Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
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CRETIN, Joseph, R. C. bishop, born in Lyons, France, in 1800; died in St. Paul, Minnesota, in 1857. He studied in his native diocese, and became a priest, with the intention of devoting himself to the foreign missions. In 1838 he volunteered for the diocese of Dubuque, and reached that City in 1839. He was appointed vicar-general and pastor of the cathedral. In 1843 he took up his residence at Prairie du Chien among the Winnebagoes. He was requested by them to build a Church and schoolhouse, but was prevented from doing so by the Indian agent. Father Cretin continued among the Winnebagoes till 1848, when the government officials expelled him, and the tribe removed to Long Prairie. He then returned to Dubuque. In 1849 the seventh council of Baltimore recommended the erection of Minnesota into a diocese, with the title of St. Paul, and the appointment of Father Cretin to the new see. He proceeded to France in order to secure priests for his diocese, and there received Episcopal consecration at the hands of the bishop of Belley. He returned to America in 1851, accompanied by several priests, and began his work at St. Paul. Before the end of the year he was enabled to substitute a building of stone for the little log cabin in which he ministered, and to establish a school and seminary. At this period there was an immense influx of population into Minnesota, and Bishop Cretin was soon organizing Catholic parishes in every direction. in 1853 the Sisters of St. Joseph were introduced into the diocese, and placed in charge of an academy for young ladies, and of the parochial schools. Bishop Cretin also erected a hospital, an asylum, and novitiate, which he confided to their care. He revived the mission among the Winnebagoes, who had been removed to Long Prairie. He stationed a pastor and opened a school among them, which was managed by the Sisters of St. Joseph. He also established missions between the Ojibways, and stationed priests and founded Churches at Crow Wing, Mill Lake, Sandy Lake, Saux Rapids, and Fond du Lac, as well as promoting the flourishing Indian settlements on the British border.
In 1855 he gave the Brothers of the Holy Family charge of his schools for boys, and established a novitiate of the order in St. Paul. He founded a house of the Sisters of the Propagation of the Faith at Pembina for the instruction of the Indians. Through his agency a convent of the Benedictine order was erected at St. Cloud, which has grown into a great school and abbey. He also founded a convent of Benedictine nuns. Bishop Cretin did much to develop the resources of Minnesota by the interest he took in immigration. His letters addressed to intending emigrants, published in the New York journals, and copied into the newspapers of Europe, had the effect of determining many to settle in his adopted territory. When he was appointed bishop, there were in his diocese one log Church and three priests: in a few years there were twenty priests, twenty-nine Churches, and thirty-five stations, and the Catholic population had increased to more than 50,000. He built the cathedral of St. Paul at a cost of $70,000.
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