Thursday, May 23, 2013

New Gravestones of 64 Pioneer Priests to be Blessed on Memorial Day at Two Catholic Cemeteries

For Immediate Release from
the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis
 
New Gravestones of 64 Pioneer Priests to be Blessed on Memorial Day at Two Catholic Cemeteries
 
Saint Paul, MN, May 20, 2013—On Memorial Day, Monday, May 27, The Catholic Cemeteries of the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis’ Adopt-a-Marker campaign will culminate with the blessing of 64 new headstones during the annual 10 a.m. Memorial Day Masses at Calvary Cemetery, 753 Front Ave., Saint Paul and St. Mary’s Cemetery, 4403 Chicago Ave., Minneapolis.
 
The Adopt-a-Marker campaign to replace the gravestones of 64 priests who served this local Church as far back as the mid-1800’s began in 2011. At the time, St. Paul’s Phil Jungwirth—whose uncle was a victim of the 1918 influenza epidemic while a priest in nearby Sleepy Eye—mentioned to Rev. Kevin McDonough that he needed help in locating his uncle’s grave every time he went to visit it at Calvary Cemetery. “It got to the point where I had to go to the cemetery office to get its exact location,” Jungwirth lamented.
 
McDonough, pastor of the Church of St. Peter Claver in Saint Paul, and Sagrado Corazon de Jesus and Incarnation in Minneapolis, brought this up with Catholic Cemetery officials.  As a result, it was determined that 42 priests’ headstones at Calvary and 22 at St. Mary’s needed replacement. “I realized we were losing something very important, as these men are a vital link to passing on the Catholic faith from generation to generation,” he commented. McDonough spearheaded the Adopt-a- Marker campaign to raise $27,000 to replace the illegible markers. In all, more than 30 parishes, 40 individuals, the University of Saint Thomas and three local Knights of Columbus councils made significant contributions; two free-will offerings at last year’s Memorial Day Masses also helped in this fundraising effort.
 
Among the new markers are those of Marcellin Peyragrosse, who arrived in St. Paul on July 2,
1851 with the newly-appointed first bishop of St. Paul, Most Rev. Joseph Cretin. Nearly four years later, Fr. Peyragrosse was the first priest to pass away in the diocese; he was ordained in 1851. Another is that of Rev. James J. Conry, who is remembered for his effort to save Fairbault’s Immaculate Conception Catholic School.  Passions ran so high regarding the so-called Fairbault School Plan that complaints were taken to Pope Leo XIII in Rome.
 
The gravestones of two former St. Thomas College presidents, Rev. John F. Dolphin and Rev. Thomas E. Cullen, have also been replaced. Dolphin, a former army chaplain, led St. Thomas between 1899 and 1903, and had hopes of starting a military training program at the college.
However, he had to resign due to poor health before moving to Portland, OR, where he lived and ministered until 1919.  He returned to St. Paul that summer and passed away in January 1920.   At age 24, Rev. Cullen moved to Minnesota from Prince Edward Island in 1898 to study theology at the St. Paul Seminary. Following his ordination in 1901, he served 19 years as pastor of Immaculate Conception parish in Minneapolis, while also leading the effort to complete the Basilica of St. Mary. He was named rector of St. Thomas in 1921, and died suddenly on September 30, 1940.
 
The family of Fr. Joseph Goiffon was very active in having his gravestone replaced.  Born in France in 1824, he came to St. Paul where he met Archbishop Ireland in seminary in 1857. Fr. Goiffon was a central figure in the parishes of Little Canada, Centerville, White Bear Lake and Lino Lakes while serving the diocese for 53 years.  His great-great-great nephew, Duane Thein of White Bear Lake had difficulty praying at his relative’s grave over the years, as “the gravestone was getting harder and harder to read.  I told my family members several times that I’d like to replace it,” he said. Thein called Catholic Cemeteries and learned of the Adopt-a-Marker campaign; in short order, enough family members made contributions which allowed them to adopt his marker along with some others. “He was certainly the most famous person in our family," Thein went on to say.

For Phil Jungwirth, the response to the project he helped launch has been gratifying. “These men played a central role in so many people’s lives and left an important legacy,” he said. “I’m so glad my uncle and all of these priests will be remembered with new markers that will last for generations.”
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