Samuel Mazzuchelli

Samuel Charles Mazzuchelli, O.P. (November 4, 1806 – February 23, 1864) was a pioneer Italian Dominican friar and Catholic missionary priest who helped bring the church to the Iowa-Illinois-Wisconsin tri-state area. He founded a number of parishes in the area, and was the architect for a number of parish buildings. Additionally, Mazzuchelli founded a number of schools throughout the region, some of which have developed into local Catholic colleges. As part of this effort, he founded the Sinsinawa Dominican Sisters.

Samuel Mazzuchelli

A young Mazzuchelli
OrdinationSeptember 5, 1830
by Edward Fenwick
Personal details
Birth nameCarlo Gaetano Samuele Mazzuchelli
Born(1806-11-04)November 4, 1806
Milan, French Kingdom of Italy
DiedFebruary 23, 1864(1864-02-23) (aged 57)
Benton, Wisconsin, United States
BuriedSt. Patrick's Cemetery, Benton, Wisconsin, United States
Venerated inRoman Catholic Church
Title as SaintVenerable


Early lifeEdit

Fr. Mazzuchelli historical marker

He was born Carlo Gaetano Samuele Mazzuchelli on November 4, 1806, in Milan—then under French control, the 16th of 17 children of a prominent family. At the age of 17 he entered the Dominican Order, which was still recovering from the devastation wrought on institutions of the Catholic Church in Italy under the French Revolutionary Army. After his period of novitiate, when he changed his name to Friar Samuel, he went to Rome to prepare for ordination. He was ordained a subdeacon in 1827 in the Lateran Basilica, around which time he was recruited to serve in new Diocese of Cincinnati, still missionary territory for the Church.

After spending some time in France to perfect his French, in 1828 Mazzuchelli set out for the United States, where he arrived in Cincinnati, and was welcomed by the bishop, his fellow Dominican friar, Edward Fenwick.[1]

Missionary priestEdit

After obtaining a dispensation from the Holy See due to his being underage, Mazzuchelli was ordained a priest by Fenwick on September 5, 1830.[2] Shortly after that, he was sent to serve at Sainte Anne Church on Mackinac Island and later in northern Wisconsin, After about five years there, Mazzuchelli arrived in the Dubuque area. During his time, he faced a number of challenges, such as hostility from other Christian denominations.[3]

While in what would later become Dubuque, Iowa, he reorganized the parish and named it Saint Raphael, which later became the Cathedral parish when the Dubuque Diocese was formed in 1837. He assisted Bishop Mathias Loras during the first few years after the founding of the Diocese and worked extensively in what would eventually become the Diocese of Madison, Wisconsin. There he founded over 30 parishes and designed and built over 20 church buildings, along with a number of civic buildings.[2] Three of those parishes were named after the three Archangels: Saint Raphael's in Dubuque, St. Michael's in Galena, Illinois, and Saint Gabriel's in Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin. In 1846, he founded Sinsinawa Mound College. In 1847, he founded the Sinsinawa Dominican Sisters. In 1848, he founded St. Clara Female Academy (now Dominican University), a frontier school for young women, which he entrusted to the Dominican Sisters.

Many remembered Mazzuchelli as a kind and gentlemanly priest. He was able to break down the cultural barriers that existed at the time and appeal to many different ethnic groups. The Irish he ministered to called him "Father Matthew Kelly".[4] He died on February 23, 1864 after contracting an illness from a sick parishioner.[5] Mazzuchelli was buried at St. Patrick's Cemetery in Benton.


Fr. Mazzuchelli's grave in Benton, Wisconsin

Over the years a case for elevating him to Sainthood has been pending with the church. It started in 1964, when William Patrick O'Connor, the first Bishop of Madison, established a Diocesan Historical Commission to determine if documents available were sufficient for the Church to proceed with initial steps required in the process of beatification. The process progressed and was accepted by the Holy See for further investigation.[6] In 1993, Pope John Paul II declared Mazzuchelli Venerable.

In preparation for the 200th anniversary of Mazzuchelli's birth in November 2006, those campaigning for Mazzuchelli to be elevated to sainthood began a number of activities to draw attention to that particular cause. The Sinsinawa Dominican sisters have been particularly active in this campaign.

In August 2008, an official inquiry into a presumed miracle performed through the intercession of Mazzuchelli was completed in the Diocese of Madison. Robert Uselmann, a resident of Monona, Wisconsin had gone to Sinsinawa Mound with his family in 2001 to pray to Mazzuchelli for his intercession in curing him of cancer. While there he prayed with the Sisters, using Mazzuchelli's penance chain. Uselmann later discovered that a cancerous tumor had disappeared from his lung.[2]

Robert C. Morlino, Bishop of the Diocese of Madison, opened a diocesan tribunal at the request of the Sinsinawa Dominican Sisters, which concluded its non-judgmental investigation and sent the results to Rome. If the Congregation for the Causes of Saints rules that Uselmann's healing is judged miraculous, Mazzuchelli would be eligible for beatification, the next step in the process of naming a saint within the Church.


In 2006 a new middle school built by the Holy Family Catholic School System in Dubuque was named after Mazzuchelli. The school opened for the 2006–2007 academic year.[7]

Parishes founded by Fr. MazzuchelliEdit

St. Mathias Church in Muscatine, Iowa was built by Mazzuchelli in Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin and floated down the Mississippi River to Muscatine.

This list is incomplete. You can help by adding to it.


  1. ^ Check, Christopher (July 1, 2013). "The Apostle of the Upper Midwest: Samuel Mazzuchelli". Crisis Magazine.
  2. ^ a b c Uhler, Mary C. (August 28, 2008). "Cause for sainthood moves forward". Catholic Herald. Retrieved February 26, 2009.
  3. ^ "Ste. Anne Catholic Church - History". Retrieved January 9, 2016.
  4. ^ "Term: Father Samuel Mazzuchelli" Dictionary of Wisconsin History
  5. ^ "Mazzuchelli, Samuel Charles 1806 – 1864". Retrieved January 9, 2016.
  6. ^ "Mazzuchelli Cause Continues". Sinsinawa Dominicans. Archived from the original on February 10, 2016.
  7. ^ Middle School Named in Honor of Fr. Mazzuchelli Archived September 29, 2007, at the Wayback Machine Sinsinawa Dominican Sisters website

Further readingEdit

  • Mazzuchelli, Samuel. The Memoirs of Father Samuel Mazzuchelli, O.P. Chicago: Priory Press, 1967.
  • McGreal, Mary Nona. Samuel Mazzuchelli: American Dominican, Journeyman, Preacher, Pastor, Teacher. Notre Dame, IN: Ave Maria Press, 2005.

External linksEdit