The shot on the front page of the site was taken at St. Ann of the Dunes, a small parish in Beverly Shores, Indiana. It’s also the parish that kicked off this project. I hope you’re ready for a very circuitous explanation.
First things first. St. Ann is a wonderful little church tucked into the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore***, itself an outstanding slice of the National Park System that encompasses the south shore of Lake Michigan in Northwest Indiana and some areas inland. If you haven’t been there before, it’s worth a visit. As for the church, it’s a parish built by Lithuanian immigrants to the region, which is where our story gets started.
My oldest son Ian has long been interested in the world beyond the United States, and one of his hobbies has been attending foreign-language services. I’ve gone with him on a few occasions, taking in a Hungarian Mass in East Chicago, Ind., a French Mass in someone’s living room in Washington, D.C., and a Lebanese Catholic Mass, delivered in Arabic, in Leamington, Ontario. And on the third Sunday of each month, St. Ann of the Dunes hosts just such a service, conducting Mass in Lithuanian. Ian and I attended it a few years back, though neither of us spoke a word of Lithuanian at the time (given the amount of time he’s spent in the Baltics since then, I’m sure by now he’d be able to exchange pleasantries when he finds himself in Vilnius).
Fast forward a few years to 2016. I was returning from Michigan City, Indiana, to my hometown in Portage after dropping my youngest son off at soccer practice. Cormac was entering his freshman year at Marquette Catholic. That was a change, as Ian had graduated from Andrean and his sister Kiera was entering her senior year there. Like Marquette, Andrean is a Catholic High School in Merrillville, just in the opposite direction.
Until Cormac started school there, I had few reasons to travel that way. So as I was coming home from practice that day, I was reminded of the service Ian and I had attended at St. Ann. I thought it might make a neat experience to expand on my visit there by attending Mass in each of the parishes in our diocese.
Almost as soon as that thought entered my mind, I hit upon a new one. “No, I should attend Mass in all 50 states. Plus Washington, D.C. And Puerto Rico,” I thought (well, probably said out loud, as I was instantly excited about the prospect). By the end of the week, I had a pretty firm outline of what the book would be.
And if you were wondering why there was such a long delay between when the inspiration struck and when I planned to leave, it again goes back to my youngest son. I had no intention of spending so much time on the road while he was still in high school. So I targeted 2021, the year after he graduates.
Since this blog post was written, there’s been a development. With the signing of the bill to fund the government in early February, the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore officially became the Indiana Dunes National Park, making it the 61st park in the system and the first in Indiana. I don’t know if there’s another Catholic Church in a National Park, though I suppose that’s something I’ll find out in 2021.