See marks 50 years as Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis

| Bob Zyskowski | October 7, 2016 | 0 Comments
The Cathedral of St. Paul in St. Paul, left, and the Basilica of St. Mary in Minneapolis. Dave Hrbacek/The Catholic Spirit

The Cathedral of St. Paul in St. Paul, left, and the Basilica of St. Mary in Minneapolis. Dave Hrbacek/The Catholic Spirit

Fifty years ago, the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis was simply the Archdiocese of St. Paul.

Until 1966, the official title of the Catholic Church in the Twin Cities and surrounding counties didn’t include Minneapolis even though the City of Lakes was larger in population than Minnesota’s capital.

Currying favor with the people of Minneapolis — Catholics and non-Catholics alike — was behind the name change, according to documents in the archdiocesan archives, and civic influence and Church finances had as much to do with the modification as did the sense that people in both cities and the suburbs saw the Twin Cities as a metropolitan area.

Archbishop Leo Binz pointed to population statistics in his 1966 request to the Vatican that Minneapolis be added to the archdiocese’s title, but by then a common sense of place had been in the air in the Twin Cities and suburbs in a host of other areas for some time.

Bishop Richard Pates, who served in Minneapolis as pastor at Our Lady of Peace and its predecessor parishes, St. Kevin and Resurrection, from 1987 to 1998 and is now the bishop of Des Moines, Iowa, said he believes “it was simply the archbishop’s desire to have the name reflect the reality of the Twin Cities.”

Both cities were relatively important in the region, Bishop Pates noted; they were already recognized as the “Twin Cities,” and, the Basilica of St. Mary, a co-cathedral, was in Minneapolis.

“Minneapolis is obviously an important civic and residential center,” said Bishop Pates, who also served the archdiocese as an auxiliary bishop, as rector of St. John Vianney College Seminary rector and as pastor of St. Ambrose in Woodbury.

“I believe its inclusion in the archdiocesan title reflects the reality, gives due recognition to Minneapolis and best describes the local Church,” Bishop Pates said.

An attempt to unite

Archbishop Binz’ predecessor, Archbishop William Brady, saw the need for the inclusion of Minneapolis in the name of the See as early as 1960, according to letters in the archdiocesan archives. He made the request to the Vatican to include Minneapolis in the title of the archdiocese in March of that year.

Archbishop Brady wrote that adding Minneapolis to the archdiocesan title would “be of great religious and civil value.

“Minneapolis deserves some recognition,” he noted. “It is possibly the largest city in the United States … without a bishop ordinary.”

The change “would result in a sense of pride for the Catholics of Minneapolis,” he wrote, “plus a better cooperation in archdiocesan works, since Minneapolis is jealous that St. Paul has the religious preference in everything.”

Uniting Catholics in both cities, which Archbishop Brady proposed, was an opportunity for the Church “to take the lead here and to demonstrate to the business, civic and community enterprises a form of unified action and leadership that will be applauded by all and raise the opinion of the Catholic Church in this community which is still strongly non-Catholic in places.”

Despite that rationale, the 1960 proposal was denied, likely because Archbishop Brady at the same time had proposed two other changes in the Church’s structure — that North Dakota and South Dakota be split off from the Province of St. Paul to form their own province, and that the bishop of Sioux Falls, South Dakota, become an archbishop and head of that proposed new Dakotas province.

Archbishop Egidio Vagnozzi, apostolic delegate to the United States at that time, explained in a letter to Archbishop Brady that his proposals were denied because the bishops of the Dakotas did not approve of the change.

But the idea to add Minneapolis to the name of the Archdiocese of St. Paul had staying power.

A new focus

The arrival of big-time sports teams that chose “Minnesota” to be in their names — rather than either Minneapolis or St. Paul — was “part of the dynamic of the times,” recalled Father William Kenney, a retired priest of the archdiocese who was ordained in 1956. He pointed out that both the Minnesota Twins and the Minnesota Vikings played their first seasons in 1961.

James Baumgaertner, a St. Paul native and graduate of its Catholic schools whose uncle, Msgr. William Baumgaertner, was rector of the St. Paul Seminary from 1968 to 1980, remembered that the rivalry between the Twin Cities began to abate a bit in the early 1960s.

Both the Twins and the Vikings played at Metropolitan Stadium in Bloomington, Baumgaertner said, “a little suburb that had the first real freeway, and that tied the two old cities together. So there was a new focus on Minneapolis and St. Paul as a metropolis rather than two separate cities,” he said.

Baumgaertner, an attorney in La Crosse, Wisconsin, brought up the fact that the early 1960s was also the time of the Ecumenical Council, and that racial integration was also a very hot topic.

“So I think there was a mood in the Church for embracing and sharing,” he said, “and I suspect some of that just naturally fell over to the archdiocese. From a practical point of view, I suspect there were some money issues as well, and perhaps the Minneapolis Catholic churches would be more willing to help pay for the archdiocese and the St. Paul Cathedral if their name was included in the archdiocese.”

Baumgaertner’s suspicion is right on target.

‘To foster the greater good of souls’

When Archbishop Binz wrote on June 13, 1966, to request the name change to include Minneapolis, he addressed the petition to Archbishop Vagnozzi, just as Archbishop Brady had.

In a four-page letter, Archbishop Binz listed reasons for the name change, reasons almost all of which had been crafted by Auxiliary Bishop Leonard Cowley.

“Reasons to honor Minneapolis grow stronger year by year,” Archbishop Binz wrote:

  • Programs are being discussed in both cities to solve common problems such as transportation, communication and sewage disposal. (The area-wide regional planning unit, the Metropolitan Council, was approved by the legislature one year later in 1967)
  • Citizens of the suburbs of both cities have few ties to either Minneapolis or St. Paul, and about one-third of the Catholics in the archdiocese live in the suburbs.
  • The Catholic population of the two cities is about equal, although there is a greater percentage of Catholics in St. Paul and its suburbs.
  • Catholic organizations are likely to utilize the newly built convention center in Minneapolis, and having a co-cathedral available there would be an asset.
  • The archdiocesan board of consultors has unanimously approved the idea of a name change as “good for religion.”

In his petition, Archbishop Binz credited Bishop Cowley — who at the time had lived in Minneapolis for eight years as pastor of the Basilica of St. Mary — as the writer of the following paragraph:

“As near and as close as St. Paul and Minneapolis are, there are many Catholics in Minneapolis who have never been in the Cathedral of St. Paul, and, therefore, have never witnessed the pontifical ceremonies for which the Cathedral of St. Paul is noted. Furthermore, many citizens of Minneapolis have not known their Ordinary, or much about him.”

Archbishop Binz also used another paragraph from Bishop Cowley’s memo suggesting that if the See’s name included Minneapolis, greater lay leadership would be forthcoming, particularly in response to requests for financial assistance.

However, Archbishop Binz did not use another paragraph from his auxiliary’s memo that relates to financial and personnel reasons for the name change. In that paragraph — again from the archdiocesan archives — Bishop Cowley wrote: “In my opinion the clergy who are stationed in Minneapolis rarely respond to appeals of the Ordinary for diocesan projects in proportion to the response of the brethren in the See city of St. Paul. It would seem that if the

Twin Cities were considered a single See area, the attitude of the Minneapolis clergy would change considerably. I think they would not consider themselves, or the appointments [to serve at Minneapolis parishes], as remote from the chancery in St. Paul as they now do.”

The petition Archbishop Binz sent June 13, 1966, received a relatively quick response.

On July 11, with the approval of Pope Paul VI, the Vatican’s Sacred Consistorial Congregation decreed that “to foster the greater good of souls” the petition was granted. The archdiocese would be known as the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, the archbishop would be the archbishop of St. Paul and Minneapolis, and the Basilica of St. Mary in Minneapolis would be elevated to the dignity of a co-cathedral.

The Latin-language decree was received at the archdiocesan chancery in September, and the name change was announced on the top of the front page of the Catholic Bulletin Oct. 14, 1966.

The story noted that there is not any plan “to separate the cities in the future” by establishing two dioceses. “On the contrary, it is evidence that the Church considers the Twin Cities and suburbs as a metropolitan unit,” it read.

A matter of order

That was a point Archbishop Binz added near the end of his request for the name change, writing that “there appears no sentiment whatsoever for dividing the Archdiocese,” and that if the petition was granted, publicity should be handled “as to avoid creating the impression that a future division is contemplated.”

Another point that Father Kenneth Pierre remembered was important to Archbishop Binz was the order of the cities’ names. Father Pierre was the archbishop’s priest secretary at the time. “[Archbishop] Binz wanted to retain St. Paul as the first city named in the new name,” Father Pierre recalled, “and he did that.”

The Basilica of St. Mary was dedicated as a co-cathedral on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, Dec. 8, 1966. A delegation from each parish in Minneapolis was invited to the Mass at which the Vatican’s edict was read.

The Basilica plans to observe the 50th anniversary of that event along with a wider celebration in 2017.

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