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Pilgrims to the Northland

The Archdiocese of St. Paul, 1840-1962

Marvin R. O'Connell

Publication Year: 2009

This is the first narrative history of the Archdiocese of St. Paul, from 1840 to 1962. Historian Marvin R. O'Connell brings to life the extraordinary labors and accomplishments of the French priests who came to the upper midwest territory during the first half of the nineteenth century. Over the next fifty years a flood of settlers, primarily Irish and German Catholics, filled up the land. In 1850 Rome created a new diocese centered in the village of St. Paul, and in 1851 French priest Joseph Cretin was named its first bishop. O'Connell's lively account stresses the social, economic, and political context in which the Catholic Church in Minnesota grew and evolved. He vividly illuminates the personalities of the bishops who followed Cretin, Thomas Grace (1859–84) and John Ireland (1884–1918). Ireland inherited a sophisticated system of churches, schools, orphanages, and hospitals, staffed by orders of religious men and women. Ireland built upon this legacy, founding colleges for men and women, a major seminary, and cathedrals in both St. Paul and Minneapolis. Ireland's successors, Austin Dowling (1919–30) and John Gregory Murray (1931–56) were not as colorful as Ireland, although Murray was immensely popular. William Brady is the final archbishop covered in this book, serving from 1956 to 1961 when he died unexpectedly from a heart attack. O’Connell ends his narrative In 1962, soon after the death of Archbishop Brady and a few months before the first session of Vatican II.

Published by: University of Notre Dame Press

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-xiii

MY REVERED MENTOR, THE EMINENT ENGLISH HISTORIAN, Monsignor Philip Hughes—dead now these forty years—had little patience for colleagues in the profession who purported to discern in historical data large themes of cosmic significance. He had in mind savants like Oswald Spengler, who promoted a deterministic theory of the cyclical rise and decline of civilizations; and ...

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Chapter 1: Sky-Tinted Waters

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pp. 1-20

“CONTINUING TO ASCEND THIS RIVER ten or twelve leagues more, the navigation is interrupted by a cataract which I called the Falls of St. Anthony of Padua, in gratitude for the favors done me by the Almighty through the intercession of that great saint, whom we had chosen patron and protector of all our enterprises. This cataract is forty or fifty feet high, divided ...

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Chapter 2: From Pig’s Eye to Saint Paul

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pp. 21-48

LUCIEN GALTIER, A SLENDER, DARK-EYED MAN OF TWENTY-NINE, had been ordained priest only a few months before his arrival at Fort Snelling at the end of April 1840. Recruited as a subdeacon in France by the newly appointed bishop of Dubuque, Mathias Loras, Galtier had spent his first year in the United States at a seminary in Maryland, completing his theological ...

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Chapter 3: “An Exile in Frozen Lands”

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pp. 49-70

“ON THE DAY OF THE FEAST OF THE VISITATION OF THE BLESSED Virgin Mary, July 2, 1851, I had the long expected and desired visit of the Right Reverend Bishop, who arrived at St. Paul, accompanied by two priests and three seminarians. To describe the pleasure I felt at their arrival would be a difficult task. I had been for seven years without any brother priest, if I except ...

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Chapter 4: New Horizons

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pp. 71-109

SISTER FRANCIS JOSEPH AND HER COMPANIONS SPENT LITTLE time stargazing through the hole in the roof of their wretched abode. Within days of their arrival in St. Paul they had opened a little school for girls in the vestry of Galtier’s log chapel. A week later they welcomed the first boarding pupil in what would become the celebrated St. Joseph’s Academy. Martha ...

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Chapter 5: The Passing of the Torch

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pp. 110-132

BISHOP CRETIN DESCRIBED HIM AS "ONE OF OUR MOST RESPECTED citizens and an edifying member of our Catholic congregation,” and Auguste Larpenteur no doubt deserved such accolades. But he represented as well a melding together within the Catholic community in St. Paul of the old French Canadian strain, the recent Irish and German immigrants, and a newer, more ...

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Chapter 6: The Heart of the Matter

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pp. 133-160

THOMAS LANGDON GRACE SERVED AS BISHOP OF ST. PAUL FOR A quarter of a century. When he arrived in 1859 the diocese comprised the same awesome dimensions as before: Minnesota—a state now—and the Dakota Territory west to the Missouri River, 166,000 square miles in all. He had at his disposal twenty-seven priests, nine of them Benedictines who owed first allegiance ...

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Chapter 7: Politics and Pembina

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pp. 161-186

THOMAS LANGDON GRACE WAS IN THE FORTY-SIXTH YEAR OF HIS life when he arrived in St. Paul. He was a portly, round-faced man whose small-lensed spectacles lent him a permanently startled expression, to which, as the years passed, a corona of frizzled hair around a balding pate added a somewhat Pickwickian flavor to his appearance. His placid ...

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Chapter 8: The Ties That Bind

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pp. 187-216

WHEN BISHOP GRACE RETURNED FROM PEMBINA AT THE END of September 1861, he found literally on his doorstep John Ireland, who, thanks to the generosity of Joseph Cretin’s patrons in France, had completed his seminary education. The young deacon’s arrival from abroad a month earlier had caused little stir except among his immediate ...

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Chapter 9: Out of the Toils of War

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pp. 217-244

IN THE ELECTIONS HELD IN MINNESOTA IN 1859--THE YEAR Thomas Grace traveled up the Mississippi from Memphis—the young Republican Party swept the board. Alexander Ramsey, narrowly defeated two years before by Henry Sibley, assumed the governorship, while the two congressional seats and the senatorial one, vacated by the mercurial General ...

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Chapter 10: Rhetoric and Crusade

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pp. 245-266

JUST AFTER THOMAS GRACE RETURNED TO ST. PAUL FROM ROME in June of 1875, he greeted a large and enthusiastic welcoming delegation from the porch of his residence, and, in the course of an otherwise rambling speech, he said: ...

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Chapter 11: The Beckoning of the Land

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pp. 267-290

IT IS A COMMONPLACE TO OBSERVE THAT THE SURRENDER OF General Lee at Appomattox and the consequent collapse of the southern cotton empire marked the beginning of an unprecedented industrial and commercial expansion across the North and West of the United States. Painful and dubiously successful Reconstruction in places like Mississippi and ...

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Chapter 12: Manifest Destiny

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pp. 291-312

THOMAS GRACE’S RETIREMENT AS BISHOP OF ST. PAUL OCCURRED at a conventionally appropriate juncture of events: in age he had attained the biblical three score years and ten, and he had served faithfully for a quarter of a century in a charge he had originally tried to evade. But his timing also reflected the bishop’s characteristic tact and his consideration for his successor. ...

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Chapter 13: The Little Red Schoolhouse

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pp. 313-337

NO PROBLEM SO VEXED JOHN IRELAND AND HIS ALLIES WHO sought to promote the rapid Americanization of the Catholic immigrants as did the status of the grammar school within a local and national context. Involved were so many threads of competing interest all tangled together—financial, legal, confessional. Out of the early days of the Republic had ...

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Chapter 14: Molding an Elite

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pp. 338-365

UPON DEPARTING ROME AFTER HAVING SUCCEEDED IN GAINING papal approval for the Faribault plan, John Ireland had traveled at a leisurely pace through his beloved France and then on to Ireland. When he arrived in St. Paul in July 1892, he had been gone from Minnesota for nearly six months. In a celebrated malapropism, an ardent admirer used to describe the archbishop as “an international ...

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Chapter 15: The End of an Era

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pp. 366-387

... Toward the end of his life John Ireland, like most old men, increasingly turned his thoughts to the past. He published appreciations of Bishops Loras and Cretin and had hoped to do the same for Bishop Grace. He founded the Catholic Historical Society of St. Paul, and in 1907 he launched its journal, Acta et Dicta, whose purpose it was to preserve in print what had happened ...

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Chapter 16: The Travails of Austin Dowling

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pp. 388-417

... In fact the appointment was as much a surprise to the new archbishop as it was to those who had expected a “big and progressive” man—“I’m dismayed at having to succeed so great a personage,” Dowling confessed.2 So dismayed, in fact, that the palpitations of his heart led him to hurry off to Chicago and consult a celebrated cardiologist. After a thorough examination the doctor said, “That heart can work ten years longer.” Never a robust man—as ...

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Chapter 17: Americanism Redivivus

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pp. 418-439

THE DECADE DURING WHICH AUSTIN DOWLING PRESIDED OVER the archdiocese of St. Paul has been labeled the Roaring Twenties, the Jazz Age, the era of the “flappers.” Fashionable women shortened the hemlines of their dresses, and fashionable men applied lots of oil to their hair. On formal occasions—and even on some less formal—everyone wore a hat or, in the ...

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Chapter 18: Prayer and People

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pp. 440-467

ALL POLITICS, THE CONVENTIONAL WISDOM HAS IT, IS LOCAL. And so in the last analysis is the mission of the Catholic Church. The local school or hospital, and particularly the local parish, provides the venue wherein the baptized man and woman work out their vocation. While he recognized the truth of this adage, Austin Dowling often found the fact narrow and constraining. ...

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Chapter 19: Mea Omnia Tua

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pp. 468-491

ON THE DAY AFTER NEW YEAR'S 1932, THE BISHOP OF PORTLAND, Maine, took pen in hand. “My dear Monsignor Byrne,” he wrote, “as soon as my bulls came, I renewed an invitation I had given to the Apostolic Delegate personally in Washington in November to come to St. Paul to preside at the ceremony. His answer came only yesterday, stating that His Excellency would ...

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Chapter 20: Hard Times

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pp. 492-518

W. H. AUDEN CALLED IT "A LOW, DISHONEST DECADE." WHAT THE poet had in mind were the machinations of European politicians—some of them malevolent, some merely weak and indecisive—that led to the cataclysm of the Second World War. The poem was titled “September 1, 1939,” commemorative of the day German panzers crossed the Polish frontier. For Americans, enclosed and, it was taken ...

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Chapter 21: In Defense of Jews and Public Decency

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pp. 519-540

DURING THE EARLY YEARS OF JOHN GREGORY MURRAY'S episcopate in St. Paul, as economic circumstances grew ever more straitened and, in many cases, more desperate, the Catholic people, like Americans generally, took what consolation they could from events in the greater world outside. In the spring of 1933, for example, Pope Pius XI told a group of priests ...

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Chapter 22: A People Set Apart

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pp. 541-563

CATHOLICS IN MINNESOTA DURING THE 1930S TOOK LITTLE interest in the higher reaches of ecclesiastical politics; whomever the Holy Father decided to send to New York was perfectly agreeable to them, but the matter did not really concern them. Even their own bishop was a somewhat remote, august figure. Their commitment to their faith, and their practice of ...

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Chapter 23: War and Revival

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pp. 564-585

IN THE LATE SUMMER OF 1939, AS EUROPE MOVED INEXORABLY toward war, Pope Pius XII issued an appeal for further negotiations among the quarreling nations, much as his predecessor, Benedict XV, had done in 1914. That neither succeeded does not distract from the nobility of their efforts. And there was also, according to one observer, a hint of the romantic in Pius’s attempt, or so Catholics in the archdiocese of St. Paul were informed on ...

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Chapter 24: The End of the Counter-Reformation

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pp. 586-615

ARCHBISHOP JOHN GREGORY MURRAY WAS ABLE TO PARTICIPATE more or less fully in the centenary festivities of the summer and autumn of 1950. For some lengthy time before then, however, his activities were limited.1 At about nine o’clock on the evening of March 31, 1947, returning to his rooms in the cathedral rectory from a meeting of the Board of Trustees at the College ...


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pp. 616-642

E-ISBN-13: 9780268088583
E-ISBN-10: 0268088586
Print-ISBN-13: 9780268037291
Print-ISBN-10: 0268037299

Page Count: 688
Illustrations: Images removed; no digital rights.
Publication Year: 2009