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The Ice Mass: 'A unique expression of Catholic faith'

The Chapel is built each year by college students and community members in the Keweenaw peninsula town of Houghton
Site of the Ice Mass in Michigan.

Building a chapel out of ice and snow was just a ‘fun idea’ until a small group of students and Fr. Ben Hasse at St. Albert the Great University Parish decided to give it a go in 2016. The students got to work, shovelling, forming, and carving the first Ice Chapel.

They were soon in awe of how quickly the word spread and how excited people were to come to such an event. It immediately became a yearly tradition, dubbed, “The Ice Mass at the Ice Chapel of Our Lady of the Snows,” or simply, “The Ice Mass.” 

The Chapel is built each year by college students and community members in the Keweenaw peninsula town of Houghton. A mountain of snow; plywood forms held together with 2x4s; and a workforce of students, shovelling, bucketing, and stomping snow, brings the chapel to life.

Each year more students get involved in the build, and offer new creative dimensions. The chapel’s wintry centerpiece, the altar, is built using thick slabs of ice, hand cut from Lake Superior (it’s quite an ordeal to get it in place). Built into the snowy walls, one can find a raised pulpit, a Marian grotto, a hand-carved confessional, corridors along the sides, and beautiful ‘stained ice’ windows. 

The priests at St. Al’s will celebrate three planned Ice Masses in the Our Lady of the Snows Ice Chapel, the first of which is live-streamed on Facebook: Feb 10, 2023 at 5:30 p.m. EST. You may visit to register for the link. Fr. Tom Merkel exclaims, “please join us and bring friends!”

Through developing new ways to adorn the chapel and the countless hours it takes to build, students grow together in friendship. When asked how much it costs to build an Ice Chapel, Fr Hasse simply responds “about a thousand dollars worth of pizza,” which fuels the student labor. St. Al’s parish is overjoyed each year to shovel together a creation that glorifies God and brings the community together through the Mass.

Who: St. Albert the Great University Parish serving students, faculty and staff of  Michigan Technological University, Finlandia University, and Gogebic (“Go-Gee-Bick”) Community College

What: the annual Ice Mass in the Ice Chapel of Our Lady of the Snows, also known as “The Ice Mass”: a Roman Catholic Mass celebrated in a chapel hand-built from ice and snow by MTU students and community members.

Where: St. Al’s (St. Albert the Great University Parish) in Houghton, MI., 411 MacInnes Drive, Houghton, MI 49931

When: during MTU’s famed Winter Carnival. There are three Masses: 5:30 p.m. and 10 p.m.on Feb. 10, as well as at 10 a.m. on Feb. 11.  The first Mass, 5:30 p.m. on Feb. 10 will be live-streamed on Facebook. Participants may register online for the link to the Live Stream: Chapel build progress:

Why: The Ice Mass has gained international attention; it is a unique expression of Catholic faith in the deep snow country of the Keweenaw.