The History of Saint Raphael Catholic Church of Syracuse
Syracuse was listed as a mission station served from Meade Center in 1888 and 1889, and from Great Bend in 1898. Also, the resident pastors at Dodge City baptized babies in Syracuse on their way to care for the congregation at St. Patrick Church in Coolidge.
The Catholic congregation in Syracuse, however, did not fully develop until Father Joseph Bogner was assigned resident pastor at Garden City in 1906.
Father Bogner’s first impression, recorded in an article for Extension Magazine in August of 1909, were somewhat disheartening, however. “On my first visit to Syracuse my spirits surely sank, for there were only a few to hear Mass in a room of a dwelling house. Some were ‘newcomers,’ but thinking perhaps others would aid us, we determined to have a church, if possible. We had worked diligently since September, but only $500 had been subscribed, a great deal of this having been donated by the citizens of the town. Nevertheless, the building commenced in August 1907, on lost donated by one of the businessmen. We now are very proud of our neat little church, which is completed and fairly well furnished.” The 1907 annual report for this “parish” includes mention of $98.00 received from the sale of the lot and the church at Coolidge. Father William Farrell, pastor of St. Teresa, Hutchinson, blessed the church in Syracuse on the feast of the Archangels, September 29, 1908.
The church was named St. Raphael at the request of a donor. The living children of L.A. and Elizabeth Schoolfield loaned the parish $500 to build the church. They offered to make the loan a donation if the church was dedicated to the archangel.
Diocesan priests assigned to St. Mary, Garden City. Offered Mass once a month in Syracuse on a Wednesday. This continued until the Precious Blood Fathers took charge of Garden City and the mission in 1927. The precious Blood Fathers celebrated Mass one Sunday a month before 1931, and two Sundays a month after, until October of 1940, when Mass was celebrated every Sunday.
The original frame church was enlarged to twice its size in 1943. A new sacristy and sanctuary were constructed with all the labor donated by the parishioners. The old sacristy was sold to the Lakin parish. Bishop Christian H. Winkelmann blessed the church on May 17, 1944.
In 1947, shortly after Bishop Mark K. Carroll was installed, three men from Syracuse traveled to Wichita to visit about constructing a rectory in the parish. The project was a great interest to the bishop. At that time Precious Blood Father Theodore Rath was trinating, offering Mass at Lakin, Syracuse and Ulysses each Sunday. Bishop Carroll could see that a rectory at Syracuse would not only provide St. Raphael with a resident pastor, but further the work in the western missions of the diocese.
A rectory, patterned after one constructed at Offerle, was completed in 1948, Father Rath, the first resident pastor, served St. Bernadette, Johnson, a mission. Lakin also received a resident pastor who served the mission at Ulysses. Precious Blood Fathers continued to serve at St. Raphael until 1990, when care for the parish was returned to diocesan clergy.
The parish built a new church during the pastorate of Precious Blood Father Jerome Wolf. Bishop Marion F. Forst dedicated the church August 18, 1963.
The church was designed by Lyman, Jones and Cobb Architects of Garden City. The builder was Mel Krebs, Construction Company, Garden City.
The interior of the church is finished with exposed brick walls and wooden ceiling. All the wood furniture of the church is finished in fruitwood. The altar screen is metallic resembling a louvered honeycomb. The church is lighted indirectly by fluorescent fixtures hidden from view by the laminated arches in the ceiling. A Verdin bell system was added to the church in 1973. One member of the congregation was ordained to the priesthood. Another professed as Sister.
The Syracuse parish includes the Hamilton County Catholics living in Kendall and Coolidge. In 1976, however, the Most Reverend Charles A. Buswell, bishop of Pueblo, wrote Bishop Forst on behalf of some families in Coolidge who wanted to transfer to the St. Frances of Rome Parish in Holly, Colorado.
Bishop Forst responded that he was willing to do whatever Bishop Buswell felt best, but was inclined to let the respective pastors in the parishes that border the two dioceses arrange their own settlement. To this day some Coolidge residents are members of the Holly parish, six miles to the west. The drive to the church at Syracuse is 16 miles.