Getting to know the Cathedral of St. Raphael & St. Patrick Parishes
By Jill Kruse-Domeyer
Witness Editorial Assistant
This article is part of a series on the parishes of the archdiocese.
DUBUQUE — The linked parishes of the Cathedral of St. Raphael and St. Patrick Church both have a rich history that dates back to the early years of the Archdiocese of Dubuque. Today, these two downtown Dubuque parishes work closely together to serve the needs of parishioners, as well as those beyond their church walls.
Cathedral of St. Raphael
In the 1830s, when Dubuque was a booming frontier community, the Dominican missionary Father Samuel Mazzuchelli laid the foundation for a church in the city that was dedicated to the archangel Raphael. That church became a cathedral upon the appointment of Mathias Loras as Dubuque’s first bishop. But the need for a larger church would soon arise, and in 1857, the cornerstone was laid for the present-day cathedral. Bishop Loras celebrated the first Mass there on Christmas Day that year.
The Cathedral of St. Raphael serves as the seat of the archdiocese and the archbishop. It is at the cathedral that archdiocesan priests and deacons are ordained each year; it is the cathedral that has served as a pilgrimage site for the archdiocese, most recently for the Year of Mercy, which began in December 2015; it is at the cathedral that a number of Dubuque’s (arch)bishops have been laid to rest, interred in a chapel in a lower level of the building.
Though it has unique status as the mother church of the Archdiocese of Dubuque, the Cathedral of St. Raphael, located on Bluff Street in Dubuque, is also a parish and today the spiritual home to more than 1,800 parishioners. Msgr. Thomas Toale serves the parish as pastor and Father Greg Bahl as associate pastor. The cathedral also has two permanent deacons: Jim Luksetich and Paul Peckosh.
In recent years, an important avenue for outreach at the cathedral parish has been its parish partner program, which was begun in 1996. St. Raphael’s has two partner parishes in El Salvador — Santiago Apostol in Tenancingo and Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe in Soyapango. A committee of cathedral parishioners works to raise funds that are donated in support of programs devised and administered by the partner parishes.
“In Tenancingo, one of the oldest and most successful programs is a pastoral health and wellness initiative, which ministers to all in the community, not just to parish members,” said Carmen Hernandez, a St. Raphael’s parishioner who chairs the partner parish committee. “The medical workers are trained through an archdiocesan program to provide basic medical care, educate the people and distribute needed medicines.”
In both Salvadoran parishes, Hernandez said, there are also numerous programs to advance education, including classes in English, art, music and religion.
Over the years, parishioners from the cathedral have made many trips to El Salvador to spend time with members of their partner parishes. “We come away with admiration and love for our friends,” said Hernandez of the visits. A delegation from El Salvador has also visited Dubuque a number of times as well.
Another ministry of the cathedral parish is “Rise!” which is a program for young adults in their 20s and early 30s to help them plug into parish life. The ministry is open to all young adults and includes many non-cathedral parishioners. According to Father Bahl, young adults often find it difficult to build a strong connection to the parish community.
“In high school there are youth groups and in college Newman Centers and campus ministry and resources, but there is no special ministry to people in their 20s and 30s,” Father Bahl said. “The Rise! group meets that need.”
St. Patrick Parish
A little further north in downtown Dubuque, at the corner of 15th and Iowa streets, sits St. Patrick Church. The parish began as a mission of the Cathedral of St. Raphael in 1852. A small church was built, and dedicated by Bishop Loras, the following year. The cornerstone for the current St. Patrick’s church was laid in 1877.
St. Patrick Parish has been linked to the cathedral parish since 2010. The same priests and deacons that serve the cathedral also serve St. Patrick’s, which today is a faith community comprised of more than 900 parishioners.
An important ministry at St. Patrick’s for more than 31 years has been the Wednesday night meal ministry. It was begun by former St. Patrick pastor Msgr. Karl Glovik, who saw a need in the downtown area for a hot meal for those who were food insecure.
Meals continue to be served every Wednesday of the year (except during the week of Christmas) from 5-5:30 p.m. Each Wednesday night, parishioners from St. Patrick’s help with the meal in the parish hall. They are joined by members of different Catholic parishes, religious communities and nonprofit organizations, as well as students and other volunteers from the community who bring food, cook and serve the meal, and help with clean-up. Between 80 to 160 meals are served each week.
“The meals are free and open to folks of all ages, races, religions and economic conditions,” said David Becker, a coordinator of the meal program. “This meal ministry brings St. Patrick and the downtown community together with food, friendship, hospitality and a safe, clean environment.”
Becker said last year a chair lift and a restroom renovation to the meal site made the area handicap accessible and allowed the parish to offer greater hospitality to those who come for the meal with mobility issues.
Since St. Patrick’s has a significant number of Hispanic parishioners, Hispanic ministry has become another important aspect of parish life. Hispanic ministry began at St. Pat’s in the mid-1990s, and a Spanish Mass has been celebrated there on Sundays ever since. “St. Patrick’s is greatly enriched by the presence of its Hispanic parishioners,” said Father Bahl, who currently serves as the Hispanic ministry coordinator for the two parishes.
The priest said an important celebration each year for St. Patrick Parish, especially for the parish’s Hispanic members, is the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe in December. “It is a point of cultural pride” for Mexican-Americans, he said, but also for many other Hispanics as well. Past celebrations for the feast day at the parish have included a presentation on the story of the Virgin Mary’s appearance to St. Juan Diego, including costumes and dance performances. A Mass is celebrated on the second Sunday each December for the feast day, and a large meal is shared by all in attendance.
At St. Patrick’s, as well as at the cathedral, there has been a move in recent years toward greater bilingualism. Both priests who serve the parishes are bilingual, and bulletins and missaletts are printed in both languages. Both Spanish and English are used at the parishes’ major liturgical celebrations throughout the year, including the Christmas and Easter Masses.
Father Bahl, who began serving at St. Patrick’s and the cathedral last July, said he has come to see both of his parishes as places that express themselves as blended communities. “At St. Pat’s, you have that established community, but you also have the fairly new, 25-year-old Latino/Hispanic community as well — working it out together, what does it mean to be church in that.”
Father Bahl also sees a blended community at the cathedral. He said he witnesses an interplay there between the core parish community and the church as the seat of the archdiocese, a place that draws many non-parish members throughout the year. “It is an interesting dynamic,” he said.
Referring to both of his “blended” parishes, Father Bahl reflected, “All these relationships present challenges of course, but also opportunities. Different perspectives enrich each of the parishes as a greater whole. You can see the real beauty of how that is expressed.”
Bruce Howes and Kathy Newton prepare fish for the weekly free meal at St. Patrick Parish on Ash Wednesday, March 6 in Dubuque. (Contributed photo)