Abbot Raphael was a people person with a ‘depth of spirituality’

Abbot Raphael Walsh, former president of Mount Michael Benedictine School near Elkhorn, died April 25. He was 92. 

A funeral Mass was held April 29 at St. James Church in Omaha followed by a private interment.

A native of St. Louis, he attended Conception Abbey and Seminary College in Conception, Missouri, made his first profession of vows in 1946 and was ordained in 1952.

“He had a great love of the liturgy, the Eucharist and the Divine Office,” said Mount Michael’s Abbot Michael Liebl, and took part in implementing the liturgical reforms of the Second Vatican Council within Benedictine monasteries.

Abbot Raphael was also an avid reader, especially of books on spirituality, and that carried over to his interactions with other people and how he celebrated the Eucharist and the Divine Office, Abbot Michael said.

“He was very outgoing and enjoyed people very much,” he said. “And many people saw in him a depth of spirituality, something that they hungered for. So, many people trusted him as a confidant whenever going through any kind of spiritual crisis.”

Priests of the archdiocese also would often come to him for spiritual direction, Abbot Michael said, since many knew him from their time at Conception Seminary. 

After ordination, Abbot Raphael continued to serve at Conception, as a teacher, spiritual adviser to students and as prior at the abbey.

He was named prior of Mount Michael Monastery in 1963 and became abbot two years later when the monastery’s status was elevated to Mount Michael Benedictine Abbey. He also helped lead the school’s transition in 1970 from a seminary (Saint John Vianney Seminary) to the current Mount Michael Benedictine School.

Abbot Raphael retired from that role in 1989 and in 1990 became associate pastor at St. James, where he served for 13 years.

“He had a gentle, caring spirit that people really responded to, and was a real father figure for people in the parish,” said Father Michael Grewe, who was pastor of St. James during part of Abbot Raphael’s time there.

He also was integral in the planning and fundraising for construction of the parish’s new church in 2002, said Father Grewe, who now is pastor of St. Cecilia Parish and rector of St. Cecilia Cathedral.

In 2003, Abbot Raphael returned to Mount Michael, serving as president of the school until his retirement in 2011. He continued serving in Mount Michael’s advancement office in retirement.

Abbot Raphael also was active in Teens Encounter Christ and the Knights of Columbus, and was a Knight Commander with Star in the Knights of the Holy Sepulchre.

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