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Welcome to 52 Masses. Thanks for joining me.
My name is Daniel Markham. I’m a lifelong practicing Catholic who worships at St. Gerald in Oak Lawn, Illinois. I have also been writing professionally for almost 30 years. Now, these two biographical data points have collided.
Starting in June, I embarked on a mission to attend Sunday Mass in each of the 50 states, plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. At each parish or place I visit, I will write about something going on there, a short profile of the many interesting and inspiring people and endeavors in the Catholic Church in the United States. Upon completion of my year-long trip, the journey will be chronicled in the book, 52 Masses.
These won’t necessarily be groundbreaking types of stories – merely interesting ones. It’s my assertion that every parish has at least one story to tell, if not many. Every day, Catholics across the country are doing amazing things, putting their faith into action in innumerable ways. The hope is that through this collection of stories, I can paint a broader picture of life in the Catholic Church in 2021.
Here, I’ll update the progress of the book over the next two years, chronicling highlights of the trip as it takes place. I welcome any and all to join me, with thoughts, comments and suggestions. I hope to have many of you accompany me on this journey, at least in the digital sense.
I’m going to change gears a little hear for a personal story.
My oldest son Ian recently arrived in Tanzania, completing a three-continent journey that started in San Francisco. He’s there not to sample the great spices of Zanzibar or explore the wildlife in Serengeti National Park but as part of his new assignment with the Department of Homeland Security.
Having spent the previous two-plus years working in immigration services for DHS, Ian has taken a position as a refugee resettlement officer, a role that demands he travel to various camps around the world to vet and aide those men and women seeking refuge from war, oppression, famine and other life-threatening hardships. This first assignment will likely bring him in contact with refugees from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the same group I encountered post-relocation at St. Peter Claver in Lexington, Kentucky. I’m sure Ian has been brushing up on his Swahili in preparation for the assignment.
As you can imagine, we’re a little nervous about this new role (particularly his mom), especially when we learned one of the classes refugee resettlement officers take is an “offensive driving course.” But, for me at least, the trepidation is more than offset by the tremendous pride I have in him for taking on this most Christ-like of responsibilities.
“For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink. I was a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me. I was ill and you comforted me, in prison and you came to visit me.” Matthew 25:31-36
One of the great people I met during the course of my trip was Dominic Guglielmi, an active parishioner at St. Rose in Belmar, N.J. Dominic was among the first to order a copy of the book, which I certainly appreciate.
Dominic just shared with me a fundraiser he’s initiated in his community, and I thought I would pass it along here. It’s called Blankets of Love, designed to help a homeless man in his community who deals with mental illness stay warm during the winter months.
Of all the adventures I experienced during my 14 months on the road, none was looked on with as much anticipation, and fear, as my visit to Alaska.
Father Scott Garrett invited me to come to Dillingham, a small fishing village a few hundred miles west of Anchorage on the Nushaguk Bay. He welcomed me to join him in flight as he piloted his Cherokee-Piper plane to serve the small villages in the area, places only accessible by air or sea. The thought of small-plane flying terrified me, but I knew I couldn’t pass up the opportunity. And I’m delighted I did. Flying over the bay to the tiny town of Clarks Point was exhilarating, and by the return flight my fears had subsided completely.
I spent five days at the rectory in Dillingham, through the unrivaled courtesy of Father Scott. I even handled the readings for the Sunday Mass livestream, though I don’t think that was enough to earn my keep. Thanks Father.
This visit brings us to the end of my photo-worthy experiences.
Please keep an eye out in this space in the coming weeks, as I hope to have an announcement on the day the book will be available and how you may place an order, if you’re so inclined.
Thanks for following along.
Holy Rosary in Dillingham. It was about 10 p.m. when I shot this.
Mass at Holy Rosary.
Technically, I was the co-pilot. My primary responsibility was “don’t touch anything.”
The Cross tells you whose plane this is.
The building in the center is where Mass was formerly said at Clarks Point, before flooding forced the town to relocate to the top of the ridge.