Parish History: 1874 -
The parish of St. Raphael was established in 1874 when priests came from New Ulm to witness marriages, baptize the children and celebrate mass in the homes of the settlers.
A well-known pioneer priest, Fr. Alexander Berghold, served the parish during these years. In 1876 the decision to build the first church was made. Labor was done by parishioners, mostly of Irish and German descent, under the supervision of one carpenter. Construction was completed in 1878 at the cost of $2,300.
Fr. Robert O’Haire was St. Raphael’s first resident priest. The first recorded events were the baptism of John Whelan on December 18, 1881, the funeral of Mary McCormick on that same date and the marriage of Charles Gamble and Ruth Holmes on September 22. 1882. Bishop John Ireland confirmed the first class of 25 students on May 12, 1883.
The present church building was started in 1914 and completed in 1915. The sturdy and stately brick structure cost $55,000. A modern St. Raphael grade school was built in 1939 at a cost of $81,000. In 1962 plans were made for the expansion of the grade school and the building was completed in 1964 at the cost of $280.300.
In 1971 in compliance with Vatican II, the interior of the church was remodeled. Lay Distributors (Eucharistic Ministers) were blessed by Bishop Schladweiler. The first pastoral council was formed in 1972. St. Raphael’s parish recorded 450 families in its centennial year of 1974.
Since our centennial in 1974, we have been blessed with two religious vocations - Fr. Philip Schotzko and Fr. Stephen (Mark) Boyle.
In September, 1999, Fr. Labat was appointed to St. Raphael parish and in 20000 also served as sacramental minister at St. Thomas parish in Sanborn. In 2002, planning was begun on a major renovation of the church and addition of a gathering space connecting the church and the school. After a capital campaign ground breaking took place in May 2005. In May 2006 construction was completed and we moved back into a beautifully renovated church.
St. Raphael School History: 1900 -
The first parochial school was built in the year 1900 while Fr. Wirth was pastor. Father himself gave $250 and sponsored a three day fair and raised about $900 which was used to finance the school. Initial funding was by subscription, and additional funds were raised by having each family contribute $1 per month. The contract for the school was approximately $9,000. The contractor was A.C. Ochs. To help defray cost, every child entering school the first year brought his/her own chair and donated it to the school. The first school was a five room building with two rooms being used for classrooms and three rooms used as a convent for the sisters from 1900 - 1917 until the convent was established on the corner of O’Connell and Van Dusen. Two Sisters from the order of the Sisters of St. Francis from Rochester, Minnesota opened the school year in September, 1900.
In September 1919 St. Raphael began operating a High School. But, due to the lack of room, the parish was forced to discontinue it in June 1929. In 1927 the Zankel Property adjoining the school was purchased to allow for expansion.
After fundraisers were held and contributions made, a new modern St. Raphael grade school was built in 1939 at a cost of $81,000. Contracted by B.J. Engelen, this brick structure is still part of the present facility.
In March, 1960 plans for the construction of a parochial high school did not materialize.
In 1963, the expansion of the garden school at an estimated cost of $280,300 was discussed and approved. The new addition, completed in 1964, doubled the number of classrooms in the school. This same year a tunnel was constructed from the school to the church. During the 1964 school year the first Board of Education was established. Edward Tauer, Lester Krueger. Mrs. Tom Miesen, Gilbert Schmitz, Arnold Hillesheim, Dr. H.T. Mohr, Frank Weber Jr., and Dr. F.J. Boyle served on the Board of Education.
Due to the shortage of teaching Sisters, St. Raphael Parish received word in 1971 from the Sisters of St. Francis that they would be withdrawing the six Sisters serving St. Raphael at the end of the 1971-72 school year. Sister Gladys Meindl, a native of Springfield, was permitted to remain and served as principal until 1986. She, along with lay teachers, taught all eight grades, with 248 students being enrolled in 1973.
In the 1980’s new windows and enclosures were installed in the school to further energy conservation. The removal of asbestos, a costly project, was completed in 1989.
The 7th and 8th grades were discontinued and plans were initiated for the establishment of a kindergarten. In 1990 the first kindergarten class of 14 began.
St. Raphael enrolled 93 students in the 1997-98 school year. In September 2000, the Little Angels Pre-Kindergarten began at St. Raphael School with Ann Miesen as its certified director. As of the fall of 2006, we have 63 students registered at St. Raphael's School.