Our History

The Early Years

1851: Bishop Joseph Cretin, St. Paul’s first bishop, appeals to the Sisters of St. Joseph in St. Louis, MO, to come to St. Paul to address the pressing needs of the times. These include the education of the children of pioneers and Native Americans and the establishment of a hospital for the victims of the cholera epidemic gripping the city. The Sisters arrive on November 3,1851, and begin teaching in the Chapel of St. Paul, a log cabin on Bench Street constructed in 1841, which serves as the city's first Cathedral.

1852: Bishop Cretin opens a school for boys in the basement of the city's second Cathedral located at 6th and Wabasha. Cathedral School is staffed by the Sisters of St. Joseph.  

1871: Father John Ireland, now the rector of Cathedral Parish, convinces the Brothers of the Christian Schools, who are headquartered in Chicago, IL, to extend their LaSallian ministry to St. Paul and manage the education of the older boys who attend Cathedral School. On November 2, 1871,  the Brothers join the Sisters of St. Joseph at Cathedral School.

1889: A new all-boys school, named after Bishop Cretin, opens at 6th and Main. The Brothers educate the older boys at Cretin, while the Sisters educate the younger ones. The school’s director is Brother Emery Ildefonsus, FSC.  

1914: A new, co-educational Cathedral Grade School, managed by the Sisters of St. Joseph, opens on Kellogg Boulevard. To ease the congestion at Cretin, the Sisters take the boys in the lower grades at Cretin to this new grade school. In this year, Cretin officially becomes a four-year high school. 

Cretin High School

1917: In the wake of World War I, amid a growing tide of patriotism, military training is added to Cretin’s curriculum.

1926: Enrollment at Cretin has grown to the point where students are being turned away. The building itself is in disrepair, and the city eventually condemns it. Cretin students move to the site of the old Webster School on Laurel and Mackubin Streets in St. Paul. Meanwhile, construction begins on a new school.

1928: Under the leadership of Most Reverend Austin Dowling, Archbishop of St. Paul, and with a lead gift from Mary T. Hill, widow of business magnate James J. Hill, the new Cretin High School opens on the corner of Hamline and Randolph Avenues in St. Paul.

In June, the cadets march in full military formation to review their new school. The school’s director is Brother John Joseph, FSC. 

Derham Hall High School

1905: The shared vision of Sister Seraphine Ireland, CSJ, and Archbishop John Ireland is realized when, with the help of Hugh Derham, a wealthy farmer from Rosemount, Minnesota, and with their own savings, the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet open a college preparatory school, Derham Hall, on the site of what would become St. Catherine University. The student body at Derham Hall consists of 70 high school age young women, all boarders from St. Joseph’s Academy near downtown St. Paul. Derham Hall is dedicated to the academic development of its students with an emphasis on the liberal arts and will serve as a feeder school to St. Catherine’s. Derham Hall’s first principal is Sister Hyacinth Werden, CSJ.

1914: Enrollment in the high school numbers 100. In this year, the college and the high school become two separate entities and the college-age students move out of the Derham Hall building.

1962: In order to accommodate more students, Derham Hall High School closes on the campus at St. Catherine’s and reopens with 238 students at a new building on Warwick Avenue in St. Paul, with Cretin High School situated to the east. Derham Hall’s first principal at the new site is Sister Isabella Ferrell, CSJ.

Cretin-Derham Hall

1986: The collaboration of the Sisters and the Brothers is renewed when a merger agreement between Derham Hall High School and Cretin High School is forged.

1987: In September, 1115 young men and women begin classes at the newly-merged Cretin-Derham Hall, co-sponsored by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet and the Brothers of the Christian Schools. The school’s first co-principals are and Sister Susan Oeffling, CSJ, and Brother Michael Collins, FSC.

1990: In the summer of 1990 Richard R. Engler was hired to become the first lay president/principal of Cretin-Derham Hall.  Under his leadership the school has done major building renovations and additions, increased enrollment, enhanced curriculum, and is financially sound. Dick Engler continues to stay true to the vision and carry out the mission of our founders.