Reflections on Fr. Galtier and the Founding of our Parish

Writing as I am on Tuesday in order to beat the bulletin printing deadline, I am unable to comment on the Clergy Study Day that will have taken place at St. Peter’s on Wednesday. Almost 260 priests are expected to come to our parish for the meeting. The morning session is to feature Fr. Tad Pacholczyk of the National Catholic Bioethics Center speaking on “End of Life Issues and Principles of Cooperation.” The afternoon session is to be a panel discussion of archdiocesan officials and Archbishop Nienstedt speaking to us about the claims that proper procedures were not followed when certain accusations were made against priests. I do hope that by the time you read this, you will know the meeting was an informative and successful time. Our priests are, like most of you, very concerned about all of this. By the way, since someone just asked me about this number, I thought you might be interested to know that there are 235 active diocesan priests in this Archdiocese, 107 retired diocesan priests, 84 active religious order priests, and 28 “extern priests” who are from other places but are serving here. We have 214 permanent deacons as well, and the clergy study days include them, too.

Lest anyone think poorly of the people who work for the Archdiocese, I would like to point out something we are receiving for free. I have just returned from an evening meeting at which we took the first step toward developing a fresh pastoral plan for St. Peter’s Parish. The GROW Parish Pastoral Planning process is offered without cost to parishes that choose to participate. This evening I went with several members of our parish leadership and staff to a lengthy meeting. We received an astonishing analysis of our parish demographics, including maps that show the location of the homes of registered members. Other maps illustrate the age and the Catholicity of the general population in each census block in our area. We also received a detailed analysis of the financial information we sent about our parish (but not about our members!). The Archdiocese arranges for financial modeling in order to help us plan for the future, but those printed models illustrate the future as it probably would be if we do not do anything different. By developing and carrying out a pastoral plan, we can decide what we want to provide for all of you who already call this your parish home, and attract other people to St. Peter’s as well. I can see that we will need input from all of you regarding what you would like to see your parish provide for people. In the GROW process we will be conducting a survey of parishioners, but before that happens, I would like to see if there are a few people who are not on the Parish Pastoral Council or the Finance Council or the Stewardship Committee who would like to attend the remaining two sessions of the GROW process. You would be joining the seven of us who went this week at the meetings on the evening of Tuesday, February 4, and from 8:30 to 3:30 on Saturday, March 29. Please give me a call at 905-4305 if you would like to join us for these important planning sessions!

I would like to remind you that I will be away Wednesday through Friday, November 6-8. Some other priests will be here to celebrate the morning Masses, of course. I will be back in time for Mass on Saturday.

Last year someone dropped off for the parish a self-published biography of our founding pastor, Fr. Lucien Galtier. I regret that I do not recall who was kind enough to do such a thing, nor do I know anything about the author’s connection to this area. Lucien Galtier: Pioneer Priest was written by Marianne Luban. It is a little under 200 pages, but the author undertook such careful research that the book is packed with information about the mysterious man who is first in the list of our pastors here. He was born in France in 1811 or 1812, and was studying in the seminary in Rodez when he must have been persuaded to come to the United States by the new bishop of a new diocese in a new territory. Mathias Loras had become the Bishop of Dubuque in Iowa Territory, and in 1838 he arrived in New York on a ship named Lion with two priests and four subdeacons (seminarians who were ordained subdeacons would go on to be ordained deacons and then priests). The future Bishop Joseph Cretin (the first Bishop of St. Paul) was one of the priests, and the future Fr. Galtier (our first pastor) and Fr. Ravoux (our second pastor) were two of the subdeacons. We can be grateful the ship arrived safely! The seminarians continued their studies at Mount St. Mary’s in Emmitsburg, Maryland, and Galtier was ordained in January 1840.

Bishop Loras had visited the northernmost limits of his new diocese in 1839, and discovered many Catholic families living where the St. Peter River (now called the Minnesota) empties into the Mississippi. That, of course, is the site of Mendota today. It was part of Iowa Territory then, and was across the river valley from Fort Snelling, which was in Wisconsin Territory. The new bishop knew that the people were quite without access to the sacraments, and so in the spring of 1840 he surprised Fr. Galtier by telling him that he needed to take the boat that very day from Dubuque to his new assignment hundreds of miles to the north. And so he went, arriving in Mendota with almost nothing and finding himself the pastor of the parish with no house or church. But it was St. Peter’s, the very parish in which we worship God today.

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