St. Raphael kicks off 75th-anniversary celebration

St. Raphael Church began a yearlong celebration to commemorate its 75th anniversary with a neighborhood cleanup Oct. 8 ahead of a special Mass to be celebrated by Archbishop Shelton J. Fabre on Oct. 16.

Father Tony Cecil, the church’s administrator, was assigned to St. Raphael in June and said upon his arrival, many activities were already planned by parishioners.

“The parishioners have taken the lead because they really love this place,” he said in a recent interview.

St. Raphael was established in the Upper Highlands in 1947. It includes a school, with an enrollment of 365. And the parish is home to 2,565 parishioners.

The anniversary’s kickoff event — the neighborhood cleanup — speaks to the sense of community surrounding the church and school, Father Cecil said.

“A lot of parishioners live around the church,” he said. “There’s a good sense of community here and that means a lot to us. But it’s also an act of service to remind us we are part of something bigger than ourselves.”

Anniversary celebration events include 40 activities, with something for every age group, said Carla Raque.

Raque, a St. Raphael parishioner for 35 years, helped plan the celebration events.

“I’m excited for all of them because it’s bringing us together,” she said. “There’s a sense of community here to serve others.”

Some of the events will include:

  • A book club for those who love to read will announce its first book Oct. 17
  • A day to honor first responders
  • A day at the races
  • Exercise classes
  • Art classes
  • A book drive for Catholic Charities during Dr. Suess week
  • A food drive for the Society of St. Vincent de Paul
  • An alumni Mass for St. Raphael School graduates
  • Mass to welcome back prior priests
  • A gala at the Olmsted

“New life has kind of been breathed into our parish,” Father Cecil said. “New energy, new life, new growth. There’s a lot to celebrate.”

He said the celebration commemorates the church’s past 75 years but also looks to the future.

“We’re looking forward. How do we keep going?” he asked. “We have to be open to going where God wants us to go.”

For more information about upcoming events, visit

Kayla Bennett
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Kayla Bennett
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