The golden anniversary for the St. Raphael community is underway. Members of the Naperville church kicked off the celebration of the founding of their community in style with a parish picnic. The gathering was a big step from its humble beginnings in 1961.
“Well, the church wasn’t here when it first started,” said community member Jack Gillespie. “We had a mission school so it was very small.”
“Most of the people that were here had come from Chicago,” said founding member Joe Kane. “You identify with your parish in Chicago like it was the center of your universe.”
Parishioners soon made St. Raphael the center of their universe working together to build a new church in 1964, a parish complex in 1965, and expanded with the addition of St. Raphael School in 1967.
“For me and my wife, we really love the school,” said parishioner Greg Dellinger. “We decided on a personal level if we could make a Catholic education possible we would do that.”
Community members both young and old have seen many changes over the years, but charity and service within the St. Raphaels community has remained constant.
“St. Raphaels started Loaves & Fishes actually in a closet here in the church,” said Deacon Kurt Lange. “We collected food from parishioners and had people come in to collect it.”
Loaves & Fishes has now grown from helping eight families the first year to more than 3,500 today. The church also works with Feed My Starving Children of Naperville and DuPage PADS homeless shelter in Aurora.
“Its been really exciting,” said community member Mary O’Donnel. “It’s not something that you stand up today and say ’40 years from now we will be this.’ It’s one day at a time and one hand at a time that has made this community what it is.”
Taking one day at a time has turned into 50 years of service from St. Raphaels community to the Naperville area.
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