Parish History Print


1820: Fort Snelling established.
1840: Pierre “Pig’s Eye” Parrant settles in area of future St. Paul.
1841: Fr. Lucien Galtier blesses the chapel of St. Paul. Grateful residents prefer to call the settlement St. Paul rather than Pig’s Eye.
1849: Territory of Minnesota established with St. Paul as capitol.
1850: Total population of Minnesota territory – 6,077.
1850: Diocese of St. Paul established. Joseph Cretin is named first bishop.
1857: Total population of Minnesota territory – 150,000.
1858: Minnesota becomes a state.
1860: St. Paul makes chart of top 100 cities in the U.S., 89th, with population of 10,401. Minneapolis hovers around 3,000. Two Catholic churches in St. Paul (Cathedral, Assumption) and two in Minneapolis (St. Anthony, St. Boniface).
1870: St. Paul has grown to 20,030 (71st largest city in U.S.) and Minneapolis to 13,000. St. Paul had three more parishes (St. Mary, St. Louis, St. Michael) and Minneapolis two more (St. Mary, St. Joseph).
1880: St. Paul climbs to 45th largest city in U.S. with population of 41,473 with addition of St. Stanislaus, St. Joseph and St. Adalbert. Minneapolis passes the See city, becoming the 38th largest city in our country at 46,887.
1883: St. Francis de Sales founded for German settlers west of downtown, 11th Catholic parish in St. Paul (7 parishes in Minneapolis and 138 out-state). Fr. John Stariha is the first pastor.
1884: St. Francis de Sales church is dedicated, August 31. It is a wood frame building with the central area 100 feet long and 50 feet wide. It is constructed at a cost of $13,000 on land donated by Frank Poppler, a German stonemason who lived on Cliff Street.
1884: St. Francis School opens September 9th with 134 students. The three teachers, School Sisters of Notre Dame (SSND) from Milwaukee, live in the school until a convent is completed in 1886.
1887: St. James established for settlers west of downtown St. Paul, particularly the Irish, along Fort Road all the way to Fort Snelling. It is the 14th parish in St. Paul (10 parishes in Minneapolis and 150 out-state). Initial boundaries are Western Avenue on the east, Grand Avenue on the north, and the Mississippi River on the west and south. Fr. John Conway is the first pastor.
1888: St. Paul becomes an archdiocese. The next year (1889) five new dioceses (Sioux Falls, St. Cloud, Duluth, Fargo, and Winona) are established within the territory formerly within the territory of the Diocese of St. Paul.
1888: First Mass said in St. James, August 28. First parish fair nets $2,500 (the equivalent of $47,000 in 2003 dollars).
1889: Six classrooms added to St. Francis School.
1889: Fr. Conway leaves St. James to become editor of the Northwest Chronicle, forerunner of the Catholic Spirit. His immediate successors are Fr. James Fitzpatrick (1889-1898) and Fr. William Colbert (1898-1901).
1890: St. Paul is now the 23rd largest city in the country with a population of 133,156. As for Minneapolis…well, our neighboring city had grown to 164,738.
1890: The “St. Francis German Casino”, the oldest existing Catholic men’s group in the archdiocese, is founded to encourage men in their faith and to support the work of the parish…two goals today’s Casinos continue with strength. “Casino”, by the way, doesn’t refer to gambling but to a gathering for men.
1901: Fr. Jeremiah O’Connor is named pastor of St. James. Until his death in 1936, he will dedicate himself to the parish.
1902: Fr. Francis Bajec comes as pastor of St. Francis, replacing Fr. Stariha who is named Bishop of Lead, South Dakota.
1913: St. James School opens it’s doors with classes taught by the Sisters of St. Joseph. This is the front section of the existing school building.
1923: The newer section of St. James School with bowling alley and adjoining rectory are completed.
1931: Fr. Bajec, pastor of St. Francis since 1902, dies. Fr. James, later Monsignor, Zachman is named his successor. He will continue here as pastor until his death in 1962.
1932: Fr. Zachman founds societies…St. Francis Altar and Rosary Society, St. Vincent de Paul Society, St. Theresa Sodality, and Holy Name Society.
1934: St. Francis celebrates its golden anniversary. The parish has over 3,500 members…those were big families in those days.
1936: Fr. Jeremiah O’Connor, pastor of St. James since 1901, dies. He brought the parish out of debt, built the school and rectory, and even set aside $50,000 toward the new church. Fr. William Cashman is his successor. He will remain at St. James until 1959.
1937: The new, and currently existing, school at St. Francis opens. It includes a six-lane bowling center which is still functioning.
1938: The new church of St. James is built.
1950: The St. Francis convent, still in use by the School Sisters of Notre Dame, is built.
1959: The new St. Francis church, office, and rectory are completed.
1959: Fr. Francis Welch replaces Fr. William Cashman as pastor of St. James. He will remain here as pastor until 1967 to be followed by Fr. Brian Keany (1967-71), Fr. Eugene Clemens (1971-77), Bishop Paul Dudley (1977-1978), Fr. William Hennen (1979-86), Fr. Gilbert Endres (1986-93), and Fr. John Mitchell (1993-97).
1962: Msgr. James Zachman, pastor of St. Francis since 1931, dies. Fr. Nick Gillen follows him as pastor from 1963 to 1966 and Fr. Walter Peters from 1966 to 1967.
1967: Fr. George Eischens is named pastor of St. Francis de Sales.
1978: Fr. Karl Wittman replaces Fr. Eischens as pastor at St. Francis de Sales. He will continue as pastor until his retirement in 1996.
1996: Fr. James Burns, born and raised in St. Francis de Sales parish, in named pastor there. The following year he is also named pastor at St. James, the first time the two parishes have shared the same pastor.
1999: Fr. Denny Dempsey replaces Fr. Burns as pastor of St. Francis de Sales and St. James.
2001: The Hispanic Community formerly centered at St. Therese Parish moves to St. James and St. Francis. Weekly Masses in Spanish begin.
2004: Father Denny Dempsey reassigned to Northfield, MN.  Sister Margaret McGuirk, OP is named Parish Life Administrator of St. Francis-St. James parishes.
2005: Father Anthony VanderLoop assigned as Parochial Vicar of the parishes.
2006: Father Miguel Betancourt, Father Alberto Curbelo and Father David Mendez, Servants of the Holy Eucharist of the Blessed Virgin Mary, arrive from Puerto Rico. Father Miguel Betancourt is installed as Pastor of St. Francis-St. James Churches.

January 1 - Two parishes in the West 7th neighborhood of St. Paul, St. Francis de Sales and St. James, merge to become one parish, St. Francis de Sales of St. Paul.

St. Francis de Sales was founded for German settlers living west of downtown St. Paul in 1883, becoming the 11th Catholic parish in St. Paul. St. James was established in 1887 for settlers living west of downtown St. Paul, particularly the Irish immigrants living along Fort Road all the way to Fort Snelling, becoming the 14th Catholic parish in St. Paul with initial boundaries of Western Avenue on the east, Grand Avenue on the north, and the Mississippi River on the west and south.

To understand the merger more fully, St. Francis de Sales was a national parish, while St. James was a territorial parish with boundaries as noted earlier. A national parish has no territorial boundaries and is situated within the boundaries of the territorial parish. By canonical law (the rules that govern how the Church operates), the territorial parish must be the receiving parish. Therefore, the decision regarding which parish is receiving and which is merged was a matter of following the canonical laws governing mergers.

In order to preserve the history and tradition of the national parish of St. Francis de Sales, Most Reverend John C. Nienstedt, Archbishop of The Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, transferred the German national character of St. Francis to St. James and also changed the name of the parish to The Church of St. Francis de Sales of St. Paul.

Parishioners of both parishes have been preparing for this merger for several years. We look forward to continuing to serve the West 7th community as one parish.