Fr. Samuel Mazzuchelli: an inspiration in the Year of Faith Print
Seeing with Jesus' Eyes
Thursday, Feb. 07, 2013 -- 12:00 AM

Seeing with Jesus' Eyes, a column by Fr. Donald Lange

Carlo Gaetano Samuele Mazzuchelli was born on November 4, 1806 in Milan, Italy. He died in 1864 as pastor of St. Patrick’s, Benton. Years later, as pastor of St. Patrick’s, I walked the parish grounds, presided at Mass, and visited his rectory and grave. My knowledge and admiration of him deepened. He certainly is an inspiration in this Year of Faith.

Father Samuel, a Dominican priest, accomplished so much that I get tired just thinking about it. A parishioner called him “our steam engine missionary.” He was architect and builder of more than 20 churches. He believed deeply in God’s Providence and venerated Mary. He designed and built civic buildings and helped to establish many parishes and schools. He was a master preacher and teacher who taught at Benton St. Clara Academy and other places.

He founded the Sinsinawa Dominican Sisters and served as chaplain of the first session of the Wisconsin Territorial Legislature.

He wrote memoirs of his life and mission and founded the Sinsinawa Mound College of St. Thomas Aquinas. He ministered to Wisconsin-Michigan Indians and wrote a liturgical almanac in Chippewa and a Winnebago Prayerbook.

At Shullsburg settlers’ request, he named some of its streets Faith and Wisdom, Peace and Charity, Judgment and Truth, Friendship, Mercy, and Joy.

When I drive on Judgment St., I slow down and pray. Now I live next to the beautiful stone building that Father Mazzuchelli built at the Mound.

Caring for the sick

In 1850 a chlorea epidemic struck New Diggings, Wis. Senator James Earnest helped Father Samuel care for the sick. Susan, his daughter, wrote to Sr. Benedicta Kennedy, “I have heard my father tell of when there was an epidemic of chlorea in New Diggings. Nearly every family was afflicted. Father Samuel and my father worked shoulder to shoulder, giving them (the afflicted) help and comfort.”

Father Mazzuchelli transacted wills and bequests hastily made by dying Protestant and Catholic parents. He took responsibility for orphans. His mother died when he was six and some of his early classmates were orphans.

Protecting the Church

In 1862 when the Benton Primitive Methodist Church burned, Catholics were suspected. Father Samuel wrote to Thomas Bainbridge, elder of that Church, “I send $25.00 as my contribution for rebuilding the church destroyed by fire. My object in doing so is to convince all parties that the Catholic Church does condemn incendiaries under any excuse or pretext, political or religious.” The $25 was greater than St. Patrick’s total collections for six months.

Father Samuel died as he lived, praying and ministering to others. Wherever he served, no Catholic died without the sacraments. On February 15, 1864, he gave the last sacraments to Dennis Murphy, Benton’s first settler. Then a dying woman requested the last sacraments. During the long ride to her sickbed, he experienced chills and severe pains. A physician diagnosed that he suffered from pleuroma pneumonia.

The following days two physicians and his confessor attended him while Dominican Sisters kept an unbroken prayer vigil until he died on February 23, 1864, in Benton at age 57. News of his death spread throughout America.

Cause for sainthood

Father Samuel helped to spiritually and physically build the Church where he served. After he died, many prayed for his canonization. On July 9, 1964, Mother Benedicta, Sinsinawa Dominican Prioress, formally petitioned for official establishment of the cause for his hoped for beatification and canonization.

Under the direction of the Vatican Congregation for Causes of Saints, Dominican Sr. Nona McGreal wrote a formal presentation of his life and virtue (called a positio.) The document’s historical review was completed in 1990. Next expert theologians reviewed it to determine the heroic quality of his virtues.

On July 6, 1993, Fr. Samuel Mazzuchelli was declared “Venerable” by Pope John Paul II. The title “Venerable” recognizes his holiness and completes the first step towards his canonization.

A man of sacrifice

Next, the Church examines reports of miraculous favors attributed to him. If a miracle is approved, the Pope would beatify Father Mazzuchelli with the title “Blessed.”

If the Church approves a second miracle, Father Samuel could be honored by the Church as “Saint Samuel.” This would make many hearts dance with joy!

In a Benton St. Patrick’s pictorial directory, someone wrote, “Father Samuel was a man of great sacrifice. We marvel at his commitment to God and people. He came. He stayed. He gave his life for them. My God what a man.” (What a priest!)

Prayer for Beatification of Father Samuel Mazzuchelli, O.P.

“Lord Jesus, you called your servant, Samuel, even in early youth, to leave home and all for a Dominican life of charity in preaching your holy gospel. You gave him abundant graces of Eucharistic love, devotion to your holy Mother of Sorrows, and a consuming zeal for souls. Grant, we beseech you, that his fervent love and labors for you may become more widely known, to a fruitful increase of your Mystical Body, to his exaltation, and to our own constant growth in devoted love of you Who with the Father and the Holy Spirit live and reign one God, world without end. Amen.”

Fr. Don Lange is a pastor emeritus in the Diocese of Madison.