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

Friday, December 7, 2018

Basilica of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle National Shrine -- San Juan, Texas

(Observer screen grab)
Destination: If southwest Texas or northeast Mexico is on your itinerary this winter, consider planning a pilgrimage to the Basilica of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle National Shrine. They are more than ready for visitors.
Masses on Saturday are 6:30 a.m. in Spanish, 9:30 and 11:30 a.m. bilingual, 5:30 p.m. in English; Sunday 7 a.m., 1 and 7 p.m. in Spanish, 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. bilingual, 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. in English; weekdays 6:30 and 11:30 a.m., 5:30 p.m. bilingual. The basilica even schedules regular Masses with mariachi music on Saturdays at 11:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m., and Sundays at 9 and 11 a.m., 1, 3, 5 and 7 p.m.
Photo: A replica of the Jalisco statue of Our Lady of Los Lagos sits in a niche behind the altar in the Texas basilica.
Why to go: The veneration of Our Lady of San Juan de los Lagos is spreading in the Rockford Diocese thanks to the growing numbers of Catholics with roots in Mexico. The original statue from Mexico drew hundreds at four parishes in the Fox Valley in late September and early October. But this Texas basilica is among the first to be dedicated in her honor on what is now U.S. soil.
The miracle of the statue is the reason for its importance. According to the shrine website, it took place in 1623 at San Juan de Los Lagos in Jalisco, Mexico. A daughter of a traveling acrobat fell during practice and was killed. A native woman who was caretaker at the church urged the parents to place the image of the Virgin Mary over their daughter’s body and pray for Mary’s intercession. They did so and the child came back to life.
In 1949, the pastor at St. John the Baptist Parish in San Juan received permission from the bishop to promote the veneration. He commissioned a copy of the original statue (top of column) from a Guadalajaran artist. While its first two homes were destroyed, it now sits in a niche above the altar in the shrine, which was dedicated in 1980.
Amenities: Pilgrim services include a hotel, cafeteria and retreat center. Check the website for details.
(Grand) Kid friendly: Of course.
Info: Address — Basilica of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle  National Shrine, 400 N. Virgen de San Juan Blvd., San Juan, Texas 78589
Phone — 956/787-0033
Website —
— Sharon Boehlefeld compiled this story.
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Thursday, November 1, 2018

Our Lady of the Lake - Branson, Mo.

(Observer photos/Sharon Boehlefeld)
Destination: If you have never been to Branson, Mo., or simply have never been to Our Lady of the Lake Parish for Mass, it’s well worth adding to your trip itinerary.
Masses  are Saturdays at 5 p.m. in English and 7 p.m. in Spanish; Sundays at 8 and 10:30 a.m.; Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays at 9 a.m.; Wednesdays at 5:30 p.m.; First Fridays at 10 a.m. and First Saturdays at 9 a.m.
Why to go: The parish website explains: “We are about 5 percent Catholic across southern Missouri, with 550 active families, and routinely welcome 2,500 to 3,000 ‘Parishioners-For-A-Day’ to the Lord’s eucharistic table each weekend. Our ‘Parishioners-For-A-Day” join us at daily Mass and eucharistic adoration in our Blessed Mother Teresa Chapel.”
Photos - Above: The exterior of the church from the overflow parking lot across the street.
Left: The interior of the church showing the altar along the right wall.
Right: The tabernacle is next to a small area for quiet prayer.
In a community dedicated to tourism and entertainment, it will be no surpise that the music at this parish is a bit better than average for the size of the parish.
A parish of the Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau, Our Lady of the Lake has grown from holding “sporadic summer time Masses for visiting fishermen and campers, to a bustling family of Catholic Christians who welcome several thousand visitors every weekend,” according to the diocesan website.
The Catholic faith, it continues, was planted in Taney County, Mo., in 1915. The parish was dedicated in 1936 by Msgr. James J. McCaffrey. Its first home was a stone structure vacated by Farmers Bank. But the burgeoning tourist base of the local economy led to a need for a much larger church. A new church was dedicated in 1971 by Bishop William Baum. Still, as tourism continued to grow, the building grew too small.
In 1993, Msgr. Philip A. Bucher envisioned a church that would serve the parish’s unique needs for many years to come.
Today, that chuch welcomes 150,000 “part-time parishioners” to its three weekend Masses over the course of the year.
Events: As an active parish, expect the usual kinds of events during your visit. Check the bulletin at the parish website for details.
(Grand) Kid friendly: Of course.
Info: Address — Our Lady of the Lake Parish, 203 Vaughn Dr., Branson, MO 65616-2542
Phone — 417/334-2928
Website —

— Sharon Boehlefeld compiled this story.
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Thursday, October 4, 2018

Basilica of Our Lady of Sorrows National Shrine - Chicago

Destination: Chicago is home to three basilicas, one of which honors Our Lady of Sorrows. It is a popular destination for pilgrimages from the Rockford Diocese, but you can visit virtually anytime.
Masses in the basilica are offered Sundays at 8:30 and  10:30 a.m.; weekdays at 8:30 a.m.; and Saturdays at 11 a.m. Check the website for holy day and holiday Masses.
Why to go: The Parish of Our Lady of Sorrows was founded in 1874 by three Servants of Mary (Servites). Fathers Austin Morini and Andrew Venturi, and Brother Joseph Camera. Bishop Thomas Foley of the Chicago Diocese approved their plans. At the time, the 11 counties of today’s  Rockford Diocese were still a part of the Chicago Diocese.
Within the year, a brick church 102  feet long, 38 feet wide, and two stories high stood on a plot of land on the city’s west side. Midnight Mass was held there on Christmas Eve, 1874. 
On June 17, 1890, ground was broken for today’s Italian Renaissance-style church. Though marred by fire in 1984, ongoing restoration has maintained the beauty of the church.
In 1956, Pope Pius XII granted to Our Lady of Sorrows National Shrine the title of basilica.
Photos: The interior (above) of the Basilica of Our Lady of Sorrows and its Lyon and Healy organ console (left).
Events: Among other regular events, a St. Peregrine Mass and blessing is held the second and third Saturdays at 11 a.m. in the basilica.
Every Sunday the Via Matris, The Way of Our Sorrowful Mother, novena is recited at 10 a.m. before 10:30 a.m. Mass.
In September, the basilica hosted a gala organ recital celebrating the restoration of its Grand 1902 Lyon and Healy Basilica Symphonic pipe organ, which was made in Chicago. Watch the website for other music events.
(Grand) Kid friendly: Of course.
Info: Address — Our Lady of Sorrows National Shrine, 3121 W. Jackson Blvd., Chicago, IL 60612
Phone —  773) 638-0159
Website —
— Sharon Boehlefeld compiled this story.
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Monday, September 10, 2018

Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe - Mexico City, Mexico

(CNS photos)
Destination: We usually think of Our Lady of Guadalupe in December near her feast day. But any time is a good time to make a pilgrimage to the basilica dedicated to her in Mexico City.
Masses in the new Basilica are offered at the main altar every hour on the hour, 6 a.m.-8 p.m., every day of the year. There are also eight Masses in the San Jose Chapel on weekdays (five on Saturdays and Sundays) and in the crypt.
Why to go: The circular basilica houses the original image of the Virgin of Guadalupe. It was bult on the site of a 16th-century church that was finished in 1709.
Built between 1974 and 1976, the new basilica’s circular floorplan makes it possible for the image of the Virgin to be seen from anywhere within the building. It can accomodate up to 50,000 people.
There are nine chapels on the upper floor and crypts, with 15,000 niches and 10 chapels on the lower level.
On the grounds where the new Basilica is located there are also many other buildings, including the original chapel on the exact site of the apparitions to St. Juan Diego, the Church on the Hill (Capilla del Cerrito), and the Old Basilica consecrated in 1709, as well as other chapels.
(Grand) Kid friendly: Of course.

Photos: Top -- Travelers approach the modern Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe  on a pilgrimage in honor of Our Lady of Guadalupe Dec. 12, 2017, in Mexico City. (CNS/Carlos Jasso, Reuters) 
Middle left -- The Church of Christ the King (Templo Expiatorio de Cristo Rey), also called the Old Basilica  of Our Lady of Guadalupe (Antigua Basílica de Guadalupe) is lit for evening prayer. it stands near the modern basilica on Marian Square in Mexico City. (CNS photo/David Maung)
Middle right -- The original image of Our Lady of Guadalupe is housed in the modern basilica. (CNS photo/David Maung)

Info: Address — Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Plaza de las Américas 1, Villa de Guadalupe, Villa Gustavo A. Madero, 07050 Ciudad de México, CDMX, Mexico
Phone —  01(55)5118-0500.
Website, English (unofficial, but helpful) —
Website, Spanish (official) —

— Sharon Boehlefeld compiled this story.
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Thursday, August 2, 2018

Mission San Juan Capistrano -- San Juan Capistrano, Calif.

Destination: The mission, founded in 1776 by St. Junipero Serra, is an historic chapel and landmark, as well as home to a museum and a Catholic parish. The Spanish-born saint founded seven missions, including San Juan Capistrano, in California between 1769 and 1782.
(CNS photo)
Masses are offered at the basilica, San Juan Capistrano Parish’s main house of worship in English (unless noted) on Saturdays at 7 a.m., 4:30 and 6 p.m. (Español); Sundays, 6:30 a.m. (first Sunday/Latin Missal 1962/Serra Chapel), 7:30 a.m., 8 a.m. (Latin Missal 1962/Serra Chapel), 9 a.m. (family liturgy), 11 a.m., 1 p.m. (Español) and 5 p.m.; Mondays through Fridays, 7 a.m. (Serra Chapel) and 8:30 a.m.; Wednesdays, 7 p.m. (Español). (See also
Photos -- TOP: Visitors tour the ruins of the Great Stone Church in late July at Mission San Juan Capistrano in San Juan Capistrano, Calif. Constructed between 1797 and 1806, the church was destroyed in an 1812 earthquake. Forty Indian neophytes attending Mass were killed in the collapse. The new parish church of Mission Basilica San Juan Capistrano, completed in 1986, was designed after the Great Stone Church.
BOTTOM: A statue of St. Teresa of Avila, Spanish mystic and doctor of the Church, stands in the sanctuary of the Serra Chapel at Mission San Juan Capistrano in San Juan Capistrano, Calif.  (CNS file photos/Nancy Wiechec)
(CNS photo)
Why to go: The Serra Chapel dates back to the 1780s and the Eucharist is still celebrated there. It is California’s only chapel still standing where St. Junipero Serra celebrated Mass.
In the Jubilee Year of 2000, Pope John Paul II proclaimed the Mission Church of San Juan Capistrano a basilica. The USCCB designated Mission San Juan Capistrano a national shrine on March 19, 2003.
Admission: Tickets to the historic site are $10 for adults; $9 for senior citizens and $7 for children 4-11.
Hours: The mission is open daily, 9 a.m.–5 p.m. It is closed Thanksgiving and Christmas days (although Masses are offered). It is also closed at noon on Good Friday, Christmas Eve, and for the annual Romance of the Mission fundraiser (Sept. 14 this year).
Handicapped accessibility: Expect some uneven terrain and steps.
(Grand) Kid friendly: Summer crafts for kids starting at 11 a.m. daily continue through Aug. 17. Prices vary. The Mission Clubhouse, a kids’ play place, is open daily 9 a.m.-5 p.m.
Info: Address — Historic Mission San Juan Capistrano, 26801 Ortega Hwy., San Juan Capistrano, CA 92675 n  Phone — 949/234-1300 n  Website —
—  Sharon Boehlefeld compiled this story.
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Thursday, July 5, 2018

St. Francis Xavier Cathedral - Green Bay, Wis.

(Observer photo/Penny Wiegert)
Destination: Given that we live in a diocese where people quip that “mixed marriages” involve Bears and Packers fans, anyone from here might make a trip to Green Bay or Door County in Wisconsin. In addition to planning a visit to the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help in Champion, Wis., plan a stop at the cathedral in this very Catholic city, too.
Mass times are Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, 8:30 a.m.; Saturdays, 4 p.m.; Sundays, 9 a.m.
(Observer photo/Sam Lucero, The Compass)
Photos: (Left) Behind the main altar at St. Francis Xavier Cathedral in Green Bay is   a 40 by 25 foot mural entitled “The Crucifixion,” one of several paintings restored during recent renovations.
(Right) St. Francis Xavier Cathedral is a short walk from several downtown hotels.
Why to go: Consecrated in 1881, but founded as a parish in 1851, the most recent renovations at Green Bay’s cathedral were made in honor of the diocese’s 150th anniversary. In addition to beautifully restored paintings, updates included the altar of white Carrara marble with relics of SS. Boniface, Timothy, Tiburtius and Francis Xavier in the altar stone. The figures of the four evangelists painted on the ceiling of the sanctuary were among paintings restored. An altar dedicated to Our Mother of Perpetual Help on the left side of the sanctuary is the only original altar from 1881. Known as the Peace altar since World War I, it honors the men and women of the parish who served in the armed forces. The Bishop Wycislo Center (the building connected to the cathedral on the north side) houses the diocese’s museum.
Handicapped accessibility: This cathedral is loaded with steps, but there is an elevator entrance from the Bishop Wycislo Center.
(Grand) Kid friendly: Of course kids are welcome in this active parish.
Info: Address — 139 S. Madison, Green Bay, WI 54301
 Phone — 920/432-4348 
Website —
—  Sharon Boehlefeld compiled this story.
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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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