Welcome to 52 Masses

CONTACT ME: I welcome any visitors to the site to reach out to me directly if you are interested in sharing any information with me, are looking for more information or are interested in learning when the book is published. Please email me at 52Masses@gmail.com if you’d like to reach me or be added to my mailing list.

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.

God Bless

A Catholic Home on the Prairie

Following my trip to Washington State, I headed east to neighboring Idaho. Geographically and demographically, the two parishes couldn’t be more dissimilar. Which is kind of the point.

Christ Our Hope was the ultimate urban parish, not far from the Puget Sound, the Central Business District and the very first Starbucks.

In contrast, the Tri-Parish Catholic Community was tucked away in rural Idaho, miles above sea level with farms in all directions. And, as the last photo will show, quite a bit more small-town than the home of the Space Needle.

And yet, the two locations were equally captivating.

In addition to the three churches – Assumption in Ferdinand, St. Mary’s in Cottonwood and St. Anthony in Greencreek – the area is also home to the Monastery at St. Gertrude, a still-active home to approximately 30 nuns. It was a lovely area in a truly beautiful setting, which the photos below will confirm to some degree.

The Monastery at St. Gertrude
Assumption Church in Ferdinand before Mass.
St. Mary’s in Cottonwood.

St. Anthony in Greencreek.
The sign greeting visitors to Greencreek identifying the residents of the area, and the distances to their homes.

Mass in the Heart of the City

After setting aside some time for Holy Week, I’m returning to my trip across the Pacific Northwest, this time in downtown Seattle.

Christ Our Hope is only 10 years old. It’s a unique parish, set inside the historic former New Washington Hotel, which had already been converted to a 240-room residence building for low-income men and women. The apartments are run by Catholic Housing Services, which is how the parish eventually came to be. The worship space is the old dining room for the New Washington Hotel.

The parish is very much a part of the downtown community, which I saw firsthand when I joined three regulars with the Sacred Encounters Ministry, walking the streets of downtown and passing out sandwiches, water and other essentials to the city’s significant homeless population. Their commitment, patience and good cheer in this ministry was inspiring, and I was blessed to have been invited to accompany them.

Christ Our Hope sits right on the corner of Stewart and Second streets in Seattle.

Mass is held in the old dining room of the former New Washington Hotel.

The beautiful font.

Before Christ Our Hope was founded, the hotel had already been converted into low-income housing by Catholic Housing Services in the city. The lobby was restored as part of the founding of Christ Our Hope.

Before leaving the city, I stopped off at St. James Cathedral.

The Mass for the Deaf

The first stop on my trip to the Pacific Northwest was in Portland and St. Peter. I was there to experience the Mass in American Sign Language and learn of the experiences of the deaf community.

I can’t link video here, but there’s a shot of Father Raul signing on my Facebook page, which you can find by searching for 52 Masses (I hope). As you can imagine, this is highly appreciated by the members of the deaf community there.

Portland kicked off a whirlwind trek around the top left corner of the country, a beautiful area I had never visited before. Now, the only state remaining on my lifetime U.S. checklist is Alaska, which I’ll hit in a few months’ time.

I’m down to just 16 Mass visits remaining. Thanks for following along.

St. Peter, before Mass.
The readings, both spoken and signed.

The Parish of Presidents

On Nov. 1, 1963, President John F. Kennedy and wife Jackie attended Mass at Holy Trinity. It was the last Mass the nation’s first Catholic president would ever attend.

Throughout its 225-year history, Holy Trinity has been the Catholic home for Washington elite, with many Beltway Catholics worshipping there. Abe Lincoln once attended a funeral at Holy Trinity, and was reportedly chastised for wearing his hat indoors. In 2008, while they competed to become the country’s 44th president, Barack Obama and John McCain sat side-by-side at Holy Trinity for journalist Tim Russert’s funeral.

But while this Jesuit church remains the parish for many prominent Catholics in the nation’s capital, it has never relented in its mission to serve the poor, the marginalized and others in most need of Christian love. And as a member of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul back home in the Chicago suburbs, I like that in a parish community.

The all-white interior at Holy Trinity fits well in D.C.
The exterior.
The original church, the first Catholic church in D.C.
Georgetown University, one of the country’s premier Catholic colleges, sits just a block away.

America’s First Parish

A recent update put me in Gesu Church, the oldest in Miami. But that wasn’t my formal stop in Florida. Rather, in the Sunshine State, I went to Mass in the oldest church in the United States.

St. Augustine, Fla., is home to America’s First Parish, now the Cathedral Basilica of St. Augustine. As you can see below, it’s a beautiful church building, one that attracts scads of tourists, not just me.

The cathedral is located not far from the site where Spanish explorers landed in the New World and immediately conducted Mass. That ground was dubbed America’s Most Sacred Acre by former President John F. Kennedy, four days before he was assassinated.

The parish also includes the mission church St. Benedict the Moor, which was once the Catholic Church for the African American community in St. Augustine but today is just a diverse neighborhood parish. St. Benedict the Moor has its own slice of history, as Dr. Martin Luther King visited there in 1964.

Cathedral Basilica of St. Augustine
Looking on from the rear of the church.
St. Benedict the Moor, once the parish for African American Catholics in St. Augustine.
The chapel on America’s Most Sacred Acre