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St. Raphael's Parishioners Unite During Mass

By: Zac Schultz
By: Zac Schultz

It's been a long week for parishioners of Madison's St. Raphael Cathedral.

In the wake of a fire which claimed its church, the congregation continues but not without grieving.

"Thank you for everything you're doing."

"Our hearts are with you Monsignor. We hope we get our church back."

"Thank you Monsignor."

You don't think of a church fire leaving people homeless, but but Monday's fire at St. Raphael's Cathedral has left hundreds of people spiritually homeless.

"I have wept this week, as have many of you. That is ok." Monsignor Paul Swain is the Rector at St. Raphaels.

Just one week ago these parishioners met in Madison's oldest church for their usual Sunday Mass. But police say early Monday morning a transient broke into St. Raphael's and started a fire that eventually collapsed the roof.

That's why Monsignor Swain led the faithful to St. Patrick's for a special Palm Sunday service. "Certainly we all wonder why such a tragic and senseless violent act forces us to pray here at St. Patrick Church rather that at St. Raphael Cathedral."

Monsignor Swain answered that question in his homily. "God does not cause arsonists to burn down churches, but he does use moments like this to invite us to deeper faith if we open ourselves to his will."

Monsignor Swain used his sermon to look for the good that can come from this. He spoke passionately about seeing the firefighters retrieve the ciborium and a wooden cross from the smoldering ruins of St. Raphaels. "It was perhaps the most beautiful sight I have ever seen. This time I wept for joy. In the midst of fire, smoke, anxiety and loss, our Lord was with us."

It was clear the parishioners of St. Raphaels are still mourning, but Monsignor Swain says it's time to look to the future. "Today we begin to look and move forward with hope."

And with Easter Sunday ahead of them, the parishioners agree. Steve Statsick says, "together we'll pull through this and move forward, but we're still sad that St. Raphaels is destroyed, but we'll get through it.

Monsignor Swain says next week the church will hold Easter services at Holy Redeemer. He adds church leaders have yet to decide where to hold subsequent services.

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