Faith Connections’ Snowshoe & Prayer event Feb. 25 became a Hike & Prayer due to the lack of snow in Guelph, Ont. From left to right: participants Michalina Ratajczak, Dorian Pula, Wilfred Villegas and Patricia Soscia. Photos by Vanessa Nicholas-Schmidt

Getting ‘clarity of mind’ at Hike & Prayer

By  Melanie Dziengo, Youth Speak News
  • February 29, 2012

God had a different plan in store for the Faith Connections’ Snowshoe & Prayer event and its 18 young adult participants held on Feb. 25 at the Ignatius Jesuit Centre in Guelph, Ont. Due to the warm weather, and the lack of snow, the event was changed to Hike & Prayer.

The event is a unique way for participants to continue along their Catholic journey, said Vanessa Nicholas-Schmidt, Faith Connections’ program director.

“They may make some relationships that help to support them in that journey,” said Nicholas-Schmidt, who added the event is also helpful in giving young Catholics some time to slow down for prayer and reflection.

The theme of the event was ecology and Yvonne Prowse, the centre’s Ignatian director, led the hike.

Snowshoe & Prayer was to be a different take on Faith Connections’ regular Hike & Prayer event, which is held five to six times per year.

Hike participants will go to different parts of the Greater Toronto Area and “during the hike, we have different points that we stop at and pray or do small group discussions reflecting on a different scene,” said Nicholas-Schmidt.

A ministry of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Toronto, some of Faith Connections’ past hikes have taken place during Nuit Blanche and Doors Open Toronto.

The event kicked off with icebreakers and an opening reflection. Afterwards, the hike began.

One participant echoed Nicholas-Schmidt’s statements about the relaxing nature of the event.

“Nature gives me clarity of mind, just being able to think about things,” said Michalina Ratajczak.

“Just being given that time to do that was a real blessing.”

The event allowed participants like Ratajczak to express themselves and learn from others while spending their time outdoors. During the hike, participants got to share their feelings about the event.

For Ratajczak, learning from her fellow hikers was an important part of the experience.

Hearing what other people got out of the event was probably better than the hike itself, said Ratajczak.

“Everyone got so much out of it and were able to connect their experience on that hike back to their relationship with God.”

Ratajczak said during the hike participants could ask God to reveal Himself through His creations.

She said it is important for hikers to “not just… look to nature itself, but the Creator of nature. Look at nature through God’s eyes… and that’s where you’ll see the grace that is within nature because otherwise, nature is just nature.”

Along with the opportunity to learn something new from fellow hikers, she also learned from the hike leader. Ratajczak said Prowse told the group the original word for the name “Adam” was “topsoil,” which reminds us of the connection between God and nature and how we are all created in His image.

For more information on Faith Connections and any future events, see www.faithconnections.ca.

(Dziengo, 21, is a media studies and journalism student at the University of Guelph-Humber.)

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