Category Archives: Religion

Rose Ensemble Tours Minnesota

The twelve performers of the internationally renowned Rose Ensemble, based in St. Paul, have traveled the globe during their years of preserving and performing sacred and secular early music.  During this holiday season they will be sharing the riches of their voices and a thousand years of music with audiences throughout the state of Minnesota.

The music of the Ensemble brings to mind ancient chants, hymns, choral works and legends mingled with the Christmas story.  Spanning eight centuries, “Slavic Wonders” includes a 12-part Russian Orthodox motets written for Peter the Great’s Imperial Court Chapel Choir, powerful double-choir works from the Polish Renaissance, Czech-language medieval hymns and Ukrainian Christmas carols.

Their Minnesota schedule includes:

Friday, December 15, 7:30 p.m.        Mary of the Angels Chapel, 901 Franciscan Way, LaCrosse, WI  $25

Saturday, December 17, 8:00 p.m.     Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church, 12650                                                                  Johnny Cake Ridge Road, Apple Valley, MN  $25

Sunday, December 18, 7:30 p.m.       Sacred Heart Music Center, 201 West 4th Street,                                                                  Duluth, MN  $25/$10 students at the door

Thursday, December 22, 7:30 p.m.    Nativity of Our Lord Catholic Church, 1900 Wellesley, St. Paul $37, $27, $15

Friday, December 23, 8:00 p.m.        Basilica of Saint Mary, 88 North 17th Street, Minneapolis  $37, $27, $15



St. Nicholas Day – Learn, Celebrate and Share the Legend

Though in this country St. Nicholas Day, celebrated on December 6, generally gets short shrift, the feast, the stories and the traditions of St. Nicholas offer a sane alternative to rampant commercialism that prevails.  Whether legend or history, the stories that mark St. Nicholas and his Feast are filled with gentle care for children, a spirit of giving, even concern for young women in peril.

The saga of St. Nicholas has roots in the 4th Century when Nicholas was widely known as the Bishop of Myra, a See that is in modern-day Turkey.  Born a Greek into a wealthy Christian family in Asia Minor Nicholas was orphaned at an early age, reared by an uncle, and named to the bishopric before he was ordained (a detail soon remedied.)  He was known as a generous man who gave his substantial inheritance to the poor, the sick, orphans and other poor children.

Though stories of Nicholas abound, it is his generosity that is most honored in celebration of his Feast.  Catholicism, Eastern and Oriental Orthodoxy as well as Lutheranism and Anglicanism recognize the sainthood of Nicholas.  Legends of his good deeds, and their symbols, are legion, including these key stories:

v    Nicholas is often represented by various symbols of the dowry he offered to save impoverished young women from being sold into slavery because their father could not afford their dowry.  The story is that Nicholas tossed the dowry money through a window where it landed in stockings left to dry near the fire.  The three gold balls (sometimes usurped as symbols of the pawnbroker) are the most prevalent of the act, though gold coins, money bags and orange or apples also symbolize his largesse.

v    The children in the tub point to Nicholas as the protector and patron saint of children, based on the story of his rescuing young children from various perils, some of which have a distinctly sordid element.

v    Nicholas was also venerated for his protection of sailors and ships.  That relationship is depicted by the symbol of a ship or an anchor.

v    This is a stretch, but it is said that the candy cane is actually a symbol of Nicholas’ crozier, the hooked shepherd’s staff that recognizes the bishop’s care of the flock.

The common thread of Nicholas’ generosity is the element of secrecy.  Stories of the gifts and other acts of kindness invariably incorporate the theme that all of the sharing was anonymous with a heavy emphasis on the element of surprise heightened by the fact that the treats arrived under the cover of night.  Gratitude was to be expressed not to the human donor but to the heavenly giver of good deeds.

Today the lore of St. Nicholas is celebrated in Central Europe, a highly Catholic region; many of the customs continue throughout Europe and in several U.S. communities, including Northeast Minneapolis and other areas in the Twin Cities, where residents trace their roots to the Ukraine, Poland, Romania, Czechoslovakia and other Eastern European nations.  The Dutch of New Amsterdam carried the legend of St. Nicholas to the New World where the connection lives on in other American cities with significant German populations, such as Milwaukee, Cincinnati and St. Louis.  I

Throughout the world, families and institutions that hold with tradition, celebration of St. Nicholas Day on December 6 remains an honored custom.  By custom children set their shoes outside their bedroom doors on the evening of December 5.  If they have been good, they will find on the morning of St. Nicholas Day that their shoes have been filled with small gifts, candy, fruit and lots of love.

It was the influence of Clement Moore that transformed St. Nicholas into today’s Santa Claus.  From “jolly old St. Nick” to the stockings “hung by the chimney with care,” it is the legend of St. Nicholas that permeates “The Night Before Christmas”  — which henceforth assumed most of the traditions that historically typified St. Nicholas Day.

Lost in translation or with time and unfettered capitalism is the spirit of St. Nicholas, precursor of Santa Claus. December 6, an Advent feast, suggests that a dip into the legends of the season are well worth a bit of research and a few moments of reflection.  The stories add a meaningful – and delightful – aura to the holiday season.

Clipart by Gertrude Mueller Nelson

St Anthony of Padua High School – Northeast Minneapolis

A black and white picture of a class from St Anthony High School.(This article originally appeared in The Northeaster)

“Strong and strident women” is the memory that Carolyn Puccio has of her years at St. Anthony High School  Now a leader in the Sisters of St. Joseph Carondelet community, she is a proud graduate of St. Anthony which decades until it was closed in 1971.  At that time nearby DeLaSalle, operated by the Christian Brothers,  became a co-ed high school.

Unlike most of the Catholic high schools in the area St. Anthony High School was operated by the parish itself.  The original building still stands at 8th Street and 2nd Avenue Northeast where it houses one of the Catholic Eldercare sites. St Anthony High School was actually co-educational until DeLaSalle opened in 1900.

St. Anthony’s High School grew out of the parish of St. Anthony of Padua which was established in 1849.  In 1853 the Sisters of St. Joseph opened the school, which was known for a time as St. Mary’s Convent. The name change came when the school was merged with the parish school across the street some years later.  The new facility  which provided a home for the first church, the convent that housed the first parochial teachers in Minneapolis, continued to be known as St. Mary’s for many years. Though tuition was just fifty cents a month several of the young scholars were admitted free.  Receipts for 1854 were $197.58, with expenses at $203.70, leaving a deficit to begin the school year in 1855.  In his book Lighting New Fires, published by the National Catholic Educational Association, historian Michael Guera notes that “this item of information is of interest only to show how poorly and simply our predecessors lived, their wants were few and even those were supplied with difficulty; their spirit of self-sacrifice was great and their contentment in making sacrifices was still greater.

The first school had just five school rooms and a residence for the Sisters on the second floor. Sister Gregory LeMay, one of the original teachers, was the first Sister to receive the habit of the Sisters of St. Joseph in St. Paul. For most of its history St. Anthony was staffed almost entirely by the Sisters of St. Joseph.

St. Anthony, unlike most other high schools of the Sisters of St. Joseph, remained a parish-owned school.  Although the three year diploma offered at the high school for many years did not qualify students for college entrance, many students were admitted by taking entrance exams. At that time it was uncommon for young people to go to college, but most of the St. Anthony graduates did. In 1915 the building for St. Anthony’s High School was opened.  For decades it educated the young Catholic women of Northeast.

Graduates of St. Anthony of Padua High School have happy and amusing stories of their experience.  They agree that attendance at the school was “always a special advantage to families in the area.”  Graduates of St. Anthony of Padua elementary school were assured of admission to the high school.  They tell stories of threadbare blue jumpers  and blue oxfords commonly known as Happy Hikers, of playing basketball – and “usually losing” – against other Catholic girls’ schools in the Twin Cities, of dramatic productions in which boys from DeLaSalle were recruited to play the male roles.  1954 graduate Rose Vennewitz, now living in Fridley, remembers the experience of being checked out by the Sisters before going to the Prom.

One common memory is of the May processions to the Shrine of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, constructed in 1947 and still a on the grounds of St. Anthony of Padua church.

Though the school is closed the spirit remains as countless graduates of St. Anthony continue to lead the Northeast community.

Churches of Northeast Minneapolis

Recent closings and mergers of Catholic churches throughout the archdiocese have hit Northeast Minneapolis hard.  They have also raised awareness of and interest in the heritage of those and other churches in Northeast Minneapolis, some of which are not well known outside the neighborhood and the ethnic communities they have served so long.  In Fall 1998 historians Genny Zak Kieley, with assistance from Nancy Doerfler.  wrote a great article entitled “A Church on Every Corner” published in Hennepin History, publication of the Hennepin County Museum.  A quote from that article describes the essence of the piece “From a tracing of the history of the churches emerges the soul of Northeast Minneapolis.”

The churches included in the article include St. Anthony of Padua, Our Lady of Lourdes, St Boniface Catholic Church, Emmanuel Evangelical Lutheran Church, Elim Swedish Baptist Church, Holy Cross Catholic Church, Our Lady of Mount Carmel, St. Cyril’s Catholic Church, St Mary’s Orthodox Cathedral, St John the Baptist Church , St. Constantine Byzantine Rite Church, St. Maron’s Marinite CatholicChurch

The journal is not available online, but anyone interested in obtaining a back issue of Hennepin History may contact the Hennepin Museum directly at or find the original Fall 1998 issue of the journal at the library.  It’s a great and unique reflection of an historic community – which really does have a church on nearly every corner.   You might want to follow up with a walking tour – or follow the fabulous bazaars and other events these churches sponsor on a regular basis.