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Centennial Mass held at St. Raphael Parish in Medford

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WEST MEDFORD —Rose Giovino was born April 10, 1905, three months after St. Raphael Parish was established, and so it was fitting for pastor Father Kevin Toomey to pay tribute to the parish’s oldest parishioner at the conclusion of its centennial Mass Oct. 30. In addition to Giovino, who has attended Mass faithfully for many years, Father Toomey gave special recognition to the Sisters of St. Joseph who have staffed the school since 1960.


Parishioners of St. Raphael’s filled the beautiful stone church for the anniversary Mass celebrated by Archbishop Daniel Cronin, pastor from 1968-1971. The homily was delivered by North Region auxiliary Bishop Francis Irwin. Bishop Daniel Reilly, retired bishop of the Worcester Diocese concelebrated the Mass which began with an outdoor procession led by parishioners, altar servers and many former parochial vicars and three previous pastors.

St. Raphael Parish was established in January 1905 to serve the growing Catholic population of West Medford and in the course of 100 years has been led by 14 pastors. Eager to get the parish going, founding pastor, Father Nathaniel Merritt organized a springtime bazaar to raise funds for a rectory and purchase land for a church. The first St. Raphael Church, a Spanish-mission style structure, was dedicated on Oct. 29, 1905. In August 1909, Father Merritt was transferred to Winchester. During the pastorate of Father John J. Powers, (1931-1937) the church was enlarged with wings added on. Father Dennis A. O’Brien (1938-1949) erected the parish hall.

In the 1950s, Medford’s school age population flourished. Msgr. Joseph W. Murphy, pastor from 1954-1968, saw the need for a school. The cornerstone was laid in 1960 and the convent followed in 1964. On Oct. 1, 1968, Bishop Daniel A. Cronin —a young newly consecrated auxiliary bishop —became the 11th pastor. His pastorate lasted only two years. On Oct. 30, 1970, he was named bishop of the Fall River Diocese.

The late Father Martin J. Dolphin, pastor from 1971-1981 oversaw implementing Vatican II reforms and more improvements to the parish property. Father Dennis Burns served as pastor from 1981-1990. Prior to leaving for a new pastorate in Marblehead, Father Burns established a renovation committee to explore ideas for renovating the church. Late in the evening of Dec. 7, 1990, a fire of suspicious origin destroyed the church. Thereafter, the school chapel began to be used for weekend Masses.

It fell to the next pastor, Father Dennis T. Nason to organize the parish to build a new church. The new St. Raphael Church on the site of the old is a replica of the sixth century Church of St. Euphemia in Grado, Italy and built of rugged, multi-hued fieldstone. Stained glass windows, the tabernacle and other artifacts from the old building were incorporated into the new church. The love and devotion parishioners have for St. Raphael Parish was evident in their generous support to finance the new church without leaving the parish in any debt. Cardinal Law dedicated the new church Dec. 19, 1993.

With heavy hearts, parishioners bid farewell to Father Nason as the summer of 1998 came to an end. Father was honored with a grand reception in the parish hall. Father Toomey became the current pastor on Sept. 29, 1998.

In his closing remarks, Father Toomey thanked his devoted parishioners for their assistance in planning the Centennial Mass. Prior to the final blessing, the children’s choir performed on the steps of the sanctuary. Outside the church, parishioners greeted three former pastors, Archbishop Cronin, Father Burns and the avuncular Father Nason and some former parochial vicars including Father Thomas Keyes, Father Paul Rouse and current senior priest in-residence, Father Charlie Duggan. A luncheon followed in the parish hall.

St. Raphael’s centennial year will come to a close with a banquet at the World Trade Center Nov. 19.

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