Seminarians spend several days hiking, praying, relaxing

Five seminarians studying for the Diocese of Wichita tackled several mountain trails near Colorado Springs a few weeks ago. From left are Kyle Demel, Peter Bergkamp, Miles Swigart, Nicholas Samsel, and Colby McKee. (Photos courtesy Fr. Chad Arnold)

Five seminarians from the Diocese of Wichita got closer to God this summer – about 12,000 feet closer.

Fr. Chad Arnold, the director of the diocesan Office of Vocations, led the five men on a recreational retreat from July 30 to Aug. 3 to a tiny cabin near Green Mountain Falls, 15 miles northwest of Colorado Springs, Colorado.

It’s the fourth time and the third in three years that Fr. Chad has led a group of seminarians to one of his favorite spots on earth.

Seminarians tackle three trails

The group tackled three trails, one with views of Pikes Peak, one to the Skaguay Power Plant, an abandoned plant in a ghost town, and one to Bison Peak, a 15-mile physically taxing trek.

Fr. Chad said he found out that the Skaguay Power Plant trail has the highest concentration of mountain lions in the United States – but it wasn’t necessary to find out which of the seminarians was the slowest.

The trip is time away from technology, he said, and a time to enjoy the immense beauty of God’s creation.

Prayer a big part of the trip

“We always pray together, we have Mass with holy hours in the morning before the hikes,” Fr. Chad said. “In the evenings we always have a discussion. We talked about current events in the church, we did some lectio divina together, and a lot of just sitting on the porch and reading and hanging out together.”

Unfortunately, he added, the highly anticipated annual Rolling Quarters Down the Mountain Road competition was canceled this year because it rained each evening.

Bonding with brothers

The trip allows him and the other seminarians to spend time away from studies, to bond as brothers in Christ, Fr. Chad said, and “to get out and sweat in the beauty of it all.”

Mass was celebrated in a small chapel associated with Sacred Heart Parish in Colorado. The pastor, Holy Cross Father Jarrod Waugh, is a native of Parsons, Kansas, who once assisted Fr. Chad with Totus Tuus.

Father said he was able to talk privately with the seminarians away from the rigors of school. The group took two cars with one seminarian riding with Fr. Chad. The seminarians were switched out at the next gas or snack stop. “It allowed me some extended one-on-one conversations,” he said. “It was a leisurely conversation that was enjoyable, beneficial, and a blessing for me.”