Before and After: All Saints FSSP Parish in Minneapolis

Photos: OC-Travel
On August 15, 1916, the Church of All Saints in Northeast Minneapolis came into being by decree of Archbishop John Ireland of the Diocese of St. Paul.  The parish was carved out for the Polish-speaking community in the historically Catholic neighborhood located on the upper banks of the mighty Mississippi River.  Two years later the parish dedicated their newly built combined church and school and put it to immediate use with an original enrollment of 323 students.  It took the parish twenty years before they were ready to build a proper church.   

In February, 1939, the new church of All Saints was completed amid great joy and festive celebration.  In spite of labor troubles and the difficult years of the Great Depression, construction was completed fortuitously on the eve of the Second World War.  Many sacrifices were made by a great many families to achieve this goal. The financial burden of the construction was a Herculean cost in those years.  All excessive costs were avoided.   No basement was built and the interior paint and decoration was not completed until after the war in 1946.  Meanwhile, one of the marvels of construction was the ultra modern heating and cooling "blower system" that was installed, something unusual at that time. 

The church was built in a unique Spanish style motif, a rare sight in the American Midwest.  The cornerstone was laid in 1938 by Archbishop John Gregory Murray.  The new church was so popular, the same architect was hired to design in the same style a nearby church, Holy Trinity in South St. Paul, Minnesota.

After All Saints school closed in 1969 the parish dwindled in numbers.  In 2013 there was new life when the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis invited the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter (FSSP) to take over, saving the property from closure and demolition. 

Unfortunately the original altar rail had been taken out during a 1984 renovation.  The rail was replaced in 2013 with a 1920s one that came from a nearby Catholic church that had been closed and converted into a mosque, the Church of St. John in East St. Paul, Minnesota.  Just this year the new altar rail was beautifully painted along with the side altars, now all matching with a beautiful faux marble surface.

The original Art Deco altar which can be seen in the first photo on the left had been made on site of plaster and was falling apart upon touch.  By God's grace, a fitting Romanesque replacement was spotted online and salvaged from a closed church in Pennsylvania.  The glove fit.  The beautiful Italian marbled altar was shipped in pieces to All Saints and reassembled and dedicated in 2014.  At the same time the interior of the church was painted, effectively covering the hideous paint job of 1975.

All Saints has long been well known for the sense of humor of the original builders.  They wanted gargoyles to be memorialized like those of Notre Dame in Paris, but didn't have photos.  Therefore the solution was to instruct the stone carver, a local artist by the name of Barney Cullen, to "carve any face you want and have fun."  Mr. Cullen created many strange and interesting faces, including the face of Joseph Stalin and his henchmen, glaring from a drooping mustache as well as the face of Frankenstein and the world-famous ventriloquist dummy named Charlie McCarthy - complete with his trademark monocle and smile, who in those years was a famous comic act with comedian Edgar Bergen.  

The animal images in the capitals of the sanctuary and exterior facade represent the sacrifices of the Old Testament that were burnt offerings such as bulls, rams and birds (cf. Lev. 1:3-17).  In the time of the Old Testament these were called "offerings of ascent."  Specifically, these offerings included bulls, sheep, goats, doves and pigeons.  These offerings were offered to God for general atonement for sin, reflected in the New Testament by the one sacrifice of Christ on the cross, represented on the altar in an un-bloody manner at Holy Mass.  Other gargoyles are seen inside the church above the exit, symbolic of the animal sacrifices of the Old Law, today abrogated.       

Finally, something must be said of the terrific priests and pastors who have guided All Saints.  They have done magnificent work and leave a lasting legacy.  The clergy still live in the original rectory, purchased in 1919.  In the inside vestibule of the church is a framed photo taken in 1961 of Fr. Francis J. Matz, dressed in red vestments in celebration of his Golden Jubilee of priesthood.  Fr. Matz was pastor for 50 years from 1916 - 1968 and many still remember him today and speak of his greatness.  May he pray for the parish community, a special patron for All Saints.

Mention must also be made of the wonderful Labor Mariae sisters who arrived in March 2019 to take over the vacant convent and help with the homeschool co-op.  The sisters have proved indispensable and a wonderful addition and immense benefit to parish life.  In 1951 work on the convent was completed, a residence for the Sisters of St. Francis (OSF, of the Province of Sylvania, Ohio) who served All Saints school as teachers from 1919-1969.  The last remaining sisters left in 2018.  The school was torn down in early 2019.  It is a great joy to see the convent re-populated with a flourishing, fresh, young, vibrant community of teaching sisters that is growing.   

And the future?  Plans for an adequate new parish center are in the works.  Further, the baptistry of the church is slated to be restored, having been converted into bathrooms in 1973.  The future holds great promise.  Let us rejoice and be glad.  As Minneapolis native and Internet evangelist Fr. Z says, "Brick by brick."  Indeed, this is a time of great hope and good things are happening.

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