The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only one page.” -- St. Augustine

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi - Santa Fe, N.M.

(Observer photos/
Destination: Founded as a parish in 1610, the same year the city of Santa Fe was founded, the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi  sits on the site of the original 17th century parish. The current church was established as a cathedral in1853 and elevated to basilica  in 2005.
Mass times are Sunday, 8 a.m. (Spanish), 10 a.m. and 12 noon; Monday- Saturday, 7 a.m. and 5:15 p.m.
Why to go: One reason to plan a stop is to see the oldest statue of the Virgin Mary in the U.S., brought from Spain in 1685. Today the image rests in an adobe chapel dedicated to Our Lady La Conquistadora. The chapel is all that remains of a 1714 church, bullt after the Pueblo Indian Revolt of 1680.
The Franciscans who established the parish arrived in the area that would become Santa Fe in 1598. They accompanied Spanish settlers who had come north from Mexico City.
When Bishop John B. Lamy deemed the adobe church inadequate to growing needs, he brought French architects and Italian stonemasons to Santa Fe to build a Romanesque church in 1887.
The new cathedral was built around the adobe church. When the new walls were complete, the old church was torn down and removed through the front door.
The stained glass windows in the lower bay are from France and depict the Twelve Apostles.
Dedicated in 1887, the Cathedral’s spires were never completed due to lack of funds.
(Grand) Kid friendly: The cathedral welcomes children. If you want to prepare them for the visit, check the virtual tour at
Info: Address — Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi, 131 Cathedral Place, Santa Fe, NM, 87501
Phone — 505/982-5619 
Website —
—  Sharon Boehlefeld compiled this story.
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Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Basilica of the Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart -- Charleston, W.V.

Destination: With a parish history dating back to the late 1700’s, the Basilica Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart began as a parish serving 63 families in 1866. Mass was celebrated at various locations for several years until the first church was built in 1869. On Christmas in 1897, the first Mass was offered in the present church.
Mass times are Sunday: 8 a.m., 10 a.m. (Solemn Mass), 12 noon, 5 p.m.; Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, 8 a.m.; Tuesday, Thursday, Friday: 12 noon; Wednesday: 5:30 p.m.; Saturday 5:30 p.m.
Photos: The Basilica of the Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart (above) and a detail of its Annunciation statue (below) ((Observer photos/ 
Why to go: On June 20, 2010, Bishop Michael J. Bransfield of the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston celebrated a Mass for the investiture of Sacred Heart Co-Cathedral Church as a Minor Basilica. In honor of the 150th anniversary of the parish’s founding, the diocese began extensive renovations of the basilica.
Among improvements were a new altar and ambo, as well as new flooring, new steps to the high altar and other interior upgrades.
The basilica is also a pilgrimage site for the diocesan Shrine of the Santo NiƱo, and the Annunciation and Tree of Life gardens.
In 2007 Sacred Heart Co-Cathedral commissioned artist John Collier to design and create bronze statues of the Annunciation and the Tree of Life with the Crucified Christ. In 2008 the  statues were installed in the gardens in front of the church.
(Grand) Kid friendly: The basilica is an active parish with a school, so kids are always welcome.
Info: Address — Basilica of the Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart, 1114 Virginia St. East, Charleston, WV 25301
 Phone — 304/342-8175
Website —
—  Sharon Boehlefeld compiled this story.
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Thursday, April 5, 2018

Basilica of St. Josaphat -- Milwaukee, Wis.

(Observer photos/
Destination: If you head to Milwaukee for any reason, you might want to schedule a stop at the Basilica of St. Josaphat, named the third basilica in the United States.
Mass times are Sundays, 8 a.m., 10 a.m. and noon; Saturdays, 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.; Monday through Friday, 7 a.m.; Wednesday, noon.
Why to go: St. Josaphat Parish began in 1888 as an offshoot of Saint Stanislaus Parish and became the largest Polish parish in Wisconsin.  The Poles were Milwaukee’s second largest immigrant group after Germans, only some of whom were Catholic. The first St. Josaphat Church burned to the ground in 1889 and the second soon proved too small. The community broke ground for a new church in 1896 and finished  it in 1901.
The architect designed a church that was meant to be a smaller version of St. Peter’s in Rome, with a cross-shaped floor plan and huge central dome.
The plans were nearly complete when Father Wilhelm Grutza, the pastor, learned the Chicago Post Office and Custom House needed to be torn down. He bought it for $20,000. The Chicago building was dismantled and the salvaged material brought to Milwaukee in 500 railroad flatcars.
When it was finished, the basilical had a dome that in the U.S. was second in size only to the capital in Washington, D.C.
Despite using salvaged materials, cost overruns left the parish in debt. In 1910, at the request of the archdiocese, the Conventual Franciscan Friars took over administration of the parish, and the debt was retired in 1925.
Amenities: The basilica and visitor center are open Monday through Saturday, 9 a.m.-4 p.m., for visits and tours. There is also a tour every Sunday following the 10 a.m. Mass.
(Grand) Kid friendly: The basilica welcomes families.
Info: Address — The Basilica of St. Josaphat, 2333 S. Sixth St., Milwaukee, Wisconsin 53215
Phone — 414/645-5623 \
Website —
—  Sharon Boehlefeld compiled this story.
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Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception - Mobile, Ala.

Destination: If your snowbird or summer travels include a car trip to the southeast, plan a route through Mobile, Ala., to see its Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception. It was designated a basilica in 1962.
Masses are offered several times every day at the basilica. Check the website (below) for details.
Why to go: Pre-dating the Civil War, the cornerstone was laid in 1835 and the completed cathedral was dedicated in 1850. Its website says, “An heroic challenge was set by Bishop (Michael) Portier in laying foundations for a church 162 feet in length and 90 feet in width.” Over the years, Alabama Catholics tried to keep the promise of its original plan, “sometimes following the original plan, but also in response to circumstances such as the fire of 1954 that could have destroyed the whole structure.” There are strong midwestern ties to the cathedral basilica, too.
In 2001, exterior maintenance included repairs and facade cleaning. In 2003, interior restoration “included artistic enhancements by the Conrad Schmitt Company of New Berlin, Wis.” Among them were gold-leaf on the columns, repainting of the vaulted ceiling, which includes the fleur de lis and the shamrock, representing the French and Irish heritage of the Catholic population of Mobile, and new Carrara marble on the floor of the main aisle and the two side aisles.
Its original organ, completed in 1858, was destroyed in the 1954 fire. In 1957, a new organ, custom-built by Wicks Organ Company of Highland (Ill.) was installed. In 2000, the Wicks Company restored the organ console with new keyboards, pedalboard, key and pedal contacts, and drawknobs.
(Photo courtesy The Catholic Week of the Archdiocese of Mobile)
(Grand) Kid friendly: The basilica welcomes families
Info: Address — Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception (office), 2 South Claiborne St., Mobile, AL 36602
Phone — 251/434-1565
Website —
—  Sharon Boehlefeld compiled this story.
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Tuesday, February 6, 2018

St. John Cantius Parish - Chicago

(Observer photo/Johnny Boehlefeld)
Destination: For a trip into the history of the Church, especially if you’re interested in the Polish Church that gave us Pope St. John Paul II, go no further than St. John Cantius Parish in Chicago. Whether you’re heading in for a ballgame or the theater on a Sunday, it would be worth going in early enough for Mass at the parish.
Masses are offered on Sunday at 7:30 a.m. — Latin Low Mass), 9 a.m. — English, 11a.m. — Latin; and 12:30 p.m. — Latin High Mass); Monday-Friday, 7 a.m. — English, 8 a.m. — Latin Low Mass; Wednesday, 7:30 p.m. — Latin; Saturday, 8:30 a.m. — Latin Low Mass; 5 p.m. — English.
Why to go: St. John Cantius (also known as St. John Kenty), born in Poland, was a special favorite of Pope St. John Paul II. St. John is a patron saint of teachers, students, priests and pilgrims.
The Chicago parish in his name was founded in 1892 and construction began in 1893. At its largest in 1918, it had about 23,000 parishioners and 2,500 children enrolled in the school. But the parish was buffeted by road construction in the city, and later by the Great Depression. but faithful Catholics continued to attend Mass there and support the parish.
In addition to the Latin Masses, the Church’s musical traditions remain alive at St. John Cantius, which has seven parish choirs that take part in Masses and prayers throughout the day.
Visitors may join the members of the Canons Regular of St. John Cantius in singing the Divine Office. (See website for times.)
(Grand) Kid friendly: As with any church, children are welcome.With some advance study (check, a visit to St. John Cantius is a chance for kids to learn how Mass was offered “in the day.”
Info: Address — St. John Cantius Parish, 825 N. Carpenter St.. Chicago, Illinois 60642-5499
Phone — 312/243-7373
Website —
— Sharon Boehlefeld compiled this story.
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Friday, January 12, 2018

Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception -- Washington, D.C.

 (CNS photo/Daniel Sone)
Destination: Whether you’ve been there before or have never visited, now is the time to plan a trip to the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. With the completion and Dec. 8 dedication of the Trinity Dome, there is even more to see and to learn about our heritage as Catholics in America.
Masses are offered several times every day at the basilica. Check the website (below) for details.
Why to go: The basilica is the largest Roman Catholic church in North America, one of the 10 largest churches in the world. Known for its unique architecture and the largest collection of contemporary ecclesiastical art in the world, the recently completed, 18,300-square-foot mosaic, was designed and installed by Travisanutto Giovanni, an Italian studio founded in 1980. The studio also completed the mosaics for the national shrine’s Knights of Columbus Incarnation Dome, Redemption Dome, and for Italian and Hungarian chapels.
The mosaic process began with color drawings to scale, which the studio then blew up to the actual size that would be placed in the dome. After the designer approved the larger drawings, workers cut the paper into 30,000 sections, which were then numbered to correspond with thousands of color shades.
Each part of the mosaic has precise coloring. For example, the blue garment worn by St. Mark the Evangelist has at least 20 different shades of blue in it, and each person’s face has about 30 different shadings.
The entire mosaic is made up of more than 14 million pieces of Venetian glass, called “tesserae,” which the workers hand cut with a hammer to create the right size for the design. For shipping, the pieces filled 60 crates.
(Grand) Kid friendly: Open daily, the basilica welcomes families, and offers free parking, guided tours, a gift shop, book store, cafeteria and more.
Info: Address — Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, 400 Michigan Ave. Northeast, Washington, D.C. 20017
Phone — 202/526-8300
Website — (Find an online tour at the website.)
—  Sharon Boehlefeld compiled this story.
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Friday, December 1, 2017

Smithsonian Exhibition Religion in Early America -- Washington, D.C.

Destination:  The Smithsonian National Museum of American History’s new exhibition, “Religion in Early America,” celebrates the free exercise of religion and the religious diversity that define American faith life.
Masses are not offered at the museum. Check for more information.
Why to go: The exhibit features artifacts from Christianity, Judaism, Islam and other major world religions. Peter Manseau, the museum’s Lilly Endowment curator of American religious history, is the author of several books and curator of the new exhibit.
“We can’t really think about the role of religion in America today without wondering about how it all began,” Manseau told Catholic News Service.
The exhibit, which will be open until June 3, 2018, displays artifacts and stories of American religious life from the 1630s to the 1840s. Reflecting the many Christian denominations that made up early America, it also features noteworthy items of Jewish, Islamic, Mormon, Native American and other faith traditions.
Some of the exhibit’s biggest draws are the Jefferson Bible, the George Washington Inaugural Bible, Archbishop John Carroll’s chalice and paten and a church bell forged by Paul Revere.
 (CNS photos/Chaz Muth)
The exhibit highlights the influence of the Carroll family on Catholicism in America. Charles Carroll, the only Catholic signer of the Declaration of Independence, became a senator in the newly formed government. His cousin, Archbishop Carroll of Baltimore, became the first bishop in the United States, founded Georgetown University in Washington, and worked to create other schools and religious communities.
Photos: Visitors (above) at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of American History in Washington check out the exhibit "Religion in Early America."
A cross (right) believed to be made from iron taken from the Ark and the Dove, a ship that brought the first English Catholics to Maryland in 1634, is pictured July 26 in an exhibit room at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of American History in Washington. It is part of the "Religion in Early America" exhibit, which will be on display until June 3, 2018.
(Grand) Kid friendly: Check their suggestions for visits with kids at
Info: Address — The Smithsonian National Museum of American History, Constitution Avenue, NW, between 12th and 14th Streets, Washington, D.C.
Phone — 202/633-1000
Website — (Find an online tour at the website.)
— Carolyn Mackenzie, CNS; Sharon Boehlefeld contributed to this story.
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