Cape Cod Offers Spiritual Oases for Vacationers

Seaside Towns’ Prayerful Churches

Courtesy of the churches
Courtesy of the churches )

NEW ENGLAND CHURCHES. Father Ron Floyd celebrates Mass at St. Francis Xavier in Hyannis, Mass. Also shown: the exterior of Our Lady of the Cape Church in Brewster, Mass. Courtesy of the churches


On Cape Cod, vacationers swell the sizes of parishes through the summer months.

The Cape and islands also offer spiritual refuge for summer vacationers, with their unique system of seasonal chapels accommodating the influx of summertime tourists.

St. Francis Xavier in Hyannis, Mass., is a historic church the Kennedy family attended; a plaque marks the spot where President John F. Kennedy sat.

Father Ron Floyd, the associate pastor and the hospital chaplain, observed that the congregation grows 20% to 30% in the summer: “There are beautiful beaches, picturesque cottages, a feeling of community. People walk around; talk with their neighbors. You can re-connect with family and community in an organic way. If we don’t have rest, we don’t have time for contemplation.”

The serenity of the traditional Latin Mass, which Father Floyd offers, could be just the thing for vacationers wanting to slow down, praise and thank God. As Father Floyd commented, “Beauty touches the heart; it turns the mind to God. The spiritual life is impacted by beauty.”

“It’s a beautiful liturgy and good for evangelization.” This form of the Mass makes him think: “This is what heaven is like.”

Father William Kaliyadan is pastor at Our Lady of the Cape in Brewster, which is served by the Missionaries of Our Lady of La Salette. Our Lady of the Cape also runs the seasonal Immaculate Conception Chapel from Memorial Day to Labor Day weekend in East Brewster. Immaculate Conception was built in 1908, with new wings added in 1923 and 1969.

“The main church can seat only 800 people. The chapel offers three more Masses on the weekend to accommodate tourists,” the Indian-born priest explained. “We have 46 or 47 weddings at the chapel; the Immaculate Conception Chapel is used only for weekend Masses and weddings. In the summertime, we have eight Masses on weekends.”

Father Kaliyadan added, “ The church gets more alive in the summer months. We invite speakers on different topics, so there’s spiritual enrichment for people visiting Cape Cod. It’s not a vacation from the spiritual life. We are so happy they are here — that’s what matters.”

Our Lady of the Isle in Nantucket is another Massachusetts vacation parish. The pastor, Father Marcel Bouchard, has been on Nantucket for the past six years. He says that, in the summer months, the parish goes from three to six Masses, always with a full church. “The population goes from 10,000 to 60,000 on Nantucket. Winter and summer are like two different parishes. We’re bigger and busier than city parishes for first Communion and confirmation.”

Father Bouchard enjoys Nantucket’s atmosphere. “Nantucket is like a step back in time to the 18th and 19th centuries. It’s small and homey, with cobblestone streets. It’s so quaint, 30 miles out to sea. It’s a place to rest, apart from the busyness of the cities. It has relaxing summer days.”

 Every summer Our Lady of the Isle hosts a different parish mission. “People are paying visits and praying. People have more time for peace and serenity,” he said.

In Woods Hole, Mass., the seasonal St. Joseph’s Chapel, Angelus Tower and Mary Garden offer an oasis for vacationers, too. Frances Crane Lillie, whose husband Frank was president and director of the Marine Biological Laboratory, converted to Catholicism in the 1920s. She built the Angelus bell tower overlooking Eel Pond in 1929 to remind scientists of God, with bells named for Gregor Mendel — the Austrian priest know as the “Father of Modern Genetics” — and famed chemist and microbiologist Louis Pasteur. The doors of the Angelus Tower depict the life of St. Joseph. The oratory of the Angelus Tower contains a lending library of religious works to be returned at summer’s end, offering vacationers plenty of good reading material. In 1932, Frances Lillie planted the first public Mary Garden in the United States. The Joseph Garden would be planted a half century later, in 1982.

 The Mary Garden, also overlooking Eel Pond, contains herbs and flowers with religious meanings, such as Lady’s Delight (pansies), Our Lady’s Glove (foxglove) and Staff of St. Joseph (hollyhock). In spring and summer, the garden is in full bloom.

As Father Bouchard duly noted, “(Vacation) gives time to be with each other and God, to play together, be together and pray together.”

 Anna Abbott writes from

 Napa, California.

This is a longer version of the print article.

It was also updated since going to press.