Father Samuel Mazzuchelli


Venerable Samuel Mazzuchelli, OP

On February 20, 2011, at our St. Joseph site, Sr. Mary Paynter, OP gave a presentation on the life of the Venerable Samuel Mazzuchelli, OP.  Father Samuel was the founder of the Sinsinawa Dominican Sisters.  He was an ardent missionary who served and fought for the dignity of all the people he knew--the Native Americans, the fur-traders, the farmers, the miners and the settlers over a vast territory.  Fr. Father Samuel's case for beatification is presently at the Congregation for the Causes of Saints in the Vatican.


Venerable Samuel Mazzuchelli, OP—Timeline of the Cause

A Saint for Our Time

In July, 1993, Pope John Paul II declared Samuel Mazzuchelli a “Servant of God,” with the title of “Venerable”.  The diocesan process of his Cause for Beatification was opened in the diocese of Madison (WI) on February 20, 2006, by Bishop Robert Charles Morlino, and closed in August, 2008 at Sinsinawa, Wisconsin.  The Apertura (or opening) of the documents of the case occurred on December 11, 2008, at the Congregation for the Causes of Saints in the Vatican.  We now await the completion of the study of the case by the Congregation in Rome.

Fr. Samuel’s Story

During his lifetime, Father Samuel was considered not only a good and holy man, but also one who had cured several people, including two children who had epilepsy [from reminiscences of people who knew him, documented in Archives at Dominican Motherhouse in Sinsinawa WI].  After his death on February 23, 1864, a penitential chain was found around his waist.  Ever since then, that chain has remained as a “special relic” [authenticated by Bishop William P. O’Connor, during the first diocesan Process in the 1960s], and thousands of people have venerated that relic seeking Father Samuel’s intercession.

The Most Reverend William P. O’Connor, first Bishop of Madison, WI said—

            “There are some who never die, men whose vital and vitalizing spirit survives their natural death and lives on.  Father Samuel was one of these…not only a missionary par excellence, but also a scholar, a man of learning.”


Much earlier, the Most Reverend John Ireland, Archbishop of St. Paul, MN said---

            “Father Samuel Mazzuchelli!  He was in these northwestern regions the pioneer of pioneer missionaries, for many years the only one to roam from Superior’s and Michigan shores to the waters of the Mississippi and the Missouri, and never since has he been surpassed in holy valor, in self surrender, in wisdom of work, in gracefulness, and saintliness of character.”

More recently, the Most Reverend Jerome Hanus, O.S.B., Archbishop of Dubuque, said---

“By looking at Samuel Mazzuchelli’s life, we can see what should be important in our lives as people of the Church today…. May Mazzuchelli inspire and pray for us today…may he continue to watch over us, walk with us, and encourage us.”

Born in Milan, Italy, on November 4, 1806, Carlo Gaetano Samuele Mazzucchelli was the fifteenth and last son of Luigi Mazzucchelli and Rachel Merlini.  Samuel made his final profession in the Dominican Order at the age of 18.  During his seminary studies in Rome, he was mandated “Missionary for North America.”  In October, 1828, he embarked for the United State bound for New York City on a small sailing ship, the Edward Quesnel—only 100 feet long and about 25 feet wide.

Samuel was ordained in Cincinnati in1830 by Bishop Fenwick and given his first assignment:  a large area of the Great Lakes region in the northern United States to the border with Canada, with particular location on the island of Mackinac. 

He became a true missionary to all he met.  His missionary travels were difficult—by horseback, on foot, by canoe; in the winter he had to travel on horse-drawn sleds or on snowshoes as the Indians did.  He ate whatever he was offered—the meat of bear and deer and fish or rice and bread.  He often went hungry.  He accepted whatever hospitality was offered, having no residence of his own for the most part.  Sometimes, he slept on the ground, sometimes in the teepees of Indians, sometimes in the simple huts of the immigrant pioneers—never known to complain.

He saw the many injustices being suffered by both the Indians and the poor fur-traders and he spoke out boldly, writing letters of protest to Congress and even to the then-President of the U.S., Andrew Jackson.

Father Samuel built many churches throughout Wisconsin, Illinois, Iowa, but few of the original buildings are still standing.  He founded the Order of Sinsinawa Dominican Sisters who have served us in our schools, our parishes and our missions.  His service to all those he met and worked with is a lasting testimony to his holiness and service to God.

The last months of Fr. Samuel’s life were marked by an extraordinary experience, which he confided only to his confessor, Father Kinsella.  After the death of Fr. Samuel, Father Kinsella revealed to the Dominican Sisters an extraordinary fact---on the morning of October 11, 1863, in the “blue room” of his little house in Benton, WI, Father Samuel had a vision:  the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to him.  Father Samuel told Father Kinsella, “I have always admired beauty, but never have I seen anything that compares with the beauty of God’s Mother.”  The sisters who had seen him later that October morning always remembered his luminous and unusually radiant expression and his talking about the Madonna as if she were someone he had just met.

Father Samuel’s death followed his urgent trip to the bedside of a dying woman.  It was bitterly cold after a heavy snowfall and he subsequently developed a high fever.  Struck down by pleurisy and pneumonia, Father Mazzuchelli died after a week of suffering, in the early morning of February 23, 1864 at the age of 57.

“This humble, gentle friar, with his strong missionary zeal serves as a model for each of us as we continue to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ.”—words of The Most Reverent David Zubik, Bishop of Pittsburgh and former Bishop of Green Bay, WI.