When you go to visit a national park, you expect to be awed by natural beauty. And you are.
You normally don’t expect to find a Catholic chapel there as well.
But that’s the case in Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming. And many visitors to the Chapel of the Sacred Heart, most of whom are surprised to find the place, seem to just pour out their gratitude for the beauty of God’s creation.
“I just came in here to say a little prayer of thanksgiving for everything,” said Mary Morris, a Hampshire, Illinois, resident who had been camping in Yellowstone and discovered the log chapel when she drove south to Grand Teton.
She told Catholic News Service in 2016 that the beauty of chapel made her feel grateful.
“This chapel does something for everybody that walks into it and certainly for everybody who worships here,” said Deacon Doug Vlchek of Our Lady of the Mountains Church in nearby Jackson, of which the chapel is a mission. “This building evangelizes people.”
The chapel was constructed in 1937 before the expansion of the park, but it now sits within the park’s boundaries.
Deacon Vichek estimates that 100 to 200 people visit the chapel daily during tourist season. They “sit and pray for a little while, have a beautiful respite and some time to spend with God,” he said.
CNS said that when the church and chapel were founded in the late 1930s, the population of Teton County was 2,500 and it was considered mission territory. “Today, the county has more than 22,000 residents and annual visitors numbering around 4 million.”
The chapel has been restored twice, in the late 1960s and again in 2002. The latest renovation included new log beams, a new sanctuary and the addition of the Sacred Heart stained-glass window. The total cost — $450,000 — was funded by a single New York and Wyoming family in memory of the victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Sacred Heart is open 24 hours a day June through September. During those months, Mass is celebrated Sunday evenings. It’s closed in the winter.