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Leaving Kansas for Nebraska

Sunday 10 July

From past experiences, Saturdays and Sundays have proven tougher when attempting to gain entrance. Saturdays many churches will either be closed, or will have weddings: the latter restrict me from photography. Sundays are the day of worship, and most churches will close up after the last service; timing becomes important. This was my first Sunday on the road, but I’d been lucky the previous day and all four cathedrals were open – I arrived before a wedding, and then arrived for Saturday vigil Mass.

Cathedral of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, Concordia KS

First stop after leaving before 8:30 was the former Cathedral of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Concordia, a 55-mile drive and I arrived at 9:30 so was able to prowl the interior and get my photos before 10am Mass. The exterior stone has two shades, of post and shell rock, with a tall open bell tower capped with a hexagonal spire to the left of the single-entry door, with a shorter square two-story tower to the right. Inside the church, which had been a cathedral from 1887 until 1945, was very simple and “stripped down” (per an older parishioner), with bare white walls throughout and ecru arches in the vault.

The stained-glass windows, 6 on each side, have brilliant colors and fill the walls of the transept arms. With three steps up to the predella, a simple stone table serves as an altar with a large crucifix hanging to its rear over the tabernacle. This was my last actual cathedral building to visit in Kansas.

St Mark’s Pro-Cathedral, Hastings, NE

With 115 miles to get to my next destination, I was hoping to arrive before St Mark’s Pro-Cathedral in Hastings, Nebraska closed. Unsure as to service times, I hustled across the flat agricultural expanses as I drove north and then west, arriving to find the church vestry in the process of closing up. Fortunately, the couple were gracious and allowed me to explore the nave and quire, pointing out several features such as the Last Supper carving in the reredos, both altar tables (the second more ornate in the prayer chapel), the baptismal font, and the portrait and vestments of the first Episcopal bishop of Nebraska.

Once outside, I was able to get a better view of the building, with its square bell tower to the rear, and mini-turrets at the front.

Cathedral of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Grand Island, NE

My final destination was 30 miles to the north in Grand Island, a half hour drive. As I pulled into the large adjacent parking lot, families were streaming towards the entrances. The Cathedral of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, also known as St Mary’s Cathedral, is a tall cruciform-building with smoothed limestone exterior and a Notre-Dame de Paris-style spire above the crossing. After taking a few outside shots, I entered the nave from the rear and discover that I would be joining the 12:30 Solemn High Mass in Spanish. The pews were nearly full, and I sat behind a woman with three younger boys, who were playing with Legos. Once the co-celebrant dismissed us with an instruction to Go in Peace, the nave was slow to empty. I sat and stood for a few minutes, planning my trajectory.

The vault is probably about 4-stories high, with smaller floor-level windows and tall, mostly clear clerestory windows, the latter topped with deep blue glass, in the nave and transept. In the sanctuary a baldachin stands tall over the raised high altar and tabernacle. Opposite, organ pipes bracket the 7-panel stained-glass over the choir loft. Side altars to Mary on the left and Joseph on the right provided prayer space and additional musician space. On the altar, a white stone baptismal font is paired with the Pascal Candle, both of which are next to the dark oak (uncushioned) cathedra and bishop’s crozier.

Returning outside to the front, a moving statue of a lone female, possibly the nun St Teresa of Calcutta, sits in the middle of a bench, while a second sculpture shows a more rustic bench occupied by St Francis. By the time I’d finished with more exterior shots, most of the parking lot was empty, although a few stragglers were hanging out in 90+-degree sunshine. I headed into downtown to the Super 8, which I found to be a conventional motel.

I was hungry, so I headed downtown to McKinney’s Irish Pub, where I experimented with a peanut butter burger and the Pub Ale. Served on a brioche bun, it was accompanied by what were called spiral fries (extra crispy, please!) I added a Bailey’s cheese chocolate cake, which wasn’t chocolate and had so little Bailey’s to barely merit its mention. The burger had curry chutney and Swiss cheese, and was actually pretty tasty and filling.

After my late lunch, I went for a stroll through the extremely quiet downtown. I “window shopped” until I neared the end of the commercial district, when I entered a large “Antique Hall”. With no need for anything, I moseyed around multiple booths on three floors, keeping an eye out for any HO-gauge railroad equipment: my brother Bob had recently been honored with his Masters certificate for his layout. Returning to the car, I spotted an urban park overlooking rail yards with a small stage.

Back at the hotel, I did some email and texting, making arrangements for the next Friday when I planned to drive to Duluth to have lunch with a “snowbird” neighbor, as well as see 2 cathedrals. She called, and we chatted for a bit. Finishing up email, I got out the reader and read until I felt a bit hungry. Dining for Miles was limited to the Irish pub I’d already visited, but I was in the mood for Italian, so I headed out a bit to the south and had dinner at Napoli’s.

A glass of Chianti and a Caesar salad while I waited for my shrimp Fra Diavolo, the place was fairly empty at 8pm on a Sunday. The pasta dish arrived swimming in a delicious tomato gravy, and there were plenty of good-size shrimp to go with the ample amount of linguini. To finish, a limoncello mascarpone cake. Then back to the room and sleep.

[Post-trip discovery: perhaps 50 miles to the west of Grand Island and Hasting, in Kearney, a now secularly used building was the Cathedral of St James from 1912 to 1917.]

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