By Celine Klosterman
In pitch-dark Eagle Cave in New York’s Adirondacks last month, nine Catholics from St. Mary Parish in Pella prayed a luminous mystery of the rosary.
Their pastor, Father Jeff Belger, had made glow-in-the-dark rosaries to help participants in Venture Crew 393 practice their religion while seeking outdoor thrills on a June 29 to July 7 road trip.
The scouting program combines activities like caving, camping and kayaking with praise, worship and prayer. Chartered at St. Mary’s since early this year, the group aims to help people ages 14-20 develop leadership skills and grow in faith.
“It helps me bring God into all the areas of my life,” said President Mary Masek, 17.
Scout enthusiasts in her family inspired the creation of Venture Crew several years ago. At first, the group was chartered at Peace Lutheran Church in Pella, where a Boy Scout troop already existed. But most Venture Crew members were Catholic, so the crew eventually switched to the Catholic parish, said Assistant Advisor Donna DeJoode.
Scouting programs have sound values, Father Ron Hodges has told The Catholic Messenger. “They respect various religious traditions” and promote faith through religious awards, said St. Mary’s parochial vicar.
Since chartering under St. Mary’s, Venture Crew 393 members have been able to practice Catholicism more often during activities, according to DeJoode. Participants can arrange trip schedules around Mass, offer Catholic devotions and prayer time, and feel free to discuss their faith around a campfire.
Thomas Weihe, 17, appreciates the group’s effort to include God in its events. “Venture Crew allows my spiritual life to grow,” said the vice president of programs.
“I have a chance to move away from the world of computers, television and other distracting technology of our everyday lives.”
He and other youths did so during their summer road trip. They visited Niagara Falls, Our Lady of Fatima Shrine, Lake Erie, Lake Ontario, Lake Michigan, Erie Canal and Lock 28B, kayaked in the Adirondack Mountains, and whitewater rafted in the Hudson River. Participants also completed a one-day service project at a camp in the Adirondacks.
“Venture Crew allows me to challenge myself physically,” Weihe said. “Many of the activities that we’ve done I had never actually tried before, and it was wonderful to test myself and see how well I could perform in them.”
Crew members also have done service projects including picking up litter on a trail around St. Mary Church and held movie nights.
“We can laugh and have a fun time,” said Makenzie Bossard, 14.
She recalled crew members discussing how they’d seen God throughout the New York trip. Doing so made her realize the Lord offers signs of his presence in everyday occurrences —not just in miracles. “That made me understand how much God actually does for me.”