During the summer months, Fr. Richard Malloy, SJ, leaves his home base at the University of Scranton, where he is the chaplain and a professor of anthropology, and travels to Yellowstone Park in Wyoming—a sprawling National Park nestled in the Rocky Mountains and sitting atop the world’s largest volcano. Fr. Malloy makes this annual trip west to enjoy the sheer majesty of the park and to offer Mass each week to the throngs of people from all over the world who come to experience God’s awesome beauty through nature.
Fr. Malloy celebrates Mass in several locations throughout the park thanks to the hospitality of St. Anthony’s Parish in Cody, Wyoming. St. Anthony’s has made ministering in Yellowstone possible for more than 50 years. Their generous support allows Fr. Malloy to travel up to 400 miles each weekend.
“The park really gets you in touch with reality,” said Fr. Malloy. “And when we get in touch with reality, we get in touch with God. And when we get in touch with God, we are transformed.” One of Fr. Malloy’s most popular Masses is in the canyon section of Yellowstone, where he celebrates the Eucharist Saturday evenings in an amphitheater surrounded by God’s natural wonders. On Sunday morning, he offers Mass in the Old Faithful area and later out by the lake. “It’s a real privilege to be able to celebrate Mass here in the park—to meet so many wonderful people from every state in the country and from around the world.”
Yellowstone also provides the inspiration for Fr. Malloy to write. He is the author of the acclaimed book, Being on Fire: Top Ten Essentials of Catholic Faith. Most recently, he has tied his passion for spirituality in America’s parks with our social responsibility to the environment. “Nature is a gift of God to us,” he said. “Our first primordial revelation of God is through nature.”
In his encyclical Laudato Si’ on caring for the environment, Pope Francis wrote: All of us can cooperate as instruments of God for the care of creation. “The pope is calling us to do what needs to be done,” said Fr. Malloy, “to reverse some of the negative affects we’re having on our ecological systems.”
Fr. Malloy stresses that all Americans should be thankful that our country, under the leadership of Teddy Roosevelt, had the foresight to protect these areas and preserve these parks so that people from all corners of the globe can find peace and inspiration here. “Participating in the Mass in Yellowstone is an experience of God unlike any other,” he explained. “We sing ‘America The Beautiful’ here like we sing it nowhere else.”