The Church of St. Mary was established in Lowertown St. Paul in 1865 (dedicated in 1867) at the request of the increasing population of mostly Irish workers in the neighborhood. After all, the Germans had Assumption parish in Uppertown, so why not the Irish further down the hill? In the foundational years a number of prominent St. Paul families were members and generous benefactors, not the least of which was Mary Hill, wife of railroad magnate James J. Hill (see the article online by Eileen R. McCormack, "Mary T. Hill and St. Mary's Parish"). St. Mary’s first pastor was a French-American, Fr. Louis Caillet, showing that the different ethnic groups could get along in the New World when they needed to. After selling the original property at the corner of 9th and Locust streets to Great Northern Railroad, the present church with its rectory next door was completed in 1921 and dedicated in 1922, where it stands today, on 8th Street between Wacouta and Wall.
St. Mary’s was pastorally served by diocesan priests until 1976 when it was given to the Oblates of Mary Immaculate (OMI), who held the parish for nearly thirty years. Pastoral care of St. Mary’s passed to the Sons of the Immaculate Conception (CFIC), who served until July 2021.
As of that date the diocesan priests, Fr. Bryce Evans and Fr. Byron Hagan, assumed care of St. Mary’s as co-pastors (priests in solidum), who aspire to found an Oratory of St. Philip Neri, a Society of Apostolic Life. An Oratorian parish apostolate is characterized by stability in its dedication to the formation of integral Christian community through common prayer and divine worship, catechesis and spiritual formation, and the study and exemplification of a truly Catholic culture which places itself at the service of its neighborhood and city.
Frs. Hagan and Evans are respectful and appreciative of the Marian charism of the previous priestly institutes which have served St. Mary’s over the last half-century, and they want nothing more or less than to help build upon that good foundation. We pray that the Lord blesses us all as we join together in “Contemplating the Mystery of the Word with the Heart of Mary.”
Stay tuned for news about the unfolding of the reinvigorated mission of St. Mary’s and Lowertown Catholicism.