Angel of Joy: St Raphael. Madison Diocese Patron Saint, Help for Healing and Sojourners

Sister JulieAnn Sheahan

September 26, 2023

Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity collaborate with a number of parishes to share heavenly images of light and love as we celebrate the Feast of the Archangels Raphael, Michael and Gabriel. Here we focus on the patron of the Diocese of Madison, St. Raphael, as shown at St Francis Xavier Parish in Cross Plains, WI.

Can you find St. Raphael in this heavenly assembly? 

How was St. Raphael chosen to be the patron of the Madison Diocese?

Diocesan priest, Fr. Donald F. Lange, once a columnist for the Diocese of Madison’s Catholic Herald and author of the book Seeing with Jesus’ Eyes — A Seasonal Reader, believes the decision to choose St. Raphael as a special intercessor for the Diocese of Madison points to the influence of Fr. Samuel Mazzuchelli.  This Dominican friar and Missionary to the tri-state area of Wisconsin, Illinois and Iowa, named three churches that he helped to build after these three archangels. They are St. Gabriel of Prairie Du Chien, St. Raphael of Dubuque, and St. Michael of Galena. That both the Diocese of Madison and the Archdiocese of Dubuque are under St. Raphael’s patronage among all the ecclesiastical districts defined by geographical territory in the nation is significant. The link seems to be the holy Dominican who fostered a special devotion to one of the three archangels mentioned by name in Scripture and one of the seven who stand before God’s throne. 

In the early 1840s, Irish immigrants settled into what later became Madison. They were soon organized into a parish named after Raphael, the archangel. On August 15, 1842, Mass was offered for the first time by Fr. Martin Kundig. The land that the parish buildings and a later parking lot would be built upon was donated by Governor James Duane Doty, who was a close friend of Fr. Samuel Mazzuchelli. (Again, we see a relationship with the Dominican friar.) From 1842 until 1853 the parish did not have a church of its own. Mass was often celebrated in homes and in the state Capitol building. In 1853 Fr. Francis Etchmann led the construction of the current church building that has been damaged by fire. The cornerstone was laid in 1854. Archbishop John Michael Henni of the Milwaukee Archdiocese dedicated the new building. On January 9, 1946, Pope Pius XII created the Diocese of Madison from an 11 county area in southern and southwestern Wisconsin. Territory was taken from the Archdiocese of Milwaukee and the Diocese of La Crosse for the new diocese. (Fr. Lange remembered when this happened.) St. Raphael Parish was then officially chosen as the cathedral parish for the new diocese. 

Today the people of God in this diocese await word for one of their churches to be named the cathedral since a fire destroyed the former building. Bishop Donald Hying serves as bishop. The entire diocese is invited to gather for a Eucharistic Congress during this year’s feast of the archangels. Consider coming!

Why is patronage to St. Raphael significant today?

As Fr. Lange writes in his book, “St. Raphael, our patron saint, is also the patron saint of many areas of concern that touch our lives. The archangel is the patron saint of sick persons,, travelers, bearers of the good news, happy meetings, the blind, nurses, physicians, and the choice of a good spouse. In addition, St. Raphael is the angel of good health, youth, chaste courtships, and happy marriages. St. Raphael is also defender of the Church, strong helper in time of need, angel of home life, and guardian of the Christian family. Too, Raphael is the angel of joy, support of the dying, and healer of the sick.”

May we all look to St. Raphael as our own powerful intercessor. Watch for our next blog posting that will reveal more about this treasured stained-glass window above and other images of St. Raphael. 


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