Seminarians encounter God on Colorado hiking excursion

Wildfire smoke obscured the mountaintop views for a group of seminarians who went hiking last month in Colorado. (Photo courtesy Fr. Chad Arnold)

A group of priests and seminarians from the Diocese of Wichita got closer to God last month.

Father Chad Arnold and Father Adam Grelinger accompanied eight seminarians Aug. 9-13 for an encounter with God at Green Mountain Falls, Colorado, near Pikes Peak.

Fr. Arnold said he has family who inherited a 100-plus-year-old tiny cabin they were able to use. “Fr. Adam and I each have a bed,” he said with a smile. “Everyone else is on the floor.”

Sleeping in a log cabin

The rustic log cabin, which scrapes the skies at 8,000 feet, has only enough room for 10, Fr. Arnold said, after furniture is moved to make room for sleeping bags.

A member of Creatio, a Denver-based Catholic hiking company, joined the group for a day to help members of the group encounter God through nature. The guide also talked about the principles of Leave No Trace to minimize the impact of anyone visiting the outdoors.

The men hiked trails each day. Unfortunately, the mountain vistas were obscured by smoke from the California wildfires, Fr. Arnold said.

“They must have had a wet summer,” he said, “because the wildflowers in the upper valleys were just beautiful. We’d hike up these trails, everyone would be panting and heaving, and we would get up there…we’d step into a valley full of wildflowers and the group would go silent.”

After a mountain-top lunch and conversation, the hikers returned to the cabin.

The day began with Mass and a bit of Eucharistic adoration, Fr. Arnold said. Breakfast and a hike followed. After they returned, they would gather for Midday Prayer and then take some time to clean up.

Golf and prayer

Some of the extra time resulted in a coin rolling “golf” game.

“The cabin is in front of a very steep road so we partitioned the road into ‘holes’ and we would roll quarters down the road,” he said. “Every roll was like a stroke in golf. There’d be a ton of us out there rolling quarters down the hill and keeping score.”

In the evening, the campers prayed Evening Prayer, cooked up dinner, and participated in discussions about formation.

“We talked about the promises of obedience, chastity, and simplicity of life; how they understand that and what they think is challenging,” he said. “One night we talked about gossip, why it’s so tempting, and how we avoid it. Another night we talked about what the people of God expect of them as seminarians versus what God expects of them and how those things overlap.”

Afterward, they would hang out in the cabin or on the front porch talking and looking for wildlife, mostly deer, although one bear was spotted.

“It was wonderful,” Fr. Arnold said.

Fr. Arnold is the director of the Vocations Office. Fr. Grelinger is the formation director for the St. Joseph House of Formation.