Saint Raphael is a Roman Catholic parish, confided to the care of the Benedictine monks of Saint Anselm Abbey, in the Diocese of Manchester. St. Raphael is the first Benedictine foundation in New England and was established to serve the German and Irish immigrant populations working in the Manchester mills. The parish is a tithing community, endeavoring to return to the Lord in time, treasure and talent 10 percent of the blessings he bestows upon us. A total of 10 percent, the biblical standard, of gifts to the parish is tithed to outside charities.
In 1888 at the request of the Diocese of Manchester, four Benedictine monks came to New Hampshire to establish a parish to serve German and Irish immigrants as well as to establish a college for young men. From the initial parish founded under the Rev. Sylvester Joerg, O.S.B., the first monastic community and the groundwork for the college emerged in 1889. The first public parish Mass was celebrated on Easter Sunday, 1 April 1888 in the Harrington Hose Co. building on Clinton Street and later, the parish opened its first building, a structure containing church, auditorium, school, rectory and convent. This type of “all-in-one” building, designed by the firm of architect P.W. Ford, Boston, was common in Catholic life in New England in the late 19th century.
Today, the parish complex consists of Saint Raphael Church, constructed in 1964; the parish rectory, built in 1907; Saint Benedict Academy, opened in 1964; and the religious education center located in lower level of the original church building. The church building is both functional and aesthetically pleasing – a tribute to the architects and monastic ethos that helped design it. The contemporary Italianate-style church, designed by architects Andrew and Nicholas Isaak of Manchester, includes a belfry, baptistery and daily Mass worship space, the Saint Benedict Chapel, as well a fully fitted kitchen, hall and classrooms for religious education on the basement level. The Isaaks also designed Saint Anselm Abbey Church.
On June 14, 1965, the Rt. Rev. Gerald F. McCarthy, O.S.B., abbot of Saint Anselm, dedicated the main altar; the new parish church was blessed and dedicated on Aug. 1, 1965, by the Most Rev. Ernest J. Primeau, D. D., bishop of Manchester.
Saint Benedict Academy, an elementary school for approximately 150 youngsters, originally opened as Saint Raphael School for Grades K-8 to serve parishes on Manchester’s West Side. Instruction was first under the direction of the Benedictine Sisters of Elizabeth, N.J., and later by the Religious Sisters of Mercy, as well as many devoted lay teachers. In the 1970s, faced with a declining number of religious sisters, mounting costs and eroding enrollment, the school was made part of the diocesan system as West Side Catholic Regional School. The school was renamed Saint Benedict Academy in 2003.
(compiled from parish archives and oocities.com)