The Last Frontier

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.

The monument to the area fishermen lost at sea.

50/50

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Most of my trips were solo affairs, with the few times I met up with a son or daughter a wonderful bonus.


But I knew from the start that traveling to Hawaii simply to attend Mass wasn’t practical. Or fair to the rest of Clan Markham. Thus, when I made my 50th stop at our 50th state, the entire family ultimately joined me on the journey.


It was a wonderful week. Not even the COVID that four of us came down with on the island was enough to spoil the experience. And the family thoroughly enjoyed the visit to St. Rita, where we experienced the Mass in Hawaiian and met some truly great people (one of whom insisted he take a photo of me outside the church, seen below).


As with my previous trip, I’ll include both sightseeing and Mass photos to document the experience.

Father Kim, who was nearing retirement when I attended the Hawaiian Mass at St. Rita.

The Faithful near Old Faithful

We’re almost at the finish line, but we’ll skip ahead to Stop 51, Yellowstone National Park.

I visited Yellowstone in July, just a few months after devastating flooding wiped out some of the roads and did other damage at perhaps the most famous of America’s many spectacular National Parks. But the parts of the park where weekend Masses were held were spared, thank God, and thus my first trip to this gem was not a casualty of nature’s wrath.

Mass is held at four separate locations in the park, and I attended three of the services – one near Old Faithful and two others near Yellowstone Lake. A vigil Mass is also held in the canyon area, but I missed out on that one.

The Masses at the park are made possible by St. Anthony of Padua, the closest parish to the entrance at a mere 90 minutes away. Each Mass I attended was presided over by Father Rick Malloy, a Jesuit from Philadelphia who spends every summer overseeing the Yellowstone mission. His fondness for fly fishing is a complete coincidence, of course.

Given the setting, we’ll largely eschew man’s most beautiful creations for God’s handiwork.

I don’t know why the water appears green here, but it only adds to the beauty.
Another canyon shot.

A creek near the southern entrance.
The southern entrance takes you through Grand Teton National Park.

Bison are everywhere.

A volunteer reader during Mass at the Old Faithful Lodge.
Near Yellowstone Lake, an employee rec area is used for Mass.

An outdoor Mass near Yellowstone Lake.

City of Saints

Sts. Peter and Paul in St. Louis was one of the first parishes I knew I was going to visit and one of the last ones I did.

A one-time bustling German parish not far from the Gateway Arch, the neighborhood surrounding the parish had fallen on hard times. And one night in the winter of 1979, a local homeless man known to the remaining churches in the area froze to death. The tragedy pushed the church, plus fellow neighborhood houses of worship St. Vincent de Paul and Trinity Lutheran to act. Together, they founded and began to staff a homeless shelter and accompanying kitchen, locating the site in the basement of Sts. Peter and Paul. Forty-plus years later, it’s still there, housing 60 men nightly.

The church itself has also undergone a transformation. Its rolls have dwindled as the neighborhood changed. Rather than continue to use the space as designed, with a few dozen parishioners spread into a church made for a thousand, they tore out the original pews and created an intimate area with the altar at the center of an elevated in-the-round setting. It was a configuration that led to an observation that wouldn’t have been possible in its old layout, though you’ll have to wait for the book for details on that.

As for that, I do hope to have some of the details on the book very soon.

The reconfigured Sts. Peter and Paul

Father Bruce Forman
The baptismal font in the gathering space.

The exterior view of the historic church.

The shelter in the church basement.

Mourning in Providence

Staying in New England, we come to Providence, Rhode Island, where my visit took me to the Church of the Holy Name of Jesus, a visit tinged with quite a bit of sadness.

I can remember the day I made my first contact with Holy Name. It was August of 2020 and I was moving my son Cormac into his college dorm for his freshman year at Grand Valley State. I snuck away to the car for a prescheduled interview with Father Joseph Santos, the longtime pastor at the church.

During the course of our conversation, Father Santos explained to me how the church serves three distinct communities, which I was pleased to experience when I visited there back in May.

But, just a few weeks before heading out east, I learned that Father Santos had succumbed to COVID in late 2021. The parish, understandably, was still mourning his passing after years of service to the Church.

Despite his absence, Holy Name was a wonderful place where those three communities – a traditional neighborhood parish, Latin Mass goers and Nigerian immigrants – are beautifully coexisting.

Just as Father Santos prayed they would.

A fire in 1965 led to a beautiful and authentic restoration.
Holy Name is the home for Providence’s Latin Mass community.

The Basilica Church was modeled after Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls in Rome.
Holy Name’s West African community worships at The Lady Chapel.
Rev. Lazarus Onuh, a native of Nigeria, was already leading the community when Father Santos’ passing made him the pastor for the parish.

Father Santos is remembered.