Tag Archives: Minnesota

Friends and Neighbors Celebrate Sisters’ “Quaquicentennial”

Unaccustomed as I am to being early for any occasion, this recognition of National Catholic Sisters Week (NCSW) begins early with a heartfelt celebration of the Sisters of St. Francis of Assisi of Little Falls, Minnesota. Today, March 1, 2016, the Sisters join with their neighbors and friends to celebrate their 125th year of serving the community in Little Falls, Morrison County and beyond.

First, a word about NCSW – it’s actually next week, March 8-14, 2016. Now in its third year NCSW is scheduled as a key component of National Women’s History Month. The intent is to honor women religious through a series of events that “instruct, enlighten and bring greater focus to the lives of these incredible women.” Learn more about NCSW at http://www.nationalcatholicsistersweek.org/about.php

For a glimpse at the work of today’s women religious there is no better example than the Franciscans celebrating in Little Falls today. These women have been a major part of my family for as long as I can remember (which is many decades) and many decades before that. My beloved aunt, Sister Mary Stephen Treacy was a Franciscan whom I remember best for her infectious laugh, for the chocolate milk she could always find for special guests, and as a legend in the community. Three of my cousins followed her lead – Sister Mary Leone Furnstahl, a teacher, died in 1998. Today Sister Therese Furnstahl and Sister Anne Furnstahl continue to serve a broadly defined community in myriad ways.

Today thoughts are with the Sisters and the countless people they have served for 125 years. I even learned a new word to describe the year–long celebration – this is the Franciscans’ “quaquicentennial.” The year is highlighted by two significant dates – today, March 1, is Founding Day, marking the 1891 date when sixteen women established the community in Belle Prairie, Minnesota. The other key date is October 4, the Feast of Saint Francis Assisi, patron of the community and namesake of Pope Francis, a fact that brings both pleasure and renewed inspiration to the Sisters.

Today the 129 members of the community serve in countless ministries including home health care, teaching, catechetical work, missionary work in South America and more. The Franciscan Center has also built a reputation for hospitality as it opens the doors to the community and visitors from afar. Neighbors gather at the Center regularly to socialize, exercise, worship, garden, to conduct the business of the community and to learn.   Conference attendees and other visitors find respite – not to mention great meals and a warm welcome — in the gracious setting.

Scholars visit the Franciscan Center on a regular basis to learn about the history of the community and the area preserved in the Franciscan archives and to reflect on the magnificent architecture of the Chapel and other historic buildings on the grounds.

Members of the public are welcome to join the Franciscans as they continue to celebrate their “quaquicentennial” throughout the year. Activities range from an Open House on Saturday July 9, featuring musicians from the St. Francis Music Center, to a tour and tractor or horse-drawn wagon tour, to a September 30 liturgical performance by David Haas, Marty Haugen and Michael Joncas.

The “Little Falls Franciscans” offer a glimpse and just one example of 21st Century women religious meeting the challenge of change with grit and grace!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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MNopedia – An Evolving Encyclopedia of All Things Minnesota

Charles Van Doren once observed that “Because the world is radically new, the ideal encyclopedia should be radical too.”  MNopedia, the digital encyclopedia of all things Minnesota – significant people, places, and events – deserves the “radical” appellation on several scores.

A production of the Minnesota Historical Society and funded by a Legacy Amendment Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund grant, MNopedia is a work-in-progress.

The call is out for Minnesota scholars, librarians, teachers, history buffs and people with good memories to critique the Beta version of the resource that is currently available online. The whole production process is interactive.  Readers are actually encouraged to let editors know what else they would like to know about the publication’s content and format.

The technology itself is a matter of public discussion.  For example, editors write that “the Minnesota Historical Society has chosen to put MNopedia content into a flexible, standards-based database that’s query-able via APL. As a result, MNopedia content eventually can be used beyond this browser-readable Web site – in mobile apps, audience- or situation-specific products, as a component in other Web projects, in print publications, and more, whether these products are created by the Minnesota Historical Society or by other individuals or entities.”  Radical, huh.

Discussing their timeline, editors indicate that they are now in an “expanding” phase where they will “continue building on what we’ve learned from users and expand MNopedia.  We’ll add new features and consider new ways to deliver content. We’ll also explore content partnerships with other organizations, find more experts to contribute, and integrate new articles.”

The initiative to find more experts and integrate new articles involves a call for input.  Editors maintain “that’s what ‘beta’ is all about, after all…testing, improving and expanding a small working model.”  The MNopedia team invites ideas on eras and topics to cover next, features to add, contributors and more.

Presently the eras covered in the MNopedia begin before European contact, i.e. pre-1585, and continue through the new global age, 1980-present.  Topics included are African Americans, Agriculture, American Indians, Architecture, The Arts, Business and Industry, Cities and Towns, Education, Environment, Health and Medicine, Immigration, Labor, Politics, Religion and Belief, Sports and Recreation, Technology, Transportation, War and Conflict, and Women.

Predictably, several of my arbitrary searches dead ended.  Others led me to great articles by serious scholars who write for readers who thirst for good information,well written and comprehensible to mere mortals.

A check of recently added articles led me to an article on the early history of the Minneapolis Waterworks, another on the Origins of the School Safety Patrol (first in the nation) and a very helpful piece on the Mennonites of Mountain Lake.  Each was concise, readable and full of stuff about which I had wondered but never known.

Though “radical” may an overstatement – and politically problematic –  MNopedia is definitely not your grandparent’s encyclopedia.

 

 

Harvest the Ideas Whilst You Can!

Though I’m more than a little irritated at Michelle Bachmann’s bad-mouthing our climate in her vote-getting tour of Florida, her real omission was to fail to mention that Spring and Autumn are the activity seasons in Minnesota. She also omitted the fact  that we are also among the most creative folks she might have never known.  In autumn, theaters burst forth, art crawls are ubiquitous, writers share their works in bookstores, libraries and a rich array of venues –  I understand the Vikings even re-enter the scene.

We are stressed by the fact that we can’t get to every meeting, ethnic festival, art crawl, museum exhibit, reading group and more!

The flip side of this is that Fall and Spring are the best times to explore the possibilities.  On any given day during the Fall, the state resounds with ideas.  Lots to think about during the winter months to come.  It’s a fine time to store up fresh thoughts that just may germinate – who knows when the fertile homebound environment will nurture a thought that will bear great fruit.

So, take in every festival you can get to, store thoughts and memories, plant them and wait for them to flourish in Spring 2012.  We had a really bad winter last year – it’s got us all thinking about Florida, Arizona, depression and other escapes.  Not so if you harvest the brilliance of the Autumn of 2011 and, as with those root vegetables and apples, nibble on it during the inevitable – and quietly beautiful – season to come.

Moving knowledge at the MnDOT Library

For hundreds of state government employees, their agency’s library is an indispensable resource, a power tool, a source of inspiration, and at times a refuge. For decades the MnDOT library has built a reputation as a unique gem in the constellation of state agency libraries. As of this week, that library has an elegant new – or at least renovated – home. I had a chance to visit – and I will return.

“Movingknowledge” is the theme throughout – from the reference desk to the rich collection of statistics, standards, research reports, newspapers, journals and databases, complemented by gateways to hundreds of libraries. My particular favorite were shelves reserved for the “Commissioner’s Reading Collection” that seemed to pop up just in the right spots – within reach of irresistible stuffed chairs that offer the reader exquisite views of the State Capitol and surrounding grounds!

Focus throughout is on providing MnDOT staffers the right information at the right time in the right format – a win/win thrust that often involves assistance from staff in the process. The payoffs include savings in time and money (by minimizing reliance on outside research consultants), and getting better results.

Congratulations to the scores of MnDOT staff, consultants, and most of all the MnDOT library staff that have created a learning environment that welcomes all, including those of us whose knowledge of Minnesota transportation is pretty much limited to reading a Metro Transit bus schedule! We’re all better served if the MnDOT staff have the best access possible to the best information possible in the best of all possible environments.

Keep moving knowledge for the good of all Minnesotans who need to both move and know at an ever expanding rate!

Contact http://www.dot.state.mn.us/library

William Windom – as in Windom Park

 

William Windom

 

Windom Park is just the right name for the Northeast Minneapolis neighborhood that reflects the life of its namesake, William Windom, Minnesota Member of Congress and Senator and U.S Secretary of the Treasury.  The neighborhood encompasses Windom’s life  – from the administration of Franklin Pierce through the presidency of Benjamin Harrison,  Windom Park  residents  might reflect on the life of William Windom as they walk Windom Park down Pierce, Buchanan, Lincoln, Johnson, Ulysses, Hayes, Garfield, Cleveland, Benjamin and Harrison Streets.  Windom’s life,  impact, struggles –and parallels with politics today — come readily to mind with each block and each administrative era in which Windom was a powerful player.

 

William Windom was born in Belmont County, Ohio in 1827, the son of Quaker farmers Hezekiah and Mercy Spencer Windom.  In 1837 the family moved to Knox County, Ohio, where Windom was admitted to the bar in 1850.  He practiced law in Mount Vernon, Ohio and was elected Knox County prosecuting attorney in 1852.  In 1855 Windom moved to Winona, Minnesota, where he established a thriving  law practice and a reputation as a political force..  In 1859 Windom was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives where he served five terms as the Republican representative of Southeastern Minnesota during the administrations of Franklin Pierce, James Buchanan, Abraham Lincoln, Andrew Johnson and Ulysses S. Grant.

 

In 1869 Windom was appointed to fill the US Senate vacancy caused by the death of Senator Daniel S. Norton. Two years later, in 1871, he was elected to the U.S. Senate where he served until his March 1881 appointment as Secretary of the Treasury under President James A. Garfield.  Following Garfield’s death in November 1881 death Windom resigned his position.  He was then elected to fill his own Senate vacancy and served until 1883 when he failed in a re-election bid.

 

What’s missing from this synopsis is the full story.  William Windom did not just hang out with the DC solons.  His legacy is quite amazing.  The untold story of his political presence  is that he might well have been President William Windom.  During his years in the House Windom gained a reputation of one of the foremost advocates of activist government, promoting a program of intervention by the federal government in the nation’s economic, political and social institutions.  In his massive biography of Windom Robert Seward Salisbury observes that “Windom supported such policies  as protective tariffs, subsidies to business, and public works projects to promote economic development; assistance to various discriminated-against groups including blacks, Indians, and women; regulation of private behavior includingtemperance and anti-pornography laws;  control of patent monopolies, and the supremacy of national authority over the competing dogma of states’ rights.”An anonymous correspondent to the Daily Pioneer Press mentioned the senator’s entire congressional career as “a continuous struggle for the rights of the masses against rings and monopolies.

Convinced that government improvement of water routes was the best solution to the problem of excessive rates charged by railroad monopolies Windom was active in political action  related to transportation.  From 1873 to 1874 he served as chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Transportation Routes to the Seaboard.

 

In his role as Secretary of the Treasury Windom was also an activitist.  The Department of the Treasury biography of Windom notes that his “expansionist beliefs combined with his Minnesota roots made him personally sympathetic to the new Western states’ desire for a currency backed by silver.  Although he advocated a gold standard, he effected a compromise in the Sherman Silver Purchase Act of 1890 which authorized the Secretary [of the Treasury] to buy silver and gold bullion and to issue notes of full legal tender.”

 

Salisbury writes that the first mention of Windom as a possible candidate for the national ticket occurred in February 1876 when a number of Minnesota newspapers began touting the Senator as the Republican nominee for vice president.  Newspapers in Windom, New Ulm, Waseca, Redwood Falls and Winona all put in a word for Windom as did the Daily Pioneer Press.  Most promoted an electable ticket with James G. Blaine of Maine for president and Windom for vice-president.  The St. Peter Tribune noted “there couldn’t be a better man found in all the land…He has a national reputation and we believe his nomination would give general satisfaction.”  The New Ulm Herald observed that his Senatorial record, particularly his work with transportation reform “placed him at once in the front rank of statesmen and thinkers of the country.”  Windom indicated he would prefer his position as Senator representing the State of Minnesota.  In the end, his name was not put in nomination for the vice presidency in 1876.

 

That was not the end of the national buzz, however.  When it became clear that the presidential incumbent, Rutherford B. Hayes, would not seek re-election in 1880, Windom’s name re-surfaced as a candidate for the Republican presidential candidacy.  A spate of pro-Windom editorials touted Windom’s credentials.  Minnesota newspapers sang his praises, while the Washington Star commended his “freedom from personal antagonism within the party, his clean record and lack of scandal, his great popularity among Southern Republicans, his intelligent conception of the nation’s industrial questions, and his straight record as a Republican, satisfactory alike to the stalwart and independent elements.” (quoted in Salisbury, p. 294.

 

Windom seems to have taken the presidential talk in stride.  He did concede, though, that the deciders of the day “might go farther and fare worse, and they probably would.”  The self-deprecating Windom, nonchalant on the surface was no barnstorming politician.  Vying with the understated Windom for the presidential nomination were Ulysses S. Grant running for a third term and Senator James Gillespie Blaine of Maine.  The Minnesota press, while highly supportive of Windom’s character and political acumen, was a bit dubious about his chances.  The Chicago paper, the Inter Ocean, observed that Windom had “many warm friends here who believe that as a candidate he would carry the Northwest solid in the convention…He is..spoken of as having a perfect, straight and correct report.  Salisbury includes a delightful personal note, quoting a Senate page who wrote that Windom was “more highly respected than any other in the senate.  The boys stand more in awe of Windom than any other senator.  He is polite but not familiar.  We look upon him as a very correct man.  Never heard of lobbyists approaching him, or even thinking of such a thing.  He is a sort of a model fellow.”

 

History shows that Windom’s fate was doomed at the Chicago Republican National Convention.  The Minnesota delegation went into the convention united in support of their native son. They anticipated that Windom was the second choice of a majority of the Convention delegates who would turn to him when and if there were the expected deadlock between Blaine and Grant.  Windom’s nominating speech by delegate E.F. Drake was a lackluster three minute snippet described by the Chicago Tribune as “a brief speech of simple eulogy.”   Drake’s limp effort paled in comparison with Roscoe Conkling gave a rousing endorsement of Grant for a third term.  Though the deadlock endured Windom was out of the game.  Even the Minnesota delegation caved when three delegates went to Blaine.  Post-convention rumor was that at one point the Grant delegation came close to throwing their substantial weight to Windom but fate got in the way.  After 34 ballots the Wisconsin delegation threw 16 or its 20 votes to Garfield who was nominated and ultimately elected to the presidency in 1880.

 

Though it seems unfair now, Windom’s rout in Chicago made him a favorite target of political cartoonists. Historian Roger Fischer wrote an in-depth piece on “William Windom: Cartoon Centerfold, 1881-91” for the Fall 1988 issue of Minnesota History, the publication of the Minnesota Historical Society.  Fischer reports that Windom appeared in about two dozen color cartoons in Punch and its rival Judge, the two most popular and politically influential illustrated humor weeklies of the age.  The cartoons lean to the vicious, lampooning Windom, an honorable man, as a “roly poly” Christmas ornament, a monkey, a chicken, a school child, and a circus performer.

 

In 1883 Windom moved to New York City where he opened a law practice.  President Benjamin Harrison  reappointed him Secretary of the Treasury in March 1889.  In 1891 Windom addressed a banquet of the New York Board of Trade and Transportation at Delmonico’s with the words, “As a poison in the blood permeates arteries, veins, nerves, brain and heart, and speedily brings paralysis or death, so does a debased or fluctuating currency permeate all arteries of trade, paralyze all kinds of business and brings disaster to all classes of people.”  This was Windom’s last pronouncement.  Seconds later he suffered a heart attack and died.  He was laid to rest in Rock Creek Cemetery in Washington, DC.

 

Some William Windom factoids:

  • Windom married Ellen Towne Hatch (1831-1914) of Massachusetts on August 20, 1876.  They had three children:  Son William Douglas (b. 1859, d. 1926) Daughter: Ellen Hatch (“Nellie”, b. 1866, d. 1941) and Florence Bronson.
  • The USS Windom, a Treasury Department revenue cutter named for William Windom, served in the US Navy and was later named Comanche.  Constructed at the Iowa Iron Works in Dubuque, the USS Windom served in Spanish-American War, then reverted to the Treasury.  Renamed the Comanche, the ship also served under Navy Department control during World War I.  Serving out her years with the Revenue service the ship was placed out of commission on July 31, 1930.  The story of the USS Windom is a saga in its own right.
  • The papers of William Windom are held by the Minnesota Historical Society which has compiled an extensive catalog of the collection.
  • The town of Windom, county seat of Cottonwood County, Minnesota, was platted in 1871 and incorporated in 1875.  The name of the town was proposed by General Judson W. Bishop of St. Paul, chief engineer for construction of the railway ,
  • The post office for the city of Harmony, Minnesota, was once named Windom, in honor of the Senator.
  • Windom Township, organized in 1858, was first called Brooklyn, then Canton, and renamed in 1862 to honor William Windom.
  • Minneapolis has not one but two neighborhoods named after the sometimes radical Republican reformer – Windom Community in Southwest Minneapolis  and Windom Park in beautiful Northeast.
  • And yes, actor William Windom is the great grandson of Senator William Windom for whom this neighborhood is named.

 

Further reading:

Fischer, Roger A.  “William Windom: Cartoon Centerfold 1881-91)  Minnesota History, Fall 1988.  (available online)

Salisbury, Robert S.  “Presidential Politics 1880: William Windom and the GOP”  Minnesota History, Fall 1985.  (available online)

Department of the Treasury’s history of the Treasury Secretaries – William Windom, 1861 and 1889-91

William Windom: AN Inventory of His Papers, prepared by CHaryl N. Thies and Kathryn M. Johnson, Minnesota Historical Society.

 

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.