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

Thursday, August 4, 2022

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

Destination: An exhibit currently on display in Washington offers a moving portrait of the courage of Catholic journalists during the era of Soviet persecution in Eastern Europe, along with a potent message of faith and resistance to tyranny that has relevance in today’s world. 

The Embassy of Lithuania is presenting an exhibit on “The Chronicle of the Catholic Church in Lithuania,” currently on display in the Memorial Hall of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception through early September.

Masses are held daily at the basilica, and a full list of times is available at https://www.nationalshrine.org/

Photos: Top -- The information in the exhibit is displayed on tall banners with large text, historical photos and bold illustrations. (CNS photos/Tyler Orsburn)
Below -- 
A visitor looks at some historical photos on display.  

Why to go: The exhibit tells the story of The Chronicle newspaper and the priests, nuns and lay people who risked their freedom to publish about the Church during the Communist era.

The Chronicle was the longest-running “samizdat,” or clandestine, publication of its kind in Lithuania.  

For 17 years the paper was a way to get  information to people in the West about the conditions affecting the Catholic Church. 

During the Communist era, Catholics suffered many atrocities. Churches were closed, clergy were prohibited from practicing key elements of the faith, religious education was forbidden, and many religious were arrested and imprisoned.

Admission: Free. 

Accessibility: The basilica is wheelchair-accessible, and disability parking is available in two of the basilica’s lots.  

(Grand) Kid friendly: The exhibit might be too complicated or heavy for young ones, but since the exhibit is free, it may be worth a quick visit. Depending on their age, you could talk with them about how they would feel if they couldn’t learn about their faith in school to help them understand the reason for the publication. Then you could follow up the trip with something more their speed. 

Info: Address — Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, 400 Michigan Ave. Northeast, Washington, D.C. 20017
Phone — 202-526-8300
Website — https://www.nationalshrine.org/

— Christina Lee Knauss, Catholic News Service. 
Send Destination ideas to seasonedobserver@rockforddiocese.org

Thursday, June 30, 2022

Venerable Father Samuel Mazzuchelli Rectory, Grave -- Benton, Wis.

Destination: Whether planning a day trip or a summer vacation, a stop at Benton, Wis., on Wis. Rt. 81 near the Mississippi in southwest Wisconsin, is worth the detour. Across the street from a park that features a veteran’s memorial is the well-tended final resting place of a pioneer Dominican priest, Father Samuel Mazzuchelli.

Mass is offered at 8:30 a.m. Sundays at St. Patrick Parish. (The parish is served from St. Rose of Lima in Cuba City, Wis., and shares a website; see below.)


Photo: Top -- Venerable Father Samuel Mazzuchelli lived in this tiny rectory in Benton, Wis. It sits at the back of the parking lot on the west side of St. Patrick Parish on Wis. Rt. 81 (Observer photos/Sharon Boehlefeld).

Middle -- Father Samuel Mazzuchelli’s grave is behind St Patrick Church.

Bottom -- Signs on St. Patrick Church in Benton, Wis., explain its history.

Why to go: Father Samuel Mazzuchelli, O.P., now declared venerable, founded several parishes for Bishop Matthias Loras in the Dubuque (Iowa) Diocese, which originally crossed the Mississippi River and included parts of northwest Illinois and southwest Wisconsin. Father Mazzuchelli founded St. Michael Parish in Galena in 1832, the oldest in what would become the Rockford Diocese.

In the grave behind St. Patrick Parish, Father Mazzuchelli’s grave is surrounded by graves of many of the founding sisters of the Sinsinawa Dominicans, which he also founded. 

Born in 1806 in Milan, Italy, he arrived in the American frontier at age 22. He worked tirelessly for the Church as a Dominican priest until his death from pneumonia in 1864 in Benton.

He was a defender of religious liberty, having fought for the right of Catholic soldiers at Fort Mackinac, Mich., to attend Sunday Mass.

He also designed and built more than 24 churches and civic buildings before his death at the age of 57.

Admission: While the rectory is only open during special events near the anniversary of his death in February, it is possible to visit the grave and look into the rectory at any time.  Call ahead for possible open days.

Accessibility: Nicely leveled walkways make the sites accessible to most. 

(Grand) Kid friendly: If the weather is nice, this is a great place to plan a family picnic on a road trip. 

Info: Address — St. Patrick Church, 237 E. Main St., Benton, WI 53803
Phone — (608) 759-2131
Websites — (church) https://strosecubacity.weconnect.com/
(history) https://www.sinsinawa.org/mazzuchelli/mazzuchelli.html

— Sharon Boehlefeld wrote this story after visiting Benton, Wis.  

Send Destination ideas to seasonedobserver@rockforddiocese.org

Ave Maria Grotto -- Cullman, Ala.

Destination: The Ave Maria Grotto is an off-the-beaten-path treasure north of Birmingham, Ala., on the grounds of St. Bernard Abbey in Cullman, Ala. It is the work of Brother Joseph Zoettl, a Benedictine monk. Originally from Landschutt, Bavaria, Germany, he created “A World in Miniature” during his time in the United States.

Mass is not regularly offered to the public at the grotto. 



Photos: Top -- A detailed miniature of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, created in 1953, is part of a larger landscape of religious and historically significant structures begun by Brother Joseph Zoettl, OSB, at the only Benedictine Abbey in Alabama.  (Observer photos/Sharon Boehlefeld).

Middle -- A bust of the grotto designer, Brother Joseph, is visible on the grounds.

Bottom -- A visitor looks at the main display at the Ave Maria Grotto. Several benches are in the grassy area across from the grotto.

Why to go: Brother Joseph’s work has been open to the public since 1934. Volunteers maintain the grounds, and some have created additions to the grotto in the style of Brother Joseph’s original work. 

The 125 miniatures created of stone, cement and recycled materials such as broken plates, costume jewelry, shells and more are set in a beautifully landscaped hillside at the abbey. They include stand-alone sculptures representing elements of the lives of the Holy Family, as well as models of famous locations from around the world.

The last miniature Brother Joseph created was of the Lourdes Basilica Church, which he made in 1958 when he was 80.

Admission: Costs start at $10 for adults and drop from that. Tickets are available in the gift shop. Check the website for holiday closings.

Accessibility: There are some bumps to navigate, and some of the ramps are a bit steep. But with care, nearly everyone should be able to get around the grotto. The website says the grotto is not wheelchair accessible. 

(Grand) Kid friendly: If the weather is nice, this is a great place to plan a family picnic on a road trip. 

Info: Address — Ave Maria Grotto 1600 St. Bernard Dr. SE, Cullman, Alabama 35055   
Phone — 256-734-4110   
Website — https://www.avemariagrotto.com/

— Sharon Boehlefeld wrote this story after visiting the grotto. 

Send Destination ideas to seasonedobserver@rockforddiocese.org

Thursday, May 5, 2022

St. Mary of the Angels - Chicago, Ill.

Destination: Modeled after St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, St. Mary of the Angels is hailed as the one of the finest examples of Roman Renaissance architecture in the United States. If you’ve wanted to visit St. Peter’s Basilica, but travel costs and COVID-19 concerns continue to be obstacles, you could consider making a much shorter trip and enjoying the city’s parks, museums and more on the way.  

Mass is held at the church daily at 7 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. in the St. Josemaría Chapel. Weekend Masses are Saturdays at 8 a.m. (in the chapel) and 5 p.m. and on Sundays at 8 and 10 a.m., noon (Spanish), and 7:15 p.m. Confession is also available in English and Spanish 20 minutes before all Masses. 

One opportunity to visit and tour the church this summer is through a one-day pilgrimage to Chicago on June 17, hosted by St. Rita Parish in Rockford. More information is available in the April 22 edition of The Observer. Email marciegirolamo4@gmail.com with questions.  

Photos: Top -- St. Mary of the Angels is decorated in blue, rose and gold (Photo/ St. Mary of the Angels, by Eric Allix Rogers).
Below -- 26 roof angels, each 12 feet tall, are placed to imitate the 140 statues of the saints on the colonnade and exterior of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome (Photo/ Eric Allix Rogers).

Why to go: St. Mary of the Angels Parish was founded in 1899 by the Congregation of the Resurrection to serve Polish immigrants fleeing political unrest. The church building was planned to be a model of Polish heritage. 

Construction began after World War I, when Chicago parishes focused on being part of one united Church, rather than “national parishes.” The church was then built to resemble St. Peter’s Basilica, the center of the Church, and was beautifully decorated in blue, rose and gold. 

When the Kennedy Expressway was built in 1960, many parishioners left, and the church was set for demolition in 1988. In 1991, priests of the Prelature of Opus Dei took responsibility for the parish and began restorations. The parish continues to grow.  

Accessibility: The entrance to the church has stairs, but a chair lift is available on the side of the entrance. The inside of the church is wheelchair-accessible. A parking lot is just south of the church on N. Hermitage Ave. 

(Grand) Kid friendly: All ages are welcome! St. Mary of the Angels Parish describes itself as a “family of families” and is closely connected to its school and students. 

Info: Address — St. Mary of the Angels Church, 1850 N. Hermitage Ave., Chicago, IL  60622
Phone — 773-278-2644
Website — https://www.sma-church.org/

— Megan Peterson compiled this story with information from https://www.architecture.org/learn/resources/buildings-of-chicago/building/st-mary-of-the-angels/

Send Destination ideas to seasonedobserver@rockforddiocese.org

Monday, May 2, 2022

Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels -- Los Angeles, Calif.

Destination: The Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels is one of the newest cathedrals in the United States, built as the new cathedral for Los Angeles after earthquakes damaged the previous St. Vibiana’s Cathedral, which had served Los Angeles since 1876. Our Lady of the Angels was dedicated in 2002 — it’s the same age as a high school senior! 

Despite its newness — or because of it — the cathedral is home to a lively and diverse community. It serves the 5 million Catholics in the Los Angeles archdiocese. 

Mass is held at the cathedral daily at 12:10 p.m. and on Sundays at 8 and 10 a.m. (English) and noon (Spanish). Confession is also available Wednesdays and Fridays from 11 a.m.-noon. 


Photo: Above -- Visitors chat in the plaza outside the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels (CNS photo/ Victor Aleman).
Below -- Light floods in through alabaster windows that frame the cathedral’s architectural cross (CNS photo/Greg Tarczynski).

Why to go: The cathedral is filled with things to see, both inside and outside. 

Artistic highlights include architecture designed by award-winning Spanish architect José Rafael Moneo, the largest alabaster windows in the United States (the same material that makes up the Holy Spirit window in St. Peter’s Basilica), and 10 interior chapels that provide quiet and meditative places to pray. One chapel, the Art Chapel, hosts traveling exhibits of Catholic art. 

For those more musically inclined, the cathedral also holds sacred choral concerts. 

And if you want to get outside to enjoy the warm California weather, a plaza and garden space is open for prayer, meals and gatherings. A mosaic shrine to Our Lady of Guadalupe is on the north plaza wall. 

Accessibility: The cathedral is accessible to those with limited mobility. Visitors attending Sunday Mass receive free parking for three hours.  

(Grand) Kid friendly: Of course! All ages are welcome. The cathedral has plenty for young ones to explore, and eye-catching art that may inspire a drawing or two. 

Info: Address — Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, 555 W. Temple St., Los Angeles, CA 90012  
Phone — 213-680-5200
Website — https://olacathedral.org/

— Megan Peterson compiled this story with information provided by Catholic News Service

Send Destinations ideas to seasonedobserver@rockforddiocese.org

Friday, April 29, 2022

National Shrine of St. Maximilian Kolbe At Marytown -- Libertyville, Ill.

Destination: The Observer featured the National Shrine of St. Maximilian Kolbe in a Destinations article Oct. 3, 2008, but since one of our editors visited recently, we thought it could be time for a refresher. 

The shrine is run by Conventual Franciscan Friars consecrated to the Blessed Virgin Mary. The area is also home to the National Center for the Militia of the Immaculata and the Kolbe Holocaust Exhibit. 

Mass is held at the shrine at 10 a.m. (English) and 6 p.m. (English and Spanish), Monday-Friday; noon, Saturday; and 9 and 11 a.m. (English), Sunday. 

Photo: Above -- A visitor prays in Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament Chapel at the national shrine. (Observer photos/ Amanda Hudson)
Below -- A photo in the Kolbe Holocaust exhibit depicts a carving of Jesus on the cell wall of Auschwitz, made by a fellow prisoner of St. Maximilian Kolbe. 

Why to go: Marytown frequently hosts events, including retreats, touring exhibits and more. Moreover, the bulletin we picked up announced 2022's class dates for consecration preparation. These classes offer opportunities for preparing for consecration to Mary and becoming part of the worldwide Militia of the Immaculata movement, connecting in part to St. Maximilian Kolbe’s great devotion to Mary. 

The classes will be held Aug. 6 and Nov. 12, 9-10:30 a.m., in Founders Hall. These are free, and are not a series. To register, call Deacon Tom Gaida at 847-367-7800 ext. 246 or email tom@KolbeShrine.org

Accessibility: The shrine is accessible to those with limited mobility. Parking is free.  

(Grand) Kid friendly: Of course! All ages are welcome. The shrine has plenty both inside and outside for young ones to explore. 

Info: Address — National Shrine of St. Maximilian Kolbe, 1600 W. Park Ave., Libertyville, IL 60048
Phone — 847-367-7800
Website — https://kolbeshrine.org/

— Megan Peterson compiled this story with information provided by Amanda Hudson. 

Send Destinations ideas to seasonedobserver@rockforddiocese.org

Wednesday, April 27, 2022

New York Public Library’s “Treasures” Exhibit -- New York City, N.Y.

Destination: Among pop culture gems like a hand-painted ballet slipper designed by Coco Chanel and historical artifacts like Thomas Jefferson’s handwritten copy of the Declaration of Independence is a book written by a nun. 

It’s a rare edition of a 17th-century book written by a Catholic poet, philosopher and dramatist, Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz. The library’s digital gallery explains that she “is among Mexico’s most significant literary figures.” The book is “considered her most important collection” and the library’s 1692 first edition on display is “exceedingly rare, with only six copies known to exist,” the library said.  

Photo: Top -- A visitor glances at one of the items in the “Belief” section of the New York Public Library’s “Treasures” collection at its flagship branch in New York City Dec. 29, 2021. (CNS photos/Rhina Guidos)
Below -- A rare edition of a book written by Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz, a Catholic poet, 
philosopher and nun, is on display. 

Why to go: Along with Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz’s book, the exhibit includes a 15th-century breviary, a document from 1600 describing Our Lady of Guadalupe and a 1470 engraving by Martin Schongauer featuring St. Anthony, a 4th-century Coptic hermit. The religious items are grouped with other objects related to various faiths in a section called “Belief.”


Though the exhibit is free, visitors must get a timed ticket at the library. Shortages due to rises in COVID-19 cases may limit hours or whether the building opens.

The exhibit is accessible online at www.nypl.org/events/exhibitions/galleries/belief

Accessibility: All public service units of the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building are wheelchair accessible. There is a ramp entrance to the building and all its levels are accessible by elevator. Large print label text is available upon request. The Treasures audio guide is accessible in English, Spanish, and English with verbal descriptions. 

(Grand) Kid friendly: All ages are welcome. 

Info: Address — Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, 476 5th Ave. (at 42nd St.), New York, NY 10018
Phone — 917-275-6975    
Website — https://www.nypl.org/spotlight/treasures

— Rhina Guidos, Catholic News Service

Send Destinations ideas to seasonedobserver@rockforddiocese.org