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Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church, Minneapolis

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Color image of Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church in Minneapolis, May 10, 2012

Exterior of Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church in Minneapolis, May 10, 2012. Photograph by Wikimedia user AlexiusHoratius.

Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church in the St. Anthony Falls area of Minneapolis is the oldest continuously used church building in the city. It was a source of ethnic pride for immigrant families from France after its founding in 1877. In 2017, it is a restored and renovated country-Gothic (Gothic Revival and French Provincial) structure that looks like a medieval temple of faith.

The first part of the church that became Our Lady of Lourdes was built between 1854 and1857 by the First Universalist Society in the Village of St. Anthony at a cost of more than $15,000. It was made of native limestone and modeled after a Greek temple, rectangular in shape. At the time, it was considered to be the finest church building in Minnesota.

French Canadian settler-colonists in the St. Anthony area had wanted to found a new parish that would offer religious instruction in French. Many neighborhoods in the area already had churches that reflected the nationalities of their residents. The French Canadians had previously worshipped at St. Anthony of Padua, the original French parish in St. Anthony.

Pope Pius IX agreed to appoint Father John Ireland Bishop coadjutor bishop of St. Paul in 1875. Thomas Grace, the bishop of St. Paul, received news of the appointment while visiting Lourdes, France. To show his gratitude, Bishop Grace vowed to place the next church dedicated in his diocese under the protection of Our Lady of Lourdes.

On July 24, 1877, the new corporation of Our Lady of Lourdes, which included priests and representatives of the French Canadian population, bought the First Universalist Society's building for $5,000. It became one of the first churches in the United States named in honor of Our Lady of Lourdes, also known as Notre Dame de Lourdes. The first Mass was celebrated on July 29th, 1877, by Rev. Pascal U. Brunel, the church’s first pastor.

In February of 1880, the congregation agreed to update the original structure to accommodate the large number of French Canadian parishioners. The subsequent renovations included putting in an addition, building a pastor's residence, changing the roof by adding a transept and apse, adding a steeple, and purchasing a 2000-pound bell. The total cost was about $12,645.

As a result of these changes, Our Lady of Lourdes doubled its seating capacity and gained a large-enough sanctuary. On the exterior, it was a narrower, small country-Gothic structure that resembled a medieval temple of faith. The parish became a source of ethnic pride for new immigrant families from France.

In 1888, the site for Our Lady of Lourdes School, a few blocks from the Church, was acquired for $4,000. The school was staffed by the Grey Nuns of the Cross from 1888–1906. In 1906, the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet were placed in charge of the school.

The decades between 1880 and 1900 were a time of growth for the parish, and the number of registered families rose to 400. In 1917, the Marist Fathers, at the request of Archbishop Ireland, took charge of the Parish of Our Lady of Lourdes. In 1934, Our Lady of Lourdes was designated as a United States Historic Landmark, protecting the Church's future in the growing St. Anthony Falls area of Minneapolis.

In 1968, due to the church's poor physical condition and the steady decline of registered families, the building was scheduled for closure by the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. The Minneapolis City Council persuaded Archbishop Binz and Coadjutor Bishop Byrne to keep the Church open until the area around it could be developed. (The Riverplace complex and several businesses in the St. Anthony Main area opened in the mid-1980s.)

A renovation of the church's interior and exterior, completed in 1997, restored the beauty, strength, and splendor that the original architects had envisioned. Inside the church are two statues of the Blessed Virgin appearing to St. Bernadette at Lourdes; the interior also features painting and carpeting that highlights the modern Catholic liturgy, but also incorporates classical French designs.

By the beginning of the twenty-first century, the number of registered families at the parish grew to around 600. In 2017, Our Lady of Lourdes celebrated its 140th anniversary as the "Little French Church with a Big Heart!"

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© Minnesota Historical Society
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Commemorating the Seventy-Fifth Anniversary of the Establishment of Our Lady of Lourdes Parish. Minneapolis, Minnesota, 1877–1952. Robbinsdale: Post Publishing, 1952.

Hazel, Robert. Notre Dame de Minneapolis: The French-Canadian Catholics. New Hope, MN: Post Publishing, 1977.
http://ourladyoflourdesmn.com/parish/history

Rasmussen, Robert C. "Seven Great Old Churches of Minneapolis." Hennepin History 63, no. 1 (Winter 2004): 4–23.

Reardon, James Michael. "Our Lady of Lourdes Parish, Diamond Jubilee Sermon." [Sermon delivered on the seventy-fifth anniversary of the parish in Minneapolis, Minnesota, delivered on December 21, 1952.] Gale Family Library, Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul.

Weber, Nicholas A. A Short History of the French Catholic Congregation of East Minneapolis in Minnesota (1849–1949). Minneapolis: Lund Press, 1949.

Related Images

Color image of Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church in Minneapolis, May 10, 2012
Color image of Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church in Minneapolis, May 10, 2012
Black and white photograph of St. Anthony looking across Nicollet Island at Winslow House, right, and Universalist Church, left, ca. 1860.
Black and white photograph of St. Anthony looking across Nicollet Island at Winslow House, right, and Universalist Church, left, ca. 1860.
Black and white photograph of Our Lady of Lourdes Church, 27 Prince Street, Minneapolis, 1936. Photograph by A. F. Raymond.
Black and white photograph of Our Lady of Lourdes Church, 27 Prince Street, Minneapolis, 1936. Photograph by A. F. Raymond.
Water color painting of Our Lady of Lourdes Church, 27 Prince Street, Minneapolis, 1948.
Water color painting of Our Lady of Lourdes Church, 27 Prince Street, Minneapolis, 1948.
Black and white photograph of Our Lady of Lourdes Church, 27 Prince Street, Minneapolis, 1948.
Black and white photograph of Our Lady of Lourdes Church, 27 Prince Street, Minneapolis, 1948.
Black and white photograph of the Pastoral residence, Church of Our Lady of Lourdes, 21 Prince Street Southeast, Minneapolis, ca. 1915.
Black and white photograph of the Pastoral residence, Church of Our Lady of Lourdes, 21 Prince Street Southeast, Minneapolis, ca. 1915.
Our Lady of Lourdes Parish School [undated]
Our Lady of Lourdes Parish School [undated]
Color image of the Interior of Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church, 27 Prince Street, Minneapolis. Photograph by Wikimedia user Jonathunder, March 1, 2015.
Color image of the Interior of Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church, 27 Prince Street, Minneapolis. Photograph by Wikimedia user Jonathunder, March 1, 2015.
Color image of Sculptures of the Virgin Mary (at left) and Saint Bernadette (Bernadette Soubirous, at right). Interior of Our Lady of Lourdes Church, 27 Prince Street, Minneapolis, 2017. Photograph by Courtney Gregar.
Color image of Sculptures of the Virgin Mary (at left) and Saint Bernadette (Bernadette Soubirous, at right). Interior of Our Lady of Lourdes Church, 27 Prince Street, Minneapolis, 2017. Photograph by Courtney Gregar.

Turning Point

In February of 1880, the congregation updates the original structure of the church by putting in an addition, adding a pastor's residence, changing the roof, installing a steeple, and purchasing a bell—all at a cost of around $12,000.

Chronology

1858

The Universalist Church is completed in St. Anthony Falls in Hennepin County.

1877

Four priests and representatives of the French Canadian population decide to purchase the Universalist Church at the price of $5,000.

1880s

The congregation chooses to renovate the facility, adding a pastor's residence, improving the roof, and adding a steeple and a bell.

1888

The site for Our Lady of Lourdes School is acquired for $4,000.

1906

The Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet are placed in charge of the school.

1917

Marist Fathers, at the request of Archbishop Ireland, take charge of the Parish of Our Lady of Lourdes.

1927

The chaplaincy of the Christian Brothers at De La Salle High School is entrusted to the Marist Fathers of Our Lady of Lourdes Church.

1934

Our Lady of Lourdes parish is designated as a U.S. Historic Landmark.

1968

Due to poor physical condition and membership decline, Our Lady of Lourdes is scheduled for closing.

1976

A plaque is dedicated by the Minneapolis Bicentennial Commission to commemorate early French explorers and immigrants to Minnesota and placed on a large stone in front of the Church.

1977

A local stained glass company repairs the original stained glass windows that were installed in the late 1890s and early 1900s.

1980

The interior of the church is restored to a design that matches the vision of the parish founders and their architects.

1995

Several exterior projects are completed, including masonry tuckpointing, trim painting, and a restoration of the Blessed Virgin's grotto above the front entrance to the Church.

ca. 2000

The number of families registered at the parish reaches 600.

2017

Our Lady of Lourdes celebrates its 140th anniversary as the "Little French Church with a Big Heart!"