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

Back to Baltimore (and beyond)

The end of the first week of Advent took me to Maryland, my first visit there since son Ian graduated college. It was nice getting back.

On Saturday, Dec. 4, I had a busy, church-filled weekend, starting with a Daily Mass at St. John in Westminster, then a radio interview with the fantastic Danny Gallagher at WSJF on the campus of St. Joseph in Sykesville. Finally, it was on to Our Lady of the Fields in Millersville, my designated stop on the 52 Masses caravan.

Yet, it was really the night before, in Baltimore, that drew me to the area. On Friday, I was at St. Vincent de Paul parish right in the heart of the downtown. For 30 years, Deacon Ed Stoops of Our Lady of the Fields has spent nearly every Friday night traveling to the heart of Baltimore to provide food and other necessities to the city’s most impoverished people.

Now in his mid-80s and mostly retired, Deacon Ed remains committed to this ministry, Breaking Bread with the Hungry. It was a privilege not just to be there and see the mutual respect that exists between him and the guests, but also to do my small part by handing out gloves and hats to gird the guests against the fast approach of winter weather.

I have some photos of my Saturday trips, but nothing from Friday. However, a cameraman from The Catholic Review was there as part of a nice write-up, and you can follow this link to both the story and photo of me having a great conversation with Wendell, one of many who call themselves Deacon Ed’s friends.

Here’s a link to the Catholic Review Radio page, where you can listen to the interview I did with them.

At St. Joseph in Sykesville.
A young lad receives First Holy Communion at St. John in Westminster.
Our Lady of the Fields in MIllersville.

Happy 500th

My other stop in November was a midweek visit to San Juan. I needed to get there in Calendar Year 2021, as this is the 500th anniversary of the Catedral Metropolitana Basilica de San Juan Batista, making it the second-oldest in the Western Hemisphere (behind only the cathedral in the Dominican Republic).

The Cathedral is a popular site on any tour of San Juan’s Old Town, so the daily Mass I attended was taking place around a steady stream of tour groups and solo travelers. Some of them even take in the Mass. I met and had a nice conversation with one of those Mass-going tourists, a Catholic convert from the Baptist faith who lives in Utah, which is, of course, just who you would expect to find in San Juan.

I was given a tour of the facility by Luis Jay Rivera Marcano, a young man who is in charge of all the art that belongs to the cathedral. The tour does not include the crypt below the altar, which houses 19 deceased bishops, but is now inaccessible to all due to previous construction.

But it did include a site the average tourist doesn’t get to see: the 500-year-old spiral staircase located in a space behind the altar. I provided Exhibit A why that staircase is not on the normal tour, as I missed the final step on my descent and went sprawling down, a tumble that didn’t just wound my pride, but swelled my ankle a few sizes past normal. Nonetheless, it was a great experience in Puerto Rico’s capital city.

The Catedral

The staircase that got the better of me.
The burial site of Luis Aponte Martinez, the island’s only Cardinal.
Nineteen bishops are buried beneath the altar, though they’re inaccessible to anyone now.
And just because it’s 23 degrees outside my home right now, the Atlantic.

The Beauty of the Bay

A long weekend in Wisconsin kept me quite busy, with five church visits during the daylight hours as well as a couple of nights in a hunting lodge (that’s the focus of the profile).

It started at St. Norbert’s, home to the National Shrine of St. Joseph, a parish run by the Norbertines located just outside Green Bay. It’s also the home parish of my publisher, who I met for the first time in person.

Saturday night took me to St. Jude the Apostle in Oshkosh, followed by Sunday Masses at the Kaukauna Catholic Parishes, a tri-parish community. I attended the liturgy at Holy Cross and St. Katharine Drexel-St. Mary, while sneaking over to St. Katharine-St. Francis just to check it out.

As you’ll see below, all of the locations I visited are pretty darn beautiful.

The entrance to the Shrine of St. Joseph on the campus of St. Norbert College.
St. Joseph Shrine.
St. Norbert Abbey.
Outside St. Jude the Apostle in Oshkosh.
The Catholic Churches of Kaukauna – St. Katharine Drexel, St. Mary.
St. Katharine Drexel – St. Francis.
Holy Cross.

Painting on Light*

The last weekend of October took me to Vermont, ostensibly to move my daughter into her apartment there as she begins work on her first post-college job that doesn’t double as a sweatshop. Naturally, this was the perfect time to make my Mass visit in the Green Mountain State.

My Vermont trip took me to Stowe, one of Vermont’s premier getaway locations, prized by skiers, leaf peepers and maple syrup aficionados. That fact is evident in the typical Mass gathering at Blessed Sacrament, with out-of-towners making up more than half the congregation on some weekends.

But visitors have found Blessed Sacrament to be more than just a convenient spot to attend Mass. It’s become a destination in its own right, with Catholics drawn to the parish due to its thoroughly unique artwork, which you’ll find below.

All of the art in the church was done by a single Frenchman, Andre Girard. His arrival in Stowe is part of the absolutely fascinating history of the small parish, though you’ll have to read the book to learn it all. (Or, I suppose, y’all could Google it, but that’s cheating).

* The title to the book written by Josephine Belloso about the artwork at Blessed Sacrament.

Girard was initially expected to do just the Stations of the Cross.
The mural behind the altar.
Girard painted scenes from the Gospel on the church’s 36 windows.
Even the ceilings were adorned.
The exterior walls feature scenes from Molokai. This door was turned into a confessional booth, with St. Damien inside.

Outdoors in Wisconsin

A long weekend in Wisconsin kept me quite busy, with five church visits during the daylight hours as well as a couple of nights in a hunting lodge (that’s the focus of the profile).

It started at St. Norbert’s, home to the National Shrine of St. Joseph, a parish run by the Norbertines located just outside Green Bay. It’s also the home parish of my publisher, who I met for the first time in person.

Saturday night took me to St. Jude the Apostle in Oshkosh, followed by Sunday Masses at the Kaukauna Catholic Parishes, a tri-parish community. I attended the liturgy at Holy Cross and St. Katharine Drexel-St. Mary, while sneaking over to St. Katharine-St. Francis just to check it out.

As you’ll see below, all of the locations I visited are pretty darn beautiful. I’ve been home for a few weeks, but I’ll head back out on the road this weekend for Advent Masses in Maryland and Virginia.

The Shrine of St. Joseph at St. Norbert’s College
Inside the shrine.
The sixth station at St. Jude the Apostle in Oshkosh.
Holy Cross in Kaukauna
St. Katharine-St. Francis.
St. Katharine Drexel-St. Mary.