Happy St. Patrick’s Day

There was not much need to travel to my most recent visit. I spent Sunday at St. Christina on the south side of Chicago, not far from our home in the southwest suburbs.

I chose this past weekend due to its placement on the calendar. Sunday was the date of the South Side Irish Parade, and St. Christina is a traditional Irish parish. My mom, dad and the entire Markham and Hogan clans going back as far as we can figure would have been delighted by my choice.

It was my first parade, and the first one in the city in three years, since the last two events were COVID casualties. And, if you follow the photos below, you’ll see this year’s parade included a special guest.

I’m heading out to the nation’s capital this weekend, then off to the Pacific Northwest the following weekend. “May the road rise up to meet me and the price of gas drop down to please me.” I believe that’s the modern update on the old Irish blessing, or at least the one I’ll be reciting.

The St. Christina parade contingent.
The altar at St. Christina

A statue of Mary bathed in light
Father Tom Conde processes into Mass
The waver on the left is none other than my wife, Kem, joining other Catholic educators at the front of the parade. Please do not tell her I shared this.

Last Stop in the Rockies

The final stop on my wintry western swing took me to Colorado Springs, home to another Sacred Heart parish.

I was there to attend Mass and meet the subject of my Colorado profile, Cathy Kusman, now the faith formation director for the parish. Cathy also runs a recovery program for divorced Catholics in the Diocese of Colorado Springs, providing a much-needed resource for those looking to rebuild after the pain of divorce.

My Sunday visit included the opportunity to sit in on Father Randy leading adult faith formation classes, which was a nice bonus. Father Randy is a heckuva teacher.

Though no photographic evidence exists to back up this claim, I also spent the previous night at St. Michael the Archangel in Aurora for the parish’s annual spaghetti dinner to benefit the Workcamp program. Workcamp is just as it sounds – a week-long effort by teens from the parish doing service work in some other location, building that spirit of service that all of us benefit from.

Virtually all of the adornments at Sacred Heart are hand crafted.
Families exit the parish after Mass.
Father Randy teaching Faith Formation.

Accidentally in El Paso

When I was plotting out my trip, I decided to avoid doing a lot of traveling during the heart of winter. My recent trip out west reminded me why.

As mentioned previously, after attending Mass in Gallup, I found myself stuck there for an extra day when a snowstorm hit North Central New Mexico. And when I tried to wind my way to Colorado the day after, I found the interstate heading into Albuquerque nigh impassable.

Flummoxed, I decided to go south to El Paso, where I was expecting to make a visit later in the year. I figured I could attend Mass on Friday, and then if the mountain roads into Albuquerque were still too rough for my Ford Fiesta, I’d just head east out of El Paso and mosey back home to the Midwest over more Midwestian terrain.

Thus, I found myself at St. Mark in El Paso a few months earlier than anticipated. And, as you can see below, west Texas didn’t escape winter’s wrath either.

The ice-covered fountain outside St. Mark
The 30-foot Virgen de Guadalupe statue on the campus of St. Mark.

Inside St. Mark
The day before Mass in El Paso, I stopped by St. Albert the Great on the campus of New Mexico State University for the Feast of St. Blaise and the traditional blessing of the throats.

Lent Has Begun

I took a break from the metals conference I was attending – skipping out on lunch in accordance with Pope Francis’ request for fasting – to get ashes at Gesù Catholic Church in Miami. Much to my surprise, the Mass was being said by Archbishop Thomas Wenski.

Archbishop Wenski reiterated Pope Francis’ call to pray for the people of Ukraine, both today and throughout the Lenten season. The invasion by Vladimir Putin’s Russian forces is an atrocity, and I pray every available avenue is taken to end the conflict.

Peace be with you as we enter the holiest season on the Christian calendar.

Archbishop Thomas Wenski presided over the Ash Wednesday Mass at Gesu.
Gesu is the oldest Catholic Church in Miami.
A young man delivers the first reading.

Viva New Mexico.

A few days after Phoenix, but for more days than I anticipated, I wound up in Gallup, N.M.

I came to Gallup to worship at Sacred Heart Cathedral, though that wasn’t the story I am writing for the book. My Gallup subject is Villa Guadalupe, the elder care facility run by the Little Sisters of the Poor.

I feel strongly that serving the needs of the elderly poor is one of the highest callings any individual can heed, so my respect for the Little Sisters is immeasurable and my desire to write the story profound. Alas, COVID prevented me from worshiping with them, for obvious reasons, so I was left attending the Feast of the Presentation at the impressive cathedral a half-mile away.

An unexpected (by me, at least) snowstorm kept me in the Western New Mexico town an extra day, and the interstate heading east was still impassable on Thursday, so I adjusted my plans and drove south. By sheer coincidence, I happened to stop to eat my lunch just outside a much smaller Sacred Heart, located in the small town of Quemado. To me, it perfectly fit the New Mexican Catholic Church archetype.

Sacred Heart Cathedral in Gallup, N.M.
The interior of the Cathedral.
The Feast of the Presentation.
St. Francis of Assisi, another parish in Gallup.
Villa Guadalupe, the facility run by the Little Sisters of the Poor.
A much smaller Sacred Heart in the town of Quemado.
The interior of Sacred Heart.