Parishes come together to celebrate the life of Venerable Father Mazzuchelli Print
Around the Diocese
Written by Kevin Wondrash, Catholic Herald Staff   
Thursday, Mar. 06, 2014 -- 12:00 AM

BENTON -- The priesthood of Venerable Fr. Samuel Mazzuchelli lasted just more than 30 years, from his ordination in 1830 until his death on February 23, 1864.

Now, after a time period nearly five times the number of years of his priestly work on earth, parish members from three states came together to celebrate his life.

Sunday, Feb. 23, was the 150th anniversary of the death of Venerable Father Mazzuchelli. One of the parishes he helped build, St. Patrick Parish in Benton, celebrated a Mass honoring his life.

Tours before Mass

Prior to the Mass, parishioners had an opportunity to tour Venerable Father Mazzuchelli's rectory and visit his gravesite, near St. Patrick Church.

At the rectory, families and other visitors got a chance to see relics from Father Mazzuchelli's life in the modest two-floor, four-room building. A small sign in one of the rooms informed guests they were in the room where he died in 1864.

Many statues, images, and kneelers were also on display.

Just a few feet behind St. Patrick Church, pilgrims to Benton on that day could visit the gravesite of Father Mazzuchelli. He is buried in the cemetery behind the church.

Before Mass started, worshippers joined some of the Sisters from the Sinsinawa Dominicans in singing selections from Pioneer Priest, a musical show about the life of Father Mazzuchelli, written by Sr. Cecil Steffen, a late Sister of the order. The show is still occasionally performed by the Sisters at the Sinsinawa Mound. In 1847, Father Mazzuchelli established the community of the Sinsinawa Dominican Sisters to help him carry out his mission of preaching and teaching.

Priests celebrate Mass

The Mass was celebrated with about a dozen priests from the Diocese of Madison.

St. Patrick Pastor Fr. David Flanagan welcomed everyone to the Mass, calling Father Mazzuchelli a "model" for everyone to follow.

During the "Gloria," the parishes and faith communities founded by Father Mazzuchelli were called forth. They number nearly 30, and include: St. Patrick Parish, St. Thomas the Apostle in Potosi (now SS. Andrew and Thomas Parish), St. Matthew Parish in Shullsburg, St. Augustine Parish in New Diggings (no longer an active parish, but the church remains an historic site with occasional celebrations of Mass), St. Dominic Parish in Sinsinawa (no longer an active parish), St. Francis de Sales Parish in Hazel Green, and St. Rose of the Prairie Parish (now St. Rose of Lima Parish) in Cuba City.

Fr. Richard Leffler, pastor of SS. Andrew and Thomas Parish in Tennyson and Potosi, was the main celebrant and homilist.

During his homily, he called Father Mazzuchelli an "extraordinary person" and said "he wants us to be extraordinary too."

Father Leffler reflected on the life of Father Mazzuchelli. Using the current challenging winter as an illustration, he said Father Mazzuchelli would often get on his horse in the middle of a cold winter night to help someone in need. "I think he should be a saint," he said.

Father Mazzuchelli was declared Venerable in 1993 by Pope John Paul II. That began the process to someday possibly recognize him as a saint in the Catholic Church.

During the intercessions, prior to each one being read and prayed for, they were prefaced with a quote from Father Mazzuchelli, such as, "One who carries the word of truth ought to imitate his Divine Teacher who went about doing good by relieving the oppressed," as worshippers prayed for, "The poor, the hungry, the homeless, the immigrant, the imprisoned, and those who have no one to speak for them."

Reception after Mass

After Mass, a reception was held in the parish hall where guests could view more exhibits and artifacts from the life of Father Mazzuchelli. Visitors came from many of the parishes he founded, including those in Galena, Ill.

On display was a medal given by Father Mazzuchelli to a student at St. Clara Academy in Benton in 1859. There was also a telescope used in his astronomy classes. He was said to take out the telescope and gather the class around him on "bitter cold nights."

There was also a picture of Our Lady of Sorrows in a small frame, which had been above Father Mazzuchelli's bed. It is thought he had a vision of Our Lady before he died.

To view or purchase photos from the event, go to

More opportunities

There are many opportunities year round to learn more about Father Mazzuchelli. The rectory in Benton is open on a daily basis, weather permitting. Hours do vary. For more information, call 608-759-5431 or 608-759-5182. The gravesite may also be visited year round. Those sites are located at 237 E. Main St.

The Sinsinawa Dominican website at also has more information. There is an exhibit at the motherhouse called, "Samuel Mazzuchelli, OP, Tracing a Journey." The Sinsinawa Mound is located in southwest Wisconsin on Cty. Rd. Z, off Hwy. 11, about five miles northeast of Dubuque.

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