By Darlene J.M. Dela Cruz
Hawaii Catholic Herald
Imagine being able to hike up one of the most breathtaking mountains in the southwest U.S., the arduous journey challenging you physically, mentally and emotionally to brave the elements of nature for the priceless reward of personal growth.
Now imagine that journey also including moments of pause and prayer, finding the Lord’s presence in an outdoor sunrise liturgy, in pondering your vocation while camping with others, and in powerful “chicken skin” moments of Eucharistic adoration in the middle of the woods.
Four young Island Catholic scouts have had this awesome experience. They’re now encouraging other faithful scouts to jump to the challenge. The Diocese of Honolulu Catholic Committee on Scouting is seeking applicants and nominees for the St. George Trek, set to take place July 3-18, 2019. The trek is a high-adventure Catholic retreat program held every two years at the Boy Scouts of America’s Philmont Scout Ranch in Cimarron, New Mexico.
To qualify for the St. George Trek, a young Catholic must be a registered scout at least age 15 by the beginning of the trek, and no older than 18 by then. Since only 70 participants can be accommodated, U.S. dioceses are each only allowed to send two male scouts. Female scouts may be selected if an additional female crew can be formed with sufficient registration.
A scout must be fit to endure the lengthy, sometimes really steep, hike through the Sangre de Cristo Range of the Rocky Mountains nearly 10,000 feet above sea level. The National Catholic Committee on Scouting website notes that St. George Trek participants should demonstrate “maturity, physical ability, leadership potential, an interest in the life of the Church and an openness to the discernment of vocation.”
Scouts may only participate in the St. George Trek once. After completion, they must maintain two “Covenant Commitments” they discerned and made during the journey — a personal covenant with God, and a commitment to serve their church communities when they return home.
Ryan Garcia of scout Crew 311 at St. John Vianney Church in Kailua did the St. George Trek in 2015. His sister, Marianne, completed it with a female crew last year. Peter Gallogly of Troop 664 and Keola Cleghorn of Troop 144, both at St. John Apostle and Evangelist Church in Mililani, did the trek in 2017 as well.
The four scouts told the Hawaii Catholic Herald that the St. George Trek greatly impacted their lives and faith. They hope sharing their experiences will encourage more Island youth to take on the adventure.
“You can’t really describe it,” Ryan Garcia said. His favorite part of the St. George Trek was rock climbing, a thrill “I wish I could do again.” Garcia said he saw many facets of the faith, as he was assigned to a crew with a priest, a seminarian and “different people, different personalities.”
Marianne Garcia called her trek experience an accomplishment of “girl power.” She enjoyed being mentored by a religious sister who was one of their leaders. Being in the thick of nature without electronics and everyday conveniences, she learned how to “think on the spot.”
“You say a prayer, trust God, and go into it,” she said. Gallogly said his favorite St. George Trek activity was hiking up the Tooth of Time, a majestic crag that offers amazing views at its summit. He appreciated “short” Masses celebrated daily at camp.
“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” Gallogly noted.
Cleghorn was inspired by the priest who led his trek crew. The priest’s homilies, he said, were “extremely relatable” for the youthful scouts. Cleghorn’s most vivid memory was waking up early at camp and “seeing stars everywhere.”
Cleghorn cautions potential St. George scouts about the 20-mile hike through “Black Mountain” his crew endured and other challenges. He said, however, that the personal and spiritual rewards at the end of the trek are totally worth it.
“You’ll never know how good it is” until you try, Cleghorn said.
For information on the application process, fees and more for the St. George Trek, visit the links below.
Diocese of Honolulu Catholic Committee on Scouting:
National Catholic Committee on Scouting:
Celebrating Catholic scouts
Join members of the Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, American Heritage Girls and Trail Life U.S.A. for a special “Scouts Mass” celebrated by Bishop Larry Silva, Feb. 24 at 5 p.m. at St. John Vianney Church in Kailua. A “Court of Honor” ceremony will follow the liturgy. The Court of Honor is a formal recognition of local scouts who have earned awards in the last two years.