HISTORY OF ST. RAPHAEL CATHOLIC SCHOOL
Faith brought us together on January 3, 1960, as the Snell Isle Mission. Snell Isle was growing and the area needed its own Catholic community. Liturgy was originally celebrated at the Snell Isle Center in what was for a time known as Brophy’s Restaurant. The Water Club condominiums are now on that location, across the street from the St. Raphael campus. The congregation soon outgrew this location, and Masses were then celebrated at the Snell Isle Women's Club by Monsignor John Mullins, Pastor of St. Paul Parish. At that time, approximately 425 families attended Mass at the Women's Club.
The original congregation grew quickly and on Easter Sunday, April 2, 1961 Father William J. Weinheimer was appointed to oversee the Mission. In December of 1961, St. Raphael was chosen as the Patron Saint by Archbishop Hurley and St. Raphael Parish was officially established when Father Weinheimer was named its first pastor.
Plans for a temporary, mission-style facility, eventually referred to as the old church, were drawn up and ground was broken on March 19, 1962. Just seven months later, on February 17, 1963, the church was dedicated by Archbishop Hurley.
Over the years, the families at St. Raphael Parish recognized that other facilities were needed to meet its worship and educational needs. The groundbreaking for St. Raphael Catholic School was held on June 1, 1963. The school opened on September 1, 1964 with 175 students in kindergarten through eighth grade and Miss Elizabeth Sabathe as its first principal. Two years later, August 29, 1966, marked the arrival of three Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, with Sister Mary Paracleta serving as the new principal.
In September of 1968, construction was begun on the convent and the sisters were able to take up residence in the middle of May, 1969. The convent was dedicated on November 8, 1969. In August 1970, Sister Sue Ann Steves was appointed principal of St. Raphael Catholic School. During her six year tenure, the school flourished. On June 7, 1971, Father Anton Dechering was appointed pastor and held that position for twenty-five years. In October, 1973 construction began on the parish rectory and the school library. The dedication for these buildings was held on the Feast of St. Raphael, September 29, 1974.
Sister Florence Ann Marino, IHM became principal in August, 1976 and continued in the position until June, 1984. Sister Marino supplied the leadership that increased the school’s enrollment to 300 students. During Sister Marino’s tenure a separate building, which is the parish center, was added to the magnificent waterfront campus and was dedicated on March 7, 1982. This building now houses a kindergarten class, art classroom, student locker rooms, staff offices, lunch room, stage, and is used for physical education classes, morning gathering and announcements, and school wide assemblies and performances.
By June, 1984 the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, withdrew. Sister Natalie Bussiere, SND, was named principal and served the next four years. In the summer of 1988, Sister Bussiere was succeeded by Mrs. Patricia Coyle. The renowned band program was begun during the tenure of Mrs. Coyle under the direction of Volker and Joy auf dem Kampe. During 1988-1989, the convent was renovated into a priests’ residence. The rectory was remodeled to provide parish offices including a school computer room. This is where the present day computer lab is located.
Mrs. Carol A. Huff was appointed principal on July 1, 1992 and was at St. Raphael’s for seven years. On July 1, 1996, Monsignor J. Bernard Caverly was appointed as St. Raphael Parish’s third pastor. From 1999-2002 Mr. Harry Plummer was principal. He was succeeded by Mrs. Caryl Nolan from 2002-2004. An elevator was installed in the school building, to accommodate handicapped individuals in 2002. Mrs. Nolan was replaced by Mr. Richard Lynn during the spring of 2004. During this time the building of a new church began. The new church was dedicated on June 12, 2005. In the summer of 2005, the breezeway was enclosed to house the school office and lobby area. Mr. Lynn was principal until his death on December 24, 2005. Mrs. Dorsey Dunn, the middle school math teacher, was the interim principal until July, 2006, when Miss Valerie Wostbrock was appointed as the eleventh principal.
In January of 2006, renovations began in the old science room adjacent to the school office/lobby in preparation for the Early Childhood 4 (EC4) Year Old classroom. Eighteen EC4 students were enrolled and began school in August, 2006. A middle school science lab was also created in the back of the old church in August, 2006. The front of the old church was made into an area for all music and band classes. This left the center of the old church to be used as a Parish Hall.
The previous accreditation was completed in the spring of 2009, during the tenure of Miss Wostbrock who remained Principal until the summer of 2012. In the summer of 2010, Fr. Timothy Sherwood was appointed as the fourth pastor of St. Raphael Parish. Also arriving at that time was Deacon Jim Grevenites, serving as the Parish Business Manager.
Mrs. Kathy Bogataj was named the twelfth, and present Principal of St. Raphael in the summer of 2012. Mrs. Bogataj oversaw the third year review in December 2012. Under Mrs. Bogataj’s tenure, enrollment has remained steady. Marketing strategies have been put in place to benefit future enrollment. A full time guidance counselor was hired along with a full time resource teacher. Mrs. Bogataj consistently encourages faculty members to take advantage of professional development opportunities, and students are regularly guided toward service of others in our community, most notably by the school’s Day of Giving.
The St. Raphael history is full of challenges presented and challenges met. God’s grace will continue to work through our hands, our minds and our hearts, as we continue the legacy of St. Raphael Catholic School: providing academic excellence in a faith – filled community.