For the sake of keeping things simple...I am breaking this down like one of my old high school current events reports. In other words, here are the What, When, Where, Who, and Why for Roamin' Catholic Churches.
What is this website that I have stumbled on?
Roamin' Catholic Churches is a site focused on architecture, decor, and the geography of, mainly, Roman Catholic churches. As this is my first blog project that is seeing a regular posting cycle, I assume I will broaden my horizons and consider other religious and secular sites as the opportunity arises. Catholic churches throughout the Midwest where I am based, have enough history and differences between them that I believe many posts can be written that won't tire out the subject. After all, every community has its own stories and small tales, including Catholic parishes.
Alright, this site is kind of cool. How often is it updated? (When)
The goal for Roamin' Catholic Churches is to add a new church profile with a collection of photos a couple times a month. As this is a side project of mine, I don't expect to always post at this rate, but I will try. As certain religious holidays and feast days pass, I may occasionally put up smaller posts.
It looks like you are willing to travel a little bit. Where do you plan to focus yours posts?
Well, I live just outside of Madison, Wisconsin, so most of my posts should generally wrap around Madison. I semi-regularly have trips that take me to Eau Claire and Milwaukee, so I anticipate a fair amount of posts from southern and western Wisconsin. The mecca of Midwestern Catholic churches, Chicago, is barely two hours away. In short, I may focus posts around where I live, but I am hoping to travel a bit to see churches within a day's trip from here (or farther!). We'll have to see where time, opportunity, and providence leads.
Who is the Roamin' Catholic?
The Roamin' Catholic is a twenty-something with a primary interest in Cartography, which seems to have little to do with churches. However, as a sloppy Catholic and a Geographer by academic heritage, he apparently enjoys learning and sharing the stories of community groups and their religious sites. Certainly he enjoys exploring and learning things of a secular nature, but he (ok, really its I) don't need to diversify this blog too much yet! If you have questions about me, feel free to shoot an email to roamincatholicchurches [at] gmail.com (Please right-click and "Copy Email Address" to retrieve my email address, the "[at]" is supposed to help keep spammers from my address!).
Why does this site exist?
I have been interested in the architecture and design of Catholic and other religious buildings for a few years now. I can't exactly point out the origins, but I think it has to do with being curious about what exists outside my normal life's routine. I grew up regularly visiting a few churches near my hometown in western Wisconsin, and was certainly used to the religious environment around me. However, I couldn't help but be curious when my not-so-religious Father would remark on how impressive the Cathedral in St. Paul (Minnesota) looked off the highway when he regularly drove rafters to the Twin Cities for his work. It took a few years, but I finally made a visit to the Cathedral late in college (2009) and was amazed at what I saw. The huge dome, the soaring baldachin, the sheer amount of time it took to see this building...it may be safe to say this is where my church exploring began to progress.
After that visit, I continued to occasionally visit larger churches when the stars aligned to do so. This certainly ramped up while I lived in the Washington, DC metro area during my internship at National Geographic. Only a couple blocks from the Geographic is St. Matthew's Cathedral, best known for hosting President Kennedy's funeral. Three Metro train stops from my basement rental was the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception. Both of these churches saw a lot of visits and rough photographs from me as I visited. I also noticed a number of churches that served a more humble role for the Catholics in DC, regular parishes and inner-city parishes cared for a very different congregation. The social differences, or the human geography of parishes, can be a significant study all by itself.
The clincher for this blog however, was my 2.5-year visit to St. Louis, Missouri. More a stay than a visit, I had the opportunity to start learning about the religious culture of St. Louis and how it differs from the regions around it. One of the most direct impacts of St. Louis on me were the age, beauty, and details of its Catholic churches. St. Louis, a city 76 square miles in size has about 30 parishes, of which I visited the majority along with other suburban and rural parishes. I took some photos of these churches, but the website Rome of the West served as my best guide to these churches. In Rome of the West its author/photographer, Mark Abeln presents an overview of dozens of churches in and around St. Louis. I recognize his work as a solid document informing wider communities of the life that exists within these parishes. Realizing that I knew little of the highlights of the religious community of my home state, I thought it would be a good project upon my return to research, photograph, and share the interesting, unique, and beautiful parts of the religious buildings and communities that outsiders rarely see, including neighboring Catholics.
I moved back to Wisconsin in September of 2013, and for the last few months I have been taking more photographs and making a few posts to try and get in a rhythm of updating this site. I am hoping to uncover and share the special, and sometimes ordinary, details of churches that I can visit. As my photography and reporting skills (hopefully) improve, I would like to expand this beyond Catholic churches, perhaps as additional posts. I have a particular interest in churches that have been recently restored/renovated, are due for restoration/renovation, and churches that are at risk of closing or being torn down. Of course, churches that aren't going through changes are of interest as well. If you ever want to suggest that I visit particular churches or sites, feel free to email me at roamincatholicchurches [at] gmail.com (Please
right-click and "Copy Email Address" to retrieve my email address, the "[at]" is
supposed to help keep spammers from my address!). Thanks for reading!
- The Roamin' Catholic