Take me home…

The Mountaineer State rounded out a busy June for me, with a visit to Tri-Parish West Virginia, a trio of churches that sit astride the Kanawha River just west of Charleston.

As you’ll see, these are small parishes, not overflowing with jaw-dropping artwork or home to hundreds of parishioners. That’s what evident to the naked eye. But whatever the parishes lack in numbers or beauty, they more than made up for in warmth and spirit. Theirs was a welcoming Catholic community, and it was a privilege to spend my Sunday morning there.

We’re off next week, and for most of July it seems, though I’ll probably play a little catch-up with some photos and observations until my July 11th trip to Arkansas.

Thanks for joining me.


St. Patrick in Bankcroft.
Communion at Holy Trinity
The exterior of Christ the King in Dunbar
There’s a great story behind this photo. It seems this statute of Jesus, which has stood outside the rectory of Holy Trinity for years, is the exact location of a Pokemon Go stop. When Father Chapin Engler noticed strangers standing at the statue with their phones out, he added the message at the bottom to invite these folks to explore a little deeper.

No Backseat Taken

Sunday took me to St. Catherine of Siena on the campus of the University of Utah, but Saturady was reserved for touring Salt Lake City with oldest son Ian.

Despite the scorching heat (it hit 99), we walked around the downtown area, including a visit to the Cathedral of the Madeline, home of the Diocese of Salt Lake City. Though not as well known as the rather famous temple just down the road, the Cathedral stands up proudly in terms of beauty, as you’ll see below.

Also, unlike the Temple Salt Lake, spiritual home of the Mormon Church, we were able to check out the inside of the Cathedral. For the moment, no one is able to visit the Temple, as it’s under renovation until 2024. But beyond that, admission is forever reserved for members of the Mormon faith who receive a Temple Recommend. No such invitation is required to worship inside the Catholic’s Church’s home in the Beehive State.

The Cathedral is just up the hill from Temple Square.
The Cathedral of the Madeline in Salt Lake City.
Gorgeous stained glass windows inside the Cathedral of the Madeline.
The Temple of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, currently undergoing work to shore it up against potential earthquakes.

St. Rose of Lima – Newtown, Connecticut

When I was choosing which stories to tell and parishes to visit, Connecticut was the very first place I locked in on. Early in my reaching-out phase, Monsignor Robert Weiss invited me to come to St. Rose of Lima to learn how the parish helped the largely Catholic community in its recovery from the horrific Sandy Hook shooting. I knew immediately that’s where I would be heading.

But the lead-up to my visit Sunday provided a mixture of both excitement and apprehension. Theirs is a story that needs to be told, an important lesson about the power faith and our Church can provide to aid the healing from unimaginable pain. Whether the support is for an individual dealing with hardship or an entire community reeling, as was the case here, houses of worship are uniquely equipped to handle this vital role.

Yet, as much as I think the rest of the country needs to hear this story, I wasn’t positive the same was true of the people who lived through it. I worried my appearance would be another painful reminder, or worse, that I’d be seen as some kind of opportunist. I wondered if downplaying my presence there wasn’t called for.

I need not have worried. Monsignor introduced me at the end of Mass, and the people I met afterwards were warm and gracious, and genuinely glad I chose St. Rose as my place to worship. It was a parish teeming with vitality and joy, and I consider myself immensely fortunate to have spent my Sunday in the presence of such an inviting community, guided by a truly inspiring man of God.

And We’re Off

On Saturday, I walked into St. Patrick in Nashua, the first real steps on the experience that has consumed me for the better part of the last five years. Almost immediately, I put myself to work.

Father Michael Kerper, pastor at the city’s oldest Catholic parish, was at the rear of the church, and he quickly recognized the out-of-place face who was dressed a little more formally than most of the regular Mass goers at the Saturday vigil. It was a hot day in Southern New Hampshire, and most of the parishioners were dressed for that rare occasion.

Following our brief introduction, I asked Father if I could give him a hand removing the ropes that had been used to cordon off those pews that were inoperable in a socially distanced world. They wouldn’t be needed any longer, as the Diocese of Manchester joined so many other in lifting the restrictions that had been governing our faith lives for the last 14 months.

I like to think this act was symbolic, that I was launching my journey just as Catholic Churches around the country began opening their doors and their pews to the full celebration of Mass. I also prefer to think it was not at all emblematic when I got inadvertently locked out of the building following the conclusion of Mass.

I guess time will tell. Here are some photos from my visit.

St. Patrick sits across from the courthouse in downtown Nashua, which is no longer the heavily populated section of the city.

The downtown church is a gorgeous and well-preserved place of worship.