St. Raphael Cathedral History

DSCF2871When the Archdiocese of Dubuque celebrated its 175th anniversary in 2012, St. Raphael Parish will have celebrated 179 years as the “Mother Parish of the Great Northwest.”

In July 1833, Charles Felix van Quickenborne, a Jesuit from St. Louis, arrived in the Dubuque area.  Soon the Catholics of Dubuque sent a petition to Bishop Joseph Rosati of St. Louis, to have a church built in Dubuque.  Rev. Charles F. Fitzmaurice was appointed pastor to the area in May of 1834, but died before a Dubuque church could be built.

In July 1835, Rev. Samuel Mazzuchelli, a Dominican priest, laid the foundation for a stone church that was dedicated to Raphael, the Archangel.  With the appointment of Mathias Loras as the first Bishop of Dubuque, the stone church became a cathedral.

Bishop Loras recognized the need for a larger church.  The cornerstone of the present cathedral was laid on July 5, 1857, and Bishop Loras offered the first Mass on Christmas of that year.  Bishop Loras died February 19, 1858.  Rev. Clement Smyth, OCSO, from New Melleray Abbey became the second Bishop.  The Cathedral has been the place of the installation of all the bishops since then.

In 1843, the Sisters of Charity (BVM) were the first women religious to arrive to staff a school built on the Cathedral property.  At the invitation of the bishop, many religious communities made Dubuque their home.  St. Raphael Cathedral School closed in 1976, and the school building and convent were eventually sold in the mid-1980s.

During the 1980s, Msgr. John Dalton established an advisory committee to study the proposed renovation of St. Raphael Cathedral.  This task involved the challenge of maintaining the historicity of the Cathedral and updating elements to meet the current needs of worshipers.  In 1983, the winter chapel behind the Cathedral was converted into the Cathedral Center.  The renovation of the Cathedral was completed in 1986.

In 2005, an immersion pool was added to the baptismal font.

In 2010, St. Patrick Parish was linked to the Cathedral and one priest was appointed the pastor of both parishes.  The Cathedral and St. Patrick parishes work with many agencies in Dubuque to minister to those in need in our downtown community.
(Excerpt from the book commemorating 175 years of the Archdiocese : “Archdiocese of Dubuque 1837-2012, Jesus Alive Through the Years”

St. Raphael Cathedral is more than a parish.  Its artistry, its history, its spiritual presence, belongs to the people of the Archdiocese.  As the seat of the diocese and its bishop, it witnesses to the Church’s mission of sanctifying, teaching and serving in a special way.

Here you will find a gathering place which represents the entire Christian Community of the Archdiocese of Dubuque, and especially those parishioners of St. Raphael Parish who care so well for the “mother church.”

St. Raphael’s Parish has a long and rich history that reaches all the way back to 1833.  The history of this parish is a record of stories of grace, of courage, or vision and of dedication by those holy men and women who have served here. “May the Lord, who has begun this good work among us, see it through to its completion.”

Want to know more?

Follow the links below for even more history of the parish and buildings

Part 1: The Early Years


Part 2: February 1858 – March 1900


Part 3: 1900 – 1954


Part 4: 1954-1995


Part 5: 1995 – Present


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