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‘More than just a hiking trip’
Pittsburgh Catholic ^ | Friday September 22, 2006 | Bob DeWitt

Posted on 09/22/2006 4:47:56 PM PDT by fgoodwin

‘More than just a hiking trip’

Friday September 22, 2006
by: Bob DeWitt

Brian DeFazio felt the call to the priesthood long before he hiked the rugged mountains of northern New Mexico in July, taking part in a high adventure leadership program with other Catholic Boy Scouts. Now he’s even more certain that he wants to become a priest.

Brian, 16, of St. Elizabeth of Hungary Parish in Pleasant Hills, may be the first Boy Scout from the Diocese of Pittsburgh to be chosen for the biannual St. George Trek at Philmont Scout Ranch, sponsored by the National Catholic Committee on Scouting. Named for the patron saint of Scouting, the St. George Trek helps develop organizational and leadership skills in high school-age Catholic Scouts and Venturers while nourishing their spirituality. Venturing is a co-ed high adventure program of the Boy Scouts of America.

“At night, it was amazing to see the sky so lit up with stars, what God created, as he left for us,” said Brian, a Life Scout with Troop 210 who hopes to earn the rank of Eagle Scout in the Greater Pittsburgh Council. “I felt myself growing closer to him, and it became clearer to me that I really want to be a priest.”

Before undertaking the demanding 10-day journey across Philmont, Brian and 67 other Scouts from across the country joined lay leaders, priests and two bishops, including Bishop Daniel Conlon of Steubenville, Ohio, for a three-day retreat in Albuquerque. The young men quickly became friends in faith as they listened to speakers like Father Thomas Coogan of Rockville Centre, N.Y., who first made the trek in 1995 as a seminarian.

“Father Tom compared life to a game of five-card poker,” Brian said. “You need to know what you’re playing for in order to know which cards you want. If you’re seeking what society offers, keep the cards of money, power and a sexual life. But hold onto the cards of chastity, poverty and obedience if you’re seeking (the priesthood and) the happiness and salvation that God offers you.”

Brian and his fellow Scouts soon found themselves immersed in the legendary Philmont experience, climbing mountains, crossing mesas, praying at meals and celebrating Mass nearly every day along the rocky trail.

“It was such a meaningful experience because it was much more than just a hiking trip,” Brian said. “Being out there in the wilderness, you understand better the magnitude of his world. The wildlife come right up to you, they’re not afraid. All of God’s creatures are there, living in harmony.”

While hiking, the Scouts reflected on how the Ten Commandments apply in their daily lives. They took part in Benediction and eucharistic adoration and received the sacrament of reconciliation. A sunrise Mass was celebrated one day alongside a reservoir down the mountain.

Brian sees a strong connection between Scouting and his Catholic faith.

“The Scout Law pretty much follows what Jesus taught, to love your neighbor as much as you love yourself,” he said. “Scouting helps me to be a better Catholic. It teaches you how to accept others, and to work together to make the world a better place.”

The mission of the National Catholic Committee on Scouting is the constructive use of the program of the Boy Scouts of America as a viable form of youth ministry with Catholic teens.

The trek encourages the integration of morality and values, spirituality and faith and Scripture, with the responsibilities of Christian leadership and vocation awareness, according to organizer Austin Cannon.

“There is a tremendous dynamic at work in terms of leadership development,” Cannon said. “We hear from so many parents, ‘My son is home now, but he hasn’t been the same.’”

Victor and Carol DeFazio can vouch for that.

“I’m very, very proud of Brian,” Victor said. “It was a chance to combine the Scouting experience of Philmont with a retreat of our faith. It meant a lot to him. He also got to see that these bishops are real people.”

Being an effective peer leader at home is one goal of the St. George Trek, and it’s a challenge for Brian, now a sophomore at Thomas Jefferson High School in Jefferson Hills.

“I’ve always been a little outspoken (about my faith) with my classmates — fire and brimstone,” Brian said. “I still want to get the message out, but in a way they can relate to. These lessons should help me do that, to be more of a Christ-like helper.”

TOPICS: Catholic; Ministry/Outreach; Moral Issues; Religion & Culture
KEYWORDS: boyscouts; bsa; catholicboyscouts; catholicchurch; catholicscouting; nccs; philmont; scouting; scouts; stgeorge; stgeorgetrek; vocations

1 posted on 09/22/2006 4:47:58 PM PDT by fgoodwin
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To: fgoodwin

Very cool! We'll have to remember this when our sons are older.

2 posted on 09/22/2006 5:08:29 PM PDT by Tax-chick (Please pray for Vlad's four top incisors to arrive real soon!)
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