Catholic Day Trips

Your faith won’t be left behind on these summer visits


Staff members of Catholic New York’s editorial department each picked a favorite Catholic summer destination that was either in the archdiocese or within a two-hour ride.

Explore ‘Mission of Faith’ at Knights of Columbus Museum

An ambitious exhibit, “Mission of Faith: The Coming of the Gospel to America,” at the Knights of Columbus Museum in New Haven, Conn., focuses on missionary activity in North America during the Colonial Period from the 16th to 18th centuries.

The primary focus is on missionaries from Spain and France. The route of Spanish missionaries is traced through the Caribbean, Mexico and Central America, Florida, California and the Southwest. French missionaries’ paths extend from Canada, the Northeast, Midwest and Louisiana.

Also explored are English missionaries as well as missionary efforts in the 19th century.

The exhibit, extending through Sept. 18, is housed in two galleries covering more than 1,600 square feet. It includes images and artifacts, maps and timelines tracking missionary activities across the continent. Don’t miss the excerpts from the Jesuit Relations and Allied Documents, a collection of diaries written by missionaries offering an explanation of their evangelization efforts. They are on loan from College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass.

Visitors present on Saturdays, Aug. 20 and Sept. 17 can hear installments of the Mission of Faith lecture series. Father Henry Sands, executive director of the Office of Black and Indian Missions in Washington, D.C., will deliver the first lecture, and Dr. Emily Clark, a professor at Tulane University in New Orleans, will give the second talk. Their presentations begin at 2 p.m.

While you are there, you will definitely want to see two other current exhibits.

“Fleeing Famine: Irish Immigration to North America, 1845-1860” tells the story of more than 1.5 million Irish immigrants to the United States and Canada. Six paintings by British artist Rodney Charman depict the arduous passage across the Atlantic Ocean. The exhibit includes several bronze sculptures on loan from Ireland’s Great Hunger Museum at Quinnipiac University in nearby Hamden, Conn.

“The Art of Illustration: Columbia’s Cover Story” shows 64 original studies created for the front cover of Columbia, the Knights of Columbus magazine, from the 1930s to the 1960s.

The museum, at 1 State St. in New Haven, is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission and parking are free. Information: (203) 865-0400.

—John Woods

St. Katharine Drexel Shrine a ‘Must’ for Philadelphia Visitors

A visit to the City of Brotherly Love wouldn’t be complete without a stop at the motherhouse of the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament in the suburb of Bensalem, Pa. Home of the National Shrine and Mission Center of St. Katharine Drexel, it is minutes from Philadelphia.

The congregation begun by St. Katharine Drexel—a Philadelphia heiress who parted with her inheritance to found a congregation to help black and Indian children—celebrates 125 years of service this year. A celebration is planned July 9-10. (Information: (215) 244-9900, ext. 328, or via

Among the fascinating features of the 19th century motherhouse chapel, according to Lou Baldwin, author of two books on St. Katharine Drexel, is a windowed oratory on an upper wall built while Mother Katharine was an invalid in the last decade of her life, which allowed her to follow Mass from her room.

St. Katharine, who was canonized in 2000, is entombed below the chapel.

The motherhouse, St. Elizabeth Convent, is in memory of Katharine’s older sister, Elizabeth.

On the convent grounds is the cemetery with the graves of most of the late Blessed Sacrament Sisters; an inscribed memorial honors those sisters who were buried in far away missions. There is also the grave of Msgr. Joseph Stephan, an early director of the Bureau of Catholic Indian Missions. Off to the side are the graves of Katharine’s father, mother, stepmother and her two sisters, along with their husbands.

The files of the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament contain virtually every letter St. Katharine received or sent, Baldwin said. Some were filled with curlicues in any blank spaces. These were from her younger sister, Louise, who knew that Mother Katharine, because of her deep sense of poverty, would simply cross out the letter and write a new one under it or on the back.

The files contain correspondence of many renowned people. “I recall holding one from Damien of Molokai thanking Mother Katharine for her donation to his mission,” Baldwin said, “and thinking I’m holding a letter written by one saint to another.”

In May, the congregation announced the shrine, mission center and motherhouse has been put up for sale, although it will remain open to visitors through December 2017.

The shrine is located at 1663 Bristol Pike.

—Christie Chicoine

Medieval Manuscripts, Stained Glass and Art at The Cloisters

The Cloisters, while not specifically a Catholic site, contains works from the Middle Ages, a period when the Church made a significant and lasting impact on art and architecture. 

The Middle Ages extended from the fourth to the early 16th century, although many of the works in the Cloisters collection come from the 12th through the 15th centuries. 

Many of the pieces in the Cloisters are Catholic in origin—such as stained-glass windows from a Carmelite church at Boppardam Rhein, Germany; a plaque from Germany depicting St. John the Evangelist; and an altarpiece from Aragon, Spain, from the second half of the 15th century with scenes from the Passion. 

The Cloisters is part of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. 

One of the smaller, masterful pieces in the collection is an ivory carved plaque of a scene at Emmaus, which originates from Northern France around 850-900 A.D. It depicts Jesus’ appearance to two of his disciples on the road to Emmaus as described in the Gospel of Luke. The precision in the miniature carving is a sight to see. 

Another highlight of the Cloisters exhibit are the illuminated Bible pages on display, as well as the individual prayer books located there. 

Bring a prayer journal and sit in the outdoor gardens or the café for a respite and reflect on the history of the Catholic Church or one of pieces that moved you. The Cloisters is also open late on Fridays during the summer. 

Lastly, don’t forget your camera as the site overlooks the Hudson River from its setting atop Fort Tryon Park in the Washington Heights section of Manhattan. 

Also, if you want to venture just a bit farther, the St. Frances Xavier Cabrini Shrine, where the saint’s remains are enshrined under glass in the lower portion of the altar, is located between Fort Tryon Park and West 190th Street.

—Juliann DosSantos

Finding Franciscan Peace at Mount Alvernia Retreat Center

A stroll through the 204 acres at the Mount Alvernia Retreat Center brings calm, peace and spiritual enrichment to its visitors.

And that is just the start of what the center in Wappingers Falls offers.

The views are scenic, picturesque and captivating of the mid-Hudson Valley.

Inside the center, the chapel offers an intimate setting to meditate and pray. The stained glass windows brighten the room. There is an 8 a.m. Mass on Monday through Saturday, and 8:30 and 10 a.m. Masses on Sunday in the 150-seat chapel, which is open daily to the general public from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.

A gift shop sells spiritual items as well as “Heavenly Delights,’’ a book of recipes with contributions from the annual bake sale, family favorites and the Franciscan Friars.

People of all faiths also are invited to participate in one-day and weekend retreats as well as weekly and monthly events like Bible study evening sessions, book of the month club and the Year of Mercy gatherings. An estimated 6,500 people visit the center for retreats annually.

Mount Alvernia was built in 1950 to serve as a seminary for the Franciscan Friars of the Province of the Immaculate Conception and was dedicated in 1951 by Cardinal Francis Spellman, who was escorted by the Fourth Degree Knights of Columbus in Wappingers Falls. Mount Alvernia is administered by the Franciscan Friars, whose service in New York City dates to 1855 when their focus was ministering to Italian immigrants in parishes. 

Mount Alvernia became a retreat center in 1967, and the Poor Clares of New York, Franciscan sisters, have resided at the Monastary of St. Clare on the retreat center grounds since 2004.

Mount Alvernia is located at 158 Delavergne Ave. Information: or (845) 297-5706.

—Dan Pietrafesa


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