Catholic photographer makes pilgrimage to Little Rock

Andrew Masi, the "Catholic Photographer," stands on the front steps of the Cathedral of St. Andrew in Little Rock June 9. (Katie Zakrzewski)
Andrew Masi, the "Catholic Photographer," stands on the front steps of the Cathedral of St. Andrew in Little Rock June 9. (Katie Zakrzewski)
Andrew Masi takes photos of the Cathedral of St. Andrew in Little Rock June 9. Masi is on a pilgrimage to photograph every cathedral and basilica in the U.S. (Katie Zakrzewski)
Andrew Masi takes photos of the Cathedral of St. Andrew in Little Rock June 9. Masi is on a pilgrimage to photograph every cathedral and basilica in the U.S. (Katie Zakrzewski)


Andrew Masi had never been to Arkansas before June 9. With his visit, Masi is one step closer to reaching his goal of photographing every Catholic cathedral and basilica in the United States. 

Masi has been to 36 states on a mission to photograph all 192 cathedrals and 93 basilicas. 

With his visit to the Cathedral of St. Andrew in Little Rock, Masi has successfully photographed 104 cathedrals and 59 basilicas. 

Masi, who lives in Connecticut, started this journey 10 years ago during Easter Mass. 

“In April of 2014, while attending Easter Mass at the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Newark, N.J., an idea popped into my head to travel the country to see and photograph other churches like it, and I took it as a sign from God to go on this pilgrimage,” Masi said. 

Just three weeks before Masi got the idea for a pilgrimage, his grandmother, Josephine Masi, whom he credits with building his devout faith, died. 

“She was a devout Catholic. She always prayed,” Masi said. “I took it from her to stay strong in my faith, even though she wasn’t around anymore. But she’ll always be with me in spirit. And this is another way of her showing me that she’s still with me.”

Masi was born in Colombia in 1987 and adopted by a large Italian family in Connecticut when he was eight months old. Growing up, he wasn’t a big fan of Mass, and he was often more occupied with sports and video games as a young boy. But as his father, a church musician, performed during the Diocese of Bridgeport’s 50th-anniversary celebration in 2003, Masi heard God calling him closer to the Catholic faith. 

Masi has done photography as a hobby for 20 years. He picked the hobby up in high school when he took a photography course as part of his curriculum. Today, Masi does photography in his spare time when he’s not working at a public relations firm. Masi is simple in his technique, preferring his smartphone’s camera lens over expensive equipment. 

“The only camera equipment I take is my phone,” Masi said. “No special fancy equipment needed. Just a simple Android phone. … It’s fun to see how much technology has improved and improved our lives over the years.”

Masi called himself “The Catholic Photographer” on his social media platforms, where he began to post pictures of all of the places he had visited. Shortly after, he created a Flickr account to post photo albums for friends and followers to look through. 

“When I take those pictures, I add them and organize them, and I upload them to my Flickr account and my Instagram and Facebook as well to share with people there,” Masi said. “And I have nothing but positive responses. People see my pictures, and they have told me that they feel like I'm taking them on a virtual tour of these churches. … I’m their tour guide.”

Masi hopes to do his work internationally as well. 

“After completing the journey here in the United States, I am planning on traveling to Canada, Mexico, South America and Europe to see their beautiful churches and take pictures of them to share with people,” Masi said. 

The fire in Paris’ Notre Dame Cathedral in 2019 made Masi realize work like his was needed around the world. 

“I started thinking about it before COVID hit because when the tragic fire happened to Notre Dame … that’s when it occurred to me that ‘I better see these churches overseas,’ to testify (to their existence through pictures) for hundreds of years,” Masi said. “One minute they’re here, another minute, and they might be gone. Thank God Notre Dame was spared and that Our Lady was watching over it. But imagine if the fire was more horrific — they could have lost that beautiful testament to Christianity.”

While COVID put a pause on Masi’s pilgrimage plans, it did give him time to save money for his travels. Masi pays for his pilgrimage in spurts, deciding where to go next and saving up money, repeating the process for each destination. 

After visiting the Cathedral, Masi remarked that it reminded him of Holy Name Cathedral in Chicago, and commented on the Cathedral of St. Andrew’s elegance. 

“It was just so beautiful — very colorful and historic,” Masi said. 

Father Joseph de Orbegozo, rector of the Cathedral of St. Andrew, is interested in Masi’s work as a mission and a pilgrimage. 

“I'm really excited to hear from someone who has been to so many different places around the U.S. to be able to hear his perspective on the Church in the U.S. and also to hear his perspective on his own growth and faith, having done a pilgrimage like this,” Father de Orbegozo said. 

Masi’s work is especially timely with the National Eucharistic Revival. 

“I hope my work could inspire people now, especially those who have left the Church to come back because right now the Church needs people more than ever,” Masi said. “We're going through a very challenging time, not only in the world but also in the Church too. And the more people who come back stronger in faith, the stronger our churches will be. It would help … vocations to the priesthood … We need more holy people to come back to serve the Lord and the Church.”

Father de Orbegozo said that while much of the National Eucharistic Revival has focused on devout and practicing Catholics, Masi’s work within the context of the Revival can help Catholics who may be contemplating returning to the faith. 

“ … The benefit of this is that it gives people a new opportunity to reconsider why to go back to church,” Father de Orbegozo said of Masi’s photos. “Sometimes people go to church when they remember why they left. In this case, they have the opportunity to look at church and remember and ask, why did I leave the first place? And then to be able to encounter the Lord through that call, to turn back and to express their faith in that fullest lived version, the Eucharist.”

Fortunately for Masi’s personal faith life, he has already seen the difference. 

“With each visit, I have had the amazing opportunities to pray in these beautiful places of worship, to take incredible pictures and to meet warm and welcoming people,” Masi said. “I am now more than halfway towards the completion of the pilgrimage … It has been a truly rewarding journey so far and it has helped me to deepen my Catholic faith and to build a better relationship with the Lord.”

Katie Zakrzewski

Katie Zakrzewski joined Arkansas Catholic as associate editor in 2023 after working in local media and the environmental sector. A member of St. Mary Church in North Little Rock, she recently completed her master’s degree in public service from the Clinton School.

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