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Encyclopedia Dubuque


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Affiliated with the Local History Network of the State Historical Society of Iowa, and the Iowa Museum Association.


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Father Samuel Mazzuchelli

MAZZUCHELLI, Samuel. (Milan, Italy, Nov. 4, 1806--Benton, WI, Feb. 23, 1864). Mazzuchelli came to the United States in 1828. Ordained a priest of the DOMINICAN ORDER in Cincinnati, Ohio, he was assigned to Mackinac Island in Michigan. Mazzuchelli's assignment in 1835 to the Upper Mississippi Valley, from Fort Snelling, Minnesota, to St. Louis, Missouri, extended a distance of over four hundred miles along the MISSISSIPPI RIVER and up to sixty miles inland to the east and west. With an estimated 3,500 Catholics in the parish, Mazzuchelli was responsible for the construction of more than twenty churches.

Mazzuchelli attended a meeting in the home of Patrick QUIGLEY on the evening of July 19, 1835 for the purpose of erecting a Catholic church in Dubuque. It was resolved that there would be one treasurer to receive all moneys; many collectors of contributions; and a building committee of five people to obtain a property, make all contracts, and supervise the construction. Peter LORIMIER was elected the treasurer. (1)

Mazzuchelli's first church in Iowa was named Saint Raphael's. He hosted Independence Day celebrations at the unfinished building on July 4, 1836. At the formation of the diocese of Dubuque in 1837, he was the only priest in the area except for missionaries who worked among the Native Americans to the north.

After the arrival of Bishop Mathias LORAS in 1839, Mazzuchelli was often asked to accompany church officials as they traveled because of his great verbal ability in English. After a visit home in 1843, Mazzuchelli asked for an assignment in Wisconsin where he established a Dominican house. In 1857 Mazzuchelli delivered the eulogy at the funeral of Loras. On July 7, 1861, he assisted Bishop Clement SMYTH in blessing the present ST. RAPHAEL'S CATHEDRAL.

Mazzuchelli's life of charitable works made him a candidate for potential sainthood. After years of research, church officials recommended to Pope John Paul II that Mazzuchelli be named "Venerable." The pope agreed in 1993. In 2008 Mazzuchelli's name entered the second stage of the three-part canonization process that would lead to his sainthood. (2) In 2001 church officials in Wisconsin and Rome investigated a medical miracle linked to his intercession. Robert Uselmann of Madison, Wisconsin was given two years to live before his life was to be claimed by cancer. Uselmann and his family prayed around Mazzuchelli's penance chain which is kept with other artifacts at Sinsinawa Mound. On a return visit to his doctors, Uselmann found his cancer had disappeared. When church officials agree that this was a miracle, Mazzuchelli was called, "Blessed." The search then began for proof of a second miracle that was needed for sainthood.

In 1982 a contest was conducted by the Telegraph Herald to name the new bridge stretching from Dubuque into Wisconsin. The "Name the Bridge" contest received hundreds of name suggestions and over 1,200 votes were cast. The name receiving the most votes was Mazzuchelli. The winner of the contest was Mary Hutchcroft who had the earliest post mark on her suggestion. The name "Mazzuchelli Bridge" was submitted to the Dubuque City Council. The name finally chosen, however, was the DUBUQUE-WISCONSIN BRIDGE.

In 1993 word was received from Rome, Italy that the Pope had declared Mazzuchelli "venerable. This was the first step in declaring the priest a saint. The papal decree declared the "heroic virtues" of the missionary. According to Sister Nona McGreal OP of Chicago who began in 1967 documenting Mazzuchelli's life there would be no more testing of his virtue in Rome. In 1990 historical examiners had begun studying Sister McGreal's 500-page document called a "Positio." Theologians in Rome studied it in 1993. To become a saint, evidence of divine healing would still need to be submitted. He would then be declared "blessed" and after that a saint. (3)

On April 12th, 2006 Dubuque Archbishop Jerome G. HANUS announced that the new middle school planned by the Holy Family Catholic School System would be named after Mazzuchelli. The school opened for the 2006-2007 academic year.



1. "First Catholic Church in Dubuque," Dubuque Herald, July 29, 1875, p. 4. Online: https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=uh8FjILnQOkC&dat=18750729&printsec=frontpage&hl=en

2. Nevans-Pederson, Mary, "Bid for Beatification of Mazzuchelli Gains Steam," Telegraph Herald, August 21, 2008, p. 1

2. Jerde, Lyn Hanson. "Mazzuchelli Step Closer to Becoming a Saint," Telegraph Herald, July 11, 1993, p. 3A

Hudson, David; Bergman, Marvin; Horton, Loren. The Biographical Dictionary of Iowa. Iowa City: Iowa City Press, 2008