After fifty years of patient work and struggle, the institution looks complacently over the work accomplished and hopefully into the future. The rewards of toil are visible on every hand. From a tiny frame building on the banks of the Mississippi it has grown into a vast edifice second to few, if any, in the State of Minnesota. However, it is not this material growth that must be considered a gauge of the success of the institution. For fifty years it has endeavored to meet the wants of the youth of this new region by affording them an opportunity of acquiring an education for secular pursuits as well as for the ministry. True to the intentions of its founders and the character of the men in whose hands its destinies rested, it has aimed to be a Catholic school in spirit and deed.
Today the work presided over by the faculty is very extensive and 34 professors and disciplinarians devote themselves to the task. A preparatory course fits students for the classical and commercial course. A classical course of six years comprising the study of Religion, Latin, Greek, English, German, History, Geography both physical and political, Mathematics, and elective branches such as Physiology, Chemistry, Geology, Astronomy, Botany, Zoology and French, prepares the student for any of the learned professions. The scientific course with the facilities for the study of Physics, Electricity, Biology and Astronomy, Drawing and kindred branches bears witness to the fact that an effort is made to furnish advantageous opportunities for keeping in touch with the progress of the world in scientific matters. For almost thirty years a commercial course has been connected with the college. Not least in importance is the Theological Seminary which, if small in numbers, is efficient in work and has given the sacred ministry many members. The total attendance in all the courses in 1907, as has been stated above, was slightly in excess of 300. It is not expected that this figure wild grow notably in the near future owing to the increasing number of educational institutions rising on all sides, still it is an encouraging number under the circumstances.
Our alumni? For a half-century from year to year, some alumni went forth to take up arms in the wider field of action; what has become of them? The snows and infirmities of advancing years are upon some of them now, and many of them have laid down the arms of toil and rest in memory only. It will be impossible in the space of a few pages to recall all those of whose career the institution has had occasion to take notice; hence this sketch will confine itself to a limited range. To begin with the seminary. From 1867 to 1896 the institution prepared for the sacred ministry 204 candidates, 82 of these being Benedictines and 122 members of the secular clergy (American Ecclesiastical Review, XVII., p.289.). At present the whole number is 335 of whom 132 are Benedictines and 203 secular clergymen or members of other religious orders. This number may appear small for fifty years, but St. John’s has been only a private seminary. Of its graduates, only one has been decorated with Episcopal honors, the Right Rev. Joseph B. Cotter, of Winona, Minnesota. The priests who have gone forth from the seminary chiefly labor in the West, in the states of Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, North and South Dakota and Nebraska. One, Rt. Rev. Edward Nagl, vicar general of the diocese of St. Cloud, was created a domestic prelate with the title and insignia of a monsignor by Pope Leo XIII in 1901, and Very Rev. Martin Noesen, 1896, is the present vicar general of the diocese of Lead, South Dakota. Rev. F. X. Stemper, former vicar general of the apostolic vicariate of Northern Minnesota, was also a graduate of the seminary.
The graduates in the other courses may be found in almost any of the numerous walks of life (some of them practice law, others medicine; some are prosperous businessmen, others pursue humbler but equally useful avocations). Some have entered other schools and graduated in higher courses. Thus three members of the hierarchy of the United States, the Most Rev. Alexander Christie, Archbishop of Oregon City, Rt. Rev. John Shanley, Bishop of Fargo and Rt. Rev. James J. Keane, Bishop of Cheyenne, studied their classics at St. John’s and received their theological education elsewhere. In the Minnesota State legislature of 1907 were three alumni of St. John’s (Senators J.C. Hardy, J.E.C. Robinson and J.J. Ahmann).
Under God, the success of this work was undoubtedly due in great part to the well directed effort of the faculty, and it is with pride we recall the memory of those kind and earnest professors who have ceased from toil and gone to their reward. Nor must the patrons and benefactors of the institution be forgotten. First of all, in order of time, were the first two bishops of St. Paul, Rt. Revs. Joseph Cretin and Thomas Grace, and subsequently the bishops of St. Cloud, Otto Zardetti, Martin Marty, O.S.B. and James Trobec, each of whom gave the institution substantial proof of his interest. Moreover, a great debt of gratitude is due to the clergy of this and neighboring states and to the generous donors of medals since 1880. Among these donors have been Bishops Seidenbusch, Zardetti, Marty, Trobec and Shanley, Mgrs. J. Bauer and E. Nagl, St. Cloud, Revs. C.V. Gamache, E. J. Lawlor, F. Goebel, P. Cary, M. Noesen, G. Gaskell, F.X. Stemper, D. Lynch; Messrs. L.W. Collins, D.B. Searle, H.C. Waite, J.W. Arctander, J.J. Hill, Thomas Bruenner, F.E. Searle, J. Caulfield, S. Wimmer (Sebastian Wimmer, nephew of Archabot Boniface, who lived at St. Mary’s, Pennsylvania, but the last year of his life lived near Albany, Minnesota. He left us about 1000 volumes of his private library), M. Maurin, J. Hoeschen and the Alumni Association.
The Golden Jubilee will gather to the bosom of Alma Mater representatives of every school year, from every part of the Union and the event will be one memorable forever in the annals of the institution. Then memory will carry them back to the scenes and places hallowed by the light of youth, they will tell of the little trials and struggles encountered in their college days and go forth strengthened anew to take upon themselves the responsibilities of life and fulfill the purpose for which they were fitted by their education. God speed their efforts and perpetuate their success!