I have been substituting at the Basilica of St. John in Des Moines, Iowa for the past couple of weeks and will be here through the end of the week. When the pastor, Fr. Aquinas Nichols, takes his summer vacation, usually one of our monks is asked to staff the parish. In recent years Fr. Albert has come to help, but since he was already traveling a lot this summer with our new seminary rector, I was asked to fill in.
The Basilica is a beautiful and very historic church in Des Moines. Fr. Aquinas has put a lot of time and energy into ensuring a reverent celebration of the liturgy. There is also an excellent parish staff and several deacons who assist in various capacities. It makes coming here and assisting with Mass and the other sacraments a very smooth process.
The experiences I have had are too innumerable to recount, but I assure you they have been filled with many blessings. I have celebrated the daily Mass for the parish and 3 weekend Masses. In addition, I have celebrated one wedding and two funerals and visited the hospital to anoint a man. This is very valuable and important experience that I might not otherwise have at the monastery.
The non-liturgical highlight of Des Moines has been being able to ride their amazing bike trails, which extend throughout the city and beyond. Last week, I rode the trail north toward Madrid and Woodward, Iowa, where I was able to cross the famous High Trestle Bridge.