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

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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Thursday, November 2, 2017

World’s Largest Rosary Collection -- Stevenson, Wash.

Destination:  The Columbia Gorge Interpretive Center Museum near Stevenson, Wash., in Skamania County houses the world’s largest rosary collection, according to Ripley’s Believe It or Not.
Masses are not offered at the museum, but Our Lady Star of the Sea mission parish at 725 SW Rock Creek Dr. in Steveson offers Mass on Sunday at 9 a.m.
Why to go: Located in southeastern Washington, the Columbia Gorge Interpretive Center houses approximately 4,000 rosaries that can easily take hours to examine closely.
The collection was the life’s work of the late Donald A. Brown of North Bonneville, Wash., who was a founder of the Skamania County Historical Society.
Brown explained that his collection began in 1917 when he was living in The Dalles, Ore., but his interest in the rosary as a devotional prayer began years earlier, while he was confined to the Mercy Hospital in North Bend, Ore., recovering from pneumonia. He saw the rosaries being worn on the habits of the Sisters of Mercy who staffed the hospital. Later, Brown embraced the Catholic faith.
The rosaries in the Columbia Gorge Interpretive Center are organized according to size. The smallest ones are made from beads the size of a pin head, while the largest rosary on display is over 16 feet long. This rosary’s “beads” were made from Styrofoam balls by children in Malden, Mass., for a school play.
(Grand) Kid friendly: The rosary collection is not the only exhibit in the interpretive center, so kids will have plenty to interest them.
Info: Address: Columbia Gorge Interpretive Center Museum, 990 SW Rock Creek Dr., PO Box 396, Stevenson, WA 98648
(CNS photo/Mitch Finley)
Phone — 800/991-2338
Website —
— Mitch Finley, CNS; Sharon Boehlefeld contributed to this story.
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Friday, October 6, 2017

El Cristo Rey Chapel -- Grand Canyon, Ariz.

Destination: A short walk away from the south rim of the Grand Canyon sits El Cristo Rey Chapel, a small wooden building that serves as the spiritual home of the Catholic families who work at the national park.
Winter Mass schedule starts on the first Sunday of December through March at El Cristo Rey. Masses are Sundays at 9 a.m. Summer Masses, April to October at El Cristo Rey, are Saturdays at 4:30 p.m. and Sundays, 8:30 and 10:30 a.m.
Why to go: El Cristo Rey, a parish of the Phoenix Diocese, has 26 registered families, who are “always outnumbered by the tourists,” says Father Rafael Bercasio, pastor.
(CNS photos)
The chapel is located within the boundaries of Grand Canyon Village, a residential neighborhood of around 1,500 households that includes a school, a grocery store and a post office. Residents are employed as park rangers and naturalists, maintenance workers, and hotel, restaurant and retail staff. Some live there only six months out of the year, although the park is open year-round.
From his base at El Cristo Rey, Father Bercasio also ministers to a mostly Hispanic community founded five years ago about 30 miles outside the entrance to the park.
El Cristo Rey Chapel was officially established in 1960, although priests from the Diocese of Gallup, N.M., began coming to celebrate Mass for El Tovar’s workers around 1919-1920.Father Bercasio celebrates a daily Mass at 8 a.m., and most of the time, he said, he is the only one in attendance. He celebrates two Masses on Sundays, plus a vigil on Saturdays in summer.
“I always commend the tourists for fulfilling their obligation,” he said. “You are in the midst of your gallivanting and still you are here. It is a testimony that your faith does not take a vacation. It’s very inspiring.”
(Grand) Kid friendly: Everyone is welcome to attend Mass at the church.
Info: Address: El Cristo Rey Parish, 44 Albright Ave., PO Box 505,  Grand Canyon, AZ 86023    Phone — 928/351-7282   Website —
— CNS; Sharon Boehlefeld contributed to this story.
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Thursday, September 14, 2017

St Padre Pio Relics - LaCrosse and Kenosha, Wis.

(Observer photo/ The Saint Pio Foundation)

Destination: Relics of the renowned 20th century mystic and healer, Saint Pio of Pietrelcina  — better known as Padre Pio — will be touring stopping at two Wisconsin locations during a U.S. tour. The visit is sponsored by The Saint Pio Foundation.
They will be at the Cathedral St. Joseph the Workman in the Diocese of La Crosse on Sept. 20 and at the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee on Sept. 21.
Masses are offered at both cathedrals. Check their websites for details.
Why to go: The Saint Pio Foundation, is sponsoring the tour on the occasion of the 130th anniversary of Padre Pio’s birth, and the 15th anniversary of his canonization.
St. Pio was born on May 25, 1887 in Pietrelcina, Italy, and baptized Francesco Forgione. From age 10, he talked of becoming a priest. To help pay for his education, his father, Grazio Forgione, emigrated to the United States in 1899, where he worked for several years.
The future saint entered the Capuchin order at age 15, taking the name Pio. He was ordained a priest in 1910 at the age of 23. During his lifetime, Padre Pio was known as a mystic with miraculous powers of healing and knowledge, who bore the stigmata.
Stigmata is the term the Catholic Church uses to speak about the wounds an individual receives that correspond to the crucifixion wounds of Jesus Christ.  They can appear on the forehead, hands, wrists, and feet.
Pope John Paul II canonized him in 2002.
Hours:  Veneration and services will vary at each cathedral. Check the local website for details.
(Grand) Kid friendly: Visting a saint’s relics can be a solemn occasion. Remind the kids before you go.
Info: General:
Diocese of LaCrosse: Address — The Cathedral St Joseph the Workman, 530 Main St., La Crosse, WI 54601 n   Phone — 608/782-0322 n   Website —
Archdiocese of Milwaukee: Address — Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist, 812 N. Jackson St., Milwaukee, WI 53202 n   Phone — 414/276-9814 n   Website —

— Sharon Boehlefeld compiled this story.
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