February 4, 1925: John Welsh becomes Bishop of Duluth

On this day in Duluth in 1925, the Most Reverend Thomas Anthony Welch was installed as the third bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Duluth. He replaced John McNicholas, who had been bishop since 1918 and left in 1925 to become the Archbishop of Cincinnati, Ohio. Welch was born in Faribault, Minnesota, graduated St. Paul’s St. Thomas College in 1903, and was ordained a priest by St. Paul Archbishop John Ireland in 1909. He began his career as Ireland’s assistant before becoming chancellor of the St. Paul archdiocese and worked as an administrator until 1924. Under Welch’s watch, the diocese—which includes ten counties in northeastern Minnesota—raised its number of priests from 55 to 86, and parishioner population went from 60,000 to nearly 100,000. Welch directed the creation of a diocese newspaper and expanded the College of St. Scholastica. He also oversaw the construction of Our Lady of the Rosary, which replaced Sacred Heart as Duluth’s cathedral in 1957, two years before Welch’s death. In All Her Ways, a history of St. Scholastica, a former student remembered Welch as “very informal….. He drove his own car, and we students liked that; it seemed so democratic. He was always friendly and approachable, seeming interested in everybody…. I think his universal kindness helped to perpetuated among the students an atmosphere of friendliness and democracy said to be a special characteristic of our campus.”

Duluth Bishop Thomas Welch. (Image: Monastery of St. Scholastica)