The Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis has a rich history with roots reaching back as far as the early Catholic missions to Minnesota in the 1840s. Established as a diocese in 1850 (originally Minnesota and the Dakotas), the Holy See elevated it to an archdiocese in 1888. Its current boundaries encompassing the greater 12 county metropolitan area were defined in 1957; in 1966 it was renamed as the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis. The archdiocese is now home to approximately 825,000 Catholics. Currently, more than 400 priests, nearly 200 deacons, as well as hundreds of religious sisters and brothers, and tens of thousands of lay personnel and volunteers serve in 187 parishes, nearly 90 Catholic schools and in many other ministries within the archdiocese.

In 1840, the Bishop of Dubuque sends Father Lucien Galtier to minister to French Canadians recently settled in Pig’s Eye, a community that would eventually become Saint Paul. Volunteers assist with the building of a modest log cabin chapel, and the construction is completed within a few days.

In July, a papal decree establishes the Diocese of Saint Paul, encompassing the Catholic population north of Iowa, including Minnesota and the Dakotas from Lake Superior to the Missouri River – at the time, about 3,000 people. Bishop Joseph Cretin is named the first bishop.

Father Galtier

Saint Joseph’s Academy for Girls

Bishop Joseph Cretin travels to Carondelet, Missouri to request that the Sisters of St. Joseph come to the new diocese. Four sisters arrive by steamboat in November and quickly establish schools for local children, a home for orphans, an Indian mission, and a hospital.

John Ireland (1838-1918) becomes the Bishop of Saint Paul on July 31, 1884. Known as an eloquent speaker and for his positions on immigration and temperance, Ireland was also instrumental in the founding of the United States Catholic Historical Society.

On May 4, the Diocese of Saint Paul is elevated to Archdiocese, and John Ireland is appointed its first Archbishop. At this time, the Catholic population is about 130,000, and there are 195 church buildings, 147 priests, and six men’s and 14 women’s religious communities, as well as hospitals, schools, and homes for the needy within the archdiocesan boundaries.

The Saint Paul Seminary is dedicated.

In June 1907, the cornerstone for the current Cathedral of Saint Paul building is laid, following the elaborate plans of French architect Emmanuel Louis Masqueray. The following May, construction also begins on the Pro-Cathedral of Mary, Mother of God, now called the Basilica of St. Mary in Minneapolis. The Cathedral of Saint Paul is dedicated in April 1915, although construction is not yet completed.

The Pro-Cathedral was raised to the rank of a minor Basilica by Pope Pius XI. It was the first basilica to be designated in the nation and its name became the Basilica of Saint Mary of Minneapolis.

The Ninth National Eucharistic Congress is held in the Twin Cities under the sponsorship of Archbishop Murray. Clergy, religious and laity from all over the United States, Canada and Mexico participate and more than 100,000 people attended the final procession, despite pouring rain. An emblem designed for the Congress is sold as a souvenir for 50 cents, and the proceeds represent 75% of all financial support earned for the Congress.

Meanwhile, with the United States entering into World War II, each diocese in the nation is asked to release up to 10 percent of its priests for service as chaplains. Over 50 from the archdiocese are accepted; most serve overseas and some are wounded, but all survive.

The Vatican grants official recognition of our patron saints: Saint Paul as our primary patron and Saint John Vianney as our secondary patron.

Cathedral construction

Archbishop Leo Binz

In 1962, Leo Binz is appointed Archbishop of Saint Paul, and he attends the Second Vatican Council in Rome. The Catholic Interracial Council of the Twin Cities is formed in 1965 to assist minority students in local Catholic high schools.

Pope Paul VI issues a decree changing the name of the archdiocese to the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis and elevating the Basilica to a co-cathedral.

The Commission on Women is established as an Advisory Committee. This is the first diocese to have such a group. It was elevated to a Commission in August 1980. The Commission was disbanded in January 2008 but its work continues through the Archdiocesan Council of Catholic Women and the Office of Marriage, Family and Life.

Catholic Charities programs at 30 different sites within the boundaries of the archdiocese serve people who are homeless, recent immigrants, elderly residents, individuals with AIDS, and children from troubled families. Catholic Charities began serving the poorest and most vulnerable members of our community in 1869; the independent non-profit organization continues to serve more than 30,000 of our neighbors every year. In addition, chaplains minister to those in local hospitals and prisons, and many other Catholic ministry groups assist in helping those in need throughout our community.

A Global Solidarity Partnership begins with the Diocese of Kitui, Kenya.

The Cathedral of Saint Paul designated a national shrine of the Apostle Saint Paul.

In October, the Archdiocese announces its strategic plan, establishing a framework for greater accountability, ongoing evaluation, improved transparency and more collaboration. As part of the plan, parish mergers and cluster arrangements are announced.

Father Thomas with prison inmate

In late 2012, the Archdiocese launches the Rediscover: evangelization and catechesis initiative, calling Catholics “to rediscover the depth and beauty of our Catholic faith,” through online resources, community events, and shared experiences which complement the work being done by parishes, Catholic schools and other ministry organizations within the archdiocese. Attendance tops 15,000 for the Rediscover: Faith 2013 Speakers Series.

On October 12, the Archdiocese is consecrated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary at the first Rediscover: Catholic Celebration.

On December 13, the Holy Doors of the Cathedral and Basilica are opened and a papal blessing is given to mark the beginning of the Year of Mercy.