adrian (Nobles Co.), Avoka, Fulda (Murry Co.), Graceville (Big Stone Co.), Minneota, and Ghent (Lyon Co.), owe their origin and prosperity to his labours. With the increase of the people grew also the number of priests, which at present exceeds 300. Of the religious orders, one, that of the Marist Fathers, was added to the existing ones. The charitable institutions were maintained and increased. The work of temperance found always a most zealous advocate in the archbishop. Catholic education received from him a liberal and wise patronage. Catholic grammar and high schools were multiplied and rendered more efficient. A new departure in the higher education of women was made by the Sisters of St. Joseph in the opening of St. Catharine's College in 1905. To the religious communities engaged in teaching was added another, that of the Felician Sisters.

The training of the candidates for the priesthood is imparted in two institutions. On 8 Sept., 1885, the Seminary of St. Thomas opened its gates to students of both the college and seminary curriculum, with an attendance of 27 in theology and philosophy, and of 39 in the classics. St. Thomas continued to house the two departments until in 1894, when it was continued as a college; and its growth has been so marvellous, that during the past year it enrolled nearly 700 students. The seminary was transferred, in Sept., 1894, to new quarters, the St. Paul Seminary, built and endowed by the munificence of St. Paul's great citizen, James J. Hill. In the year of its opening it numbered about 60 students, and last, year it had on its list 165 seminarians, representing 19 dioceses in the United States. In 1905 the St. Paul Catholic Historical Society was organized with headquarters in the seminary. The following events illustrate the growth of the Diocese and the Province of St. Paul within recent years. On 2 June, 1907, the corner-stone was laid for the new cathedral of St. Paul; and a year afterwards, 31 May, 1908, a similar ceremony was performed with reference to the new pro-cathedral of Minneapolis. The chapel of the Seminary of St. Paul witnessed, 19 May 1910, a scene extremely rare, if not unique, in the annals of ecclesiastical history. Six bishops received on that day their consecration, all six destined for service in the one Province of St. Paul. The present condition of the diocese may best be gauged from the following statistics: archbishop, 1; bishop, 1; diocesan priests, 275; priests of religious orders, 40; churches with resident priests, 188; missions with churches, 62; chapels, 17; theological seminary, 1; college, 1; commercial schools, Christian Brothers, 2; number of pupils in parochial schools, 21,492; boarding-schools and academies for girls, 7; orphan asylums, 3; hospitals, 3; homes for the aged poor, 2; house of the Good Shepherd, 1.


The Metropolitan or American Catholic Almanac; The Official Catholic Directory (Baltimore, New York, Milwaukee); SHEA, The Hierarchy of the Catholic Church in the United States (New York, 1886); REUSS, Biographical Cyclopedia of the Catholic Hierarchy of the United States (Milwaukee, 1898); HOFFMANN, St. John's University (Collegeville, 1907); Acta et Dicta (St. Paul, 1907-11),; UPHAM, Minnesota in Three Centuries, I (St. Paul, 1908); FOLWELL, Minnesota, the North Star State (Boston and New York, 1908); WILLIAMS, A History of, the City of St. Paul (St. Paul, 1876).

About this page

APA citation. Schaefer, F. (1912). Saint Paul (Minnesota). In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.

MLA citation. Schaefer, Francis. "Saint Paul (Minnesota)." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 13. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1912. <>.

Transcription. This article was transcribed for New Advent by Jeffrey L. Anderson.

Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat. February 1, 1912. Remy Lafort, D.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York.

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