It’s been half a century since Bishop Vincent S. Waters dedicated St. Raphael the Archangel Catholic Church in Raleigh.
On Sept. 29 – Saint Raphael's feast day - the parish celebrated the milestone with a special anniversary Mass, and, later, a reception in Ignatius Hall.
The parish began in 1966 with about 150 families, and grew to 600 families during the first decade.
“St. Raphael had about 800 families when I arrived as pastor in August 1978,” Monsignor Gerald Lewis said. “The people were mostly young families moving into Raleigh because of [work] … they brought with them a strong faith and a desire for adequate facilities for passing on the Faith to their children.”
The community, he said, adopted a motto back then. It was: “Our Family Together.”
Today the parish has about 4,700 families. Since its beginnings, the community has added a parish life center (1980), new sanctuary (1987), school (1994) and columbarium (1999).
In his letter to parishioners, Father Phil Hurley, S.J., pastor, wrote about a favorite passage – Tobit 5:4, which involves the angel Raphael assisting a traveler.
“The Church is a pilgrim people … constantly on a journey. The journey of the Church began when Jesus sent the first Christians out on mission to make disciples, baptize and teach. We’re called to be travelers for the long haul!” Father Hurley wrote. “This particular parish of St. Raphael has been ‘on the road’ for 50 years.”
Bishop Michael F. Burbidge conveyed his congratulations to the parish community, and thanked God for blessings, guidance and protection.
Bishop Burbidge thanked the Maryland Province of the Society of Jesus – the Jesuits - for their priestly example and pastoral leadership at the parish. Jesuits have served the parish since 1996.
“From the beginning days … to how you carry out the mission of the Church in the broader Raleigh community today … You have distinguished yourselves as generous and dedicated servants of Our Lord,” he wrote to the faithful.
Bishop Burbidge was the principal celebrant at the anniversary Mass. Father Hurley, S.J., concelebrated and gave the homily.
Other concelebrants were: Monsignor Gerald Lewis, pastor emeritus, Father Bruce Bavinger, S.J., and Father Peter Murray, S.J., both associate pastors, Father John Forbes, pastor at Our Lady of Lourdes Church. Father Justin Kerber, C.P., pastor of Sacred Heart Cathedral, and Father Matt Monnig, S.J., priest in residence.
The celebration did not end with the Mass and reception, however.
Saturday Oct. 1 the parish will host a founders' brunch in Raphael Hall, which was the original church building. Invited guests included parishioners who joined between 1966 and 1986, and second-generation, current parishioners.
A “50 Opportunities” campaign also helps mark the anniversary. The 50 Opportunities for Mercy, Grace and Growth encourages parishioners to take a new step in their faith journey. Organizers asked the faithful to “test out a new ministry, add a devotion, join the Good News People program, come to reconciliation or adoration, or volunteer with mercy.”