Sheep Mountain Lookout Tower

Yesterday, Fr. Brian Hess and I got out of the grand metropolis of Sheridan, WY to head up into the Big Horn Mountains to go camping. Rather than just tent camping we had something else in mind for this trip. We reserved and camped in the Sheep Mountain Lookout Tower, located in the Big Horn Mountains near Buffalo, WY. This is a historic fire lookout tower constructed in 1950 which sits atop Sheep Mountain. It served as a fire lookout tower until the early 1970’s and has since been cleaned up and now anybody can go online and reserve it overnight to go camp up there. It sits right at about 9,600 feet above sea level and the view is absolutely phenomenal. The building itself is square with windows on all four sides so one can see out in every direction.

Being up in the mountains with the beautiful forest surrounding me I couldn’t help but stand in admiration of God’s handiwork in all of creation. The mountains, trees, animals, flowers, and yes, even the insects, all add such a depth of beauty to the place. Mass was celebrated in that awesome natural beauty.

That evening we saw three mule deer bucks as they scrounged around for food up near the tower. The night sky was clear and since the full moon is close, we got a good view of the moon itself, but less so of a star-filled sky, which would have been awesome as well. The morning brought a couple more deer to the area as we drank coffee and watched the sun rise higher into the sky. I also took that opportunity to look up a geocache that was on the same mountain and find it.

All-in-all a fantastic little overnight trip into the Big Horn Mountains. I love to get out and go camping and so this was a slightly different experience for me. Ultimately I would say that my preference would be to camp near a mountain stream, but this kind of camping, perched atop a mountain, definitely had its own awesomeness too.

On a side note, apparently the Big Horn Mountain forests are like the Forest Moon of Endor. Who knew?


Summer in Sheridan

I have been told that I need to blog more…ahem Meg (see her blog here).  So I figured I would take this opportunity to share what my summer is looking like.

My summer assignment as a deacon is at Holy Name Catholic Church in Sheridan, WY.  Sheridan is nestled next to the Big Horn Mountains (part of the Rocky Mountains in WY) and is a beautiful place to be assigned for the summer.  The population of Sheridan is roughly 20,000 so it is big enough to have some of the mainstream stores (Wal-Mart, Albertson’s, etc.) but still has that small town feel (every third Thursday evening during the summer they close main street for a street festival, which I am looking forward to experiencing).  My experience of the parish has been fantastic.  The people of God here are very welcoming and hospitable.  This past weekend was my first weekend here for the summer and I introduced myself to the parish by preaching (see that homily here), but since Sheridan has two mission churches (one in Ranchester and the other in Story) I preached one Mass in Sheridan one in Ranchester, and one at the VA hospital here in Sheridan as well.  During my time here I will be blessed to preach and assist at Mass, baptize (I am very much looking forward to this!), visit the sick in the Nursing Home and Hospital and bring them the Holy Eucharist, assist it weddings and funerals, and experience day to day life in all the parish functions throughout the summer.  I even get my own office in the Holy Name Pastoral Center and it is great!  I’m so used to having my bedroom and office all in one small dorm room, so to have my own office feels very strange and liberating.  In addition to the parish functions, I plan to get a kick start on my thesis that I will be writing during my final year of Theology.  I plan on writing about the Theology of Suffering as seen in Pope Saint John Paul II’s apostolic letter, Salvici Doloris.  So hopefully this summer I get a lot of reading done preppring me to begin that work (as well as read for fun too!).
Life in Sheridan is not limited to the parish life.  I’m getting back into running (I’ve had some back problems during the past year that has prevented me from doing some of that, but I’m better now) and Sheridan has a pretty awesome run/bike path that follows the Tongue River and the Little Goose Creek through the city called “Sheridan Pathways” that is cool to run on.  Also, since I’m so close to the mountains I plan on exploring them during my off time to relish God’s beauty in creation.  Last Saturday a group of us hiked to Paradise Falls in the Big Horn Mountains and here a few of the pictures from that incredible (although short) hike.


Another thing that I’m excited to get more a chance to do is cooking.  It’s fairly hard in seminary cook since the kitchen provides us with incredible meals most every day, but in a parish cooking is easier to do.  I’ve already gotten the opportunity to try to make homemade corn tortillas (Meg helped) with fresh chorizo and onions and they turned out pretty decent.  I’ll be trying to perfect that recipe as the summer goes on.

I think that summarizes my coming summer pretty well.  Primarily my role this summer is to grow ever closer to the Lord through prayer and the sacraments and to help the people in Sheridan do the same through the Lord’s gift of the diaconate ministry in me.  Please pray for me and know of my prayers for you too!

Priestly Ordinations in Wyoming

What a whirlwind of events the past few days have been. On June 20 I was blessed to be in Cheyenne for the priestly ordination of one of my best friends, Fr. Brian Hess, as well as another great man from Wyoming, Fr. Bob Rodgers. The ordination liturgy itself was beautiful and I couldn’t help but be awed by the ancient tradition of ordination by the laying on of hands by the bishop. Words fail to describe the immense joy and excitement I have for Fr. Brian and Fr. Bob as they now are configured ever closer to Jesus Christ, who is victim and savior. The people of Wyoming are truly blessed!

“But seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides. Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself. Sufficient for a day is its own evil.” – Mt 6:33-34

Jesus gives us a pointed reminder for us all to place our trust ever more in God our Heavenly Father to provide for us in our daily lives. This passage from Matthew was proclaimed yesterday (Saturday) at Mass and it seems all the more appropriate as that Mass was Fr. Brian Hess’ first celebrated Mass of Thanksgiving. As a newly ordained priest this message is one I know Fr. Brian will take to heart. It is less about what we do or accomplish in our lives but rather what God does in and through us. He is the one in charge but all too often we think we are the ones leading the show and forget about God until something goes wrong. God is present with us in the good times as well as the bad and if we truly live out our vocations as Christians we would praise God in the good moments and also in the bad moments in our daily lives. Unfortunately it is easy to forget this. I pray that Fr. Brian and Fr. Bob continue to ever deepen their identity in Christ and rely solely on Him (and not on themselves) in their proclamation of the Kingdom of God to the people of God in Wyoming and praise God our Heavenly Father in every moment of their lives. I also pray that those of us heading to Guatemala today live out this truth too and not be worried about what will come tomorrow in Guatemala, but focus ever more on God and let Him alleviate our fears so we can live in the moment and let God work in and through that moment.

Fall in love…with food?

A few weeks ago I had supper with a close seminarian friend of mine, Frankie, and we ate supper at Piatti Italian Restaurant & Bar. As we began to enjoy the experience, from our friendly (and highly engaging) waitress, Wende, to the amazing food presented to us with style, Frankie and I launched into a discussion about the nature of food. He remarked that food is something that is intimately part of his ethnic background (Italian) and that the process of cooking food should be, in a sense, analogous to “falling in love.” Time should be spent getting to know the food as you prepare it. That process begins a journey that the more you know the food and understand it, the more you will enjoy cooking it and ultimately you will relish eating what you have prepared (espeically if shared with other people). The whole process, from an idea to the plate, should be enjoyed and not simply rushed through. In our current world of instant gratification and an attitude of busyness, one can easily overlook the depth that is missed in the process of cooking and eat quickly and run to the next thing on the to-do list. So that evening I took a mental step back and allowed myself to just enjoy the meal and friendship and was blessed with a nourishing experience.

That meal has since put an image to a challenge I am facing. I, too, have been occasionally caught up in the attitude of busyness, of “getting through.” I had a heavy academic work load this past year and the year itself was less joyful than it could have been. I “got through” the reading, the homework, the papers, the exams; it was mentally exhausting. Sometimes I forgot to enjoy the moments in life as they came to me. I focused on the end goal of finishing and didn’t always live fully in the present. Near the end of the spring sememster, I went for a walk with Andy (a close seminarian friend) and as we walked around the block talking about nothing in particular, he became fascinated with some ants piling up on the sidewalk. I became fascinated by his fascination. He had stopped our leisurely walk to become engrossed with the beauty of nature around us, something that I was, in the moment, oblivious to. Andy reminded me of something incredibly important in the spiritual life that day: that the beauty of God is always around us and so is His presence, we need only to remind ourselves of this daily so that we can relish the small moments in our days with God who is always present.

This past week I have been living more “in the moment.” I have cooked homemade buffalo wings and last night made homemade dough for pizza while listening to Star Wars on a record player. I also picked up flying a kite to just mentally step back to enjoy this awesome life I have. Granted, it is easier to “live in the moment” when I’m not stressed about upcoming papers or exams and when I’m sitting at home spending quality time with my family, but it’s good practice for when the academics come again (and they will) or when future ministry proves stressful and seemingly overwhelming. It’s these experiences that I will fall back on to remind myself just how close God is during each moment in my life, even amid a stressful and hectic life, which is sure to come.