A Michigan Catholic guide to summer vacation

Michigan — In the Great Lakes state, we are blessed with natural beauty, changing seasons and 3,288 miles of gorgeous coastline — more than any other state except Alaska.

For Catholics here, the chance to get out and explore the splendor of nature means the opportunity to recharge and refresh in the holy sanctuary of God’s creation.

For Harry and Leslie Kemp and their children, summer vacation is a time to reinvigorate the “domestic church.”

“When we go on vacations, we make sure we get to Mass (looking up parishes in the area),” Harry Kemp told The Michigan Catholic during an interview in March. “When planning out vacations, often with other Catholic families, we make sure we have time scheduled out to pray together.”

While many appreciate our state’s pristine outdoor offerings, especially during warmer months, the deep Catholic history that runs through northern Michigan’s veins also provides Detroit-area families with a chance to experience summer through the lens of a pilgrimage.

This can include rosaries during car rides or in hotel rooms, but it also can mean planning vacations to special destinations with a flavor of faith. For Catholic families heading “up north” this summer, The Michigan Catholic offers a few suggestions for your holy travel consideration.

Burial Site of Fr. Jacques Marquette

St. Ignace — Just north of the Mackinac Bridge, you might miss this icon of North American Catholic history if you weren’t looking for it. An old chapel converted into a museum of Ojibwe Native American history and a marble statue facing away from the road are the only clues that a missionary giant rests here in peace.

The grave of Fr. Jacques Marquette, a French Jesuit missionary who founded Michigan’s first settlement (Sault Ste. Marie) in 1668, was rediscovered by a gardener working in St. Ignace in 1877, nearly 200 years after his death. Today, a simple limestone monument marks the site.

St. Ignatius Mission

Good Hart — A leisurely drive through the famed “Tunnel of Trees” from Harbor Springs to Cross Village will bring you through the postage-stamp town of Good Hart (population 493) in northwestern lower Michigan. Turn off the beaten path onto Lamkin Road, and you’ll stumble upon Middle Village, an ancient Native American town with a simple, white-steepled church.

St. Ignatius Mission was first established by Jesuit missionaries in 1741, and the current structure was built in 1889. Enveloped by forests and surrounded by rows of white crosses marking old graves of Odawa Indians, the church is open for Sunday Mass in July and August. A pathway through the forest also leads to Middle Village Beach, a popular swimming spot on Lake Michigan.

Basilica of St. Adalbert

Basilica of St. Adalbert

Grand Rapids —The first basilica in the state of Michigan and the only one outside of the Archdiocese of Detroit, the Basilica of St. Adalbert in Grand Rapids traces its roots to the St. Adalbert Aid Society, which helped Polish immigrants find housing and employment in the 19th century.

Built in the traditional Romanesque style, the basilica’s main altar is enveloped by a raised “baldachino” resting on four pillars, with papal insignia proper to a minor basilica displayed throughout the church. St. Adalbert was raised to the honor by St. John Paul II in 1979, in conjunction with its 100th anniversary as a parish.

The National Shrine of the Cross in the Woods

Indian River — One of the most visited Catholic shrines in Michigan and a popular summer Mass destination, the National Shrine of the Cross in the Woods is a paradise within a paradise. A forest-lined outdoor church complete with pews, statuary, walkable meditation gardens and mini-shrines is overshadowed — literally — by the one feature you can’t ignore: a 55-foot-tall bronze crucifix, the largest in the world.

Cross in the Woods Cross in the Woods

In case of bad weather, there’s also an indoor church with large bay windows overlooking the outdoor sanctuary, as well as a gift shop and historical markers. Each year, between 275,000 and 325,000 people visit the shrine, which is open 365 days a year.

Our Lady of the Woods Shrine

Our Lady of the Woods Our Lady of the Woods

Mio — One of eight Marian shrines in Michigan, the outdoor caves, grottos and carved honeycomb stone niches of Our Lady of the Woods Shrine create a calming atmosphere among the pines and wildlife of the upper Lower Peninsula. Dedicated in 1955, the shrine memorializes four apparitions of the Blessed Virgin: Lourdes, Fatima, Guadalupe and La Salette.

Visitors are invited to stop and pray at the grottos, which also include relics of St. Anne, St. Francis of Assisi and St. Anthony of Padua and statues of the Holy Family, St. Anne de Beaupre and St. Hubert, patron of hunters.

Holy Name of Mary Proto-Cathedral

Holy Name of Mary

Sault Ste. Marie — The self-proclaimed oldest Catholic parish in Michigan, founded in 1668 as a Jesuit mission, Holy Name of Mary Proto-Cathedral is well worth the drive to the Soo. It is called a “proto-cathedral” because, until 1865, it served as the cathedral of the Diocese of Sault Ste. Marie, which later transferred its episcopal seat to Marquette. The current church is the fifth in the parish’s history, constructed in 1881.

Celebrating its 350th anniversary this year, elements of the parish’s rich history are everywhere, including the episcopal cathedra and actual snowshoes of the “snowshoe priest,” Venerable Bishop Frederic Baraga. Across the street, Bishop Baraga’s residence is preserved for visitors to tour.

Bishop Frederic Baraga Shrine

Baraga Baraga

L’Anse — Atop the towering bluffs overlooking the Keweenaw Bay, with U.S. Route 41 barely audible in the background, this 60-foot-tall copper monument to the first bishop of the Upper Peninsula is a dose of serenity.

Standing on a silvery cloud holding a crucifix in one hand and snowshoes in the other, the venerable bishop watches over the lake, elevated by five steel arches representing the five Catholic missions he founded along the south shores of Lake Superior, the last of which is the shrine’s location, in L’Anse. The site also features a gift and coffee shop, picnic area and votive garden — the perfect place to spend an afternoon.

St. Peter Cathedral

St Peter Cathedral St Peter Cathedral


Marquette — The mother church of the Diocese of Marquette, St. Peter Cathedral is a worthwhile stop along your Upper Peninsula pilgrimage. Venerable Bishop Frederic Baraga, who along with Detroit’s Blessed Solanus Casey is the only other Michigander to be recognized as “venerable” by the Vatican, is buried in a side chapel, where visitors leave prayer intentions and favor requests. When The Michigan Catholic recently visited, the cane of a woman healed of a tumor through the bishop’s intercession lay in front of the crypt, a visible sign of God’s mercy. After visiting the tomb, take time to visit the adoration chapel, or stay for Mass.

National Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help

National Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help

Green Bay, Wisc. — Though not in Michigan, if you’re visiting the western Upper Peninsula, the three-hour drive from Marquette is well worth it to visit the site of the only approved Marian apparition in the United States. Located in Champion, Wis., with miles of farmland in either direction, the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help draws visitors in with a motherly touch.

The actual site of the apparition, which took place in 1859 to Belgian immigrant Adele Brise, is marked by a chapel and shrine to Our Lady, who appeared dressed in dazzling white between two trees, a hemlock and maple. Relics of the trees are still there, and visitors are encouraged to leave prayer intentions at the Altar of Good Help.