Catholic Outdoor Retreat

Reflection by Grace Harrigan, Wyoming Catholic College Student

Photo by WCC student Marissa Daskiewicz

“In talking with his disciples, Jesus would invite them to recognize the paternal relationship God has with all his creatures. With moving tenderness he would remind them that each one is important in God’s eyes…’Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.’ (Mt 6:26)”

Behind every tree lurks something dark, dismal, and threatening. If the mountains are not sheltering wolves or bears, they present the traveler with other equally arresting, even insurmountable obstacles. As a backpacker journeys deeper and deeper into its treacherous depths, she ventures further and further away from sanity.  This was my initial impression of Wyoming Catholic College’s COR (Catholic Outdoor Retreat), a 21-day backpacking trip. I was never going to survive.

The first day did nothing to assuage my anxiety. After a grueling uphill hike, the group and I were anticipating a relaxing conclusion to our journey. The goal of soaking up some much desired rest in the late-afternoon sunshine seemed within reach as we approached our campsite: the peaceful-sounding “Meadows.” Perhaps the journey wouldn’t be as nightmarish as I had pictured it to be. The weather had other ideas, and as soon as we began to sluggishly pitch camp, I heard the faintest splat, and felt a cool, wet droplet land on my shoulder. Looking up at the sky and dreading the outcome, not a single speck of blue greeted my eyes; a thunderstorm was inevitable.


The solitary droplets soon transformed into a driving torrent, and the wind viciously knifed through the tents, chilling us to the bone. A brief respite brought on a hurried and bland spaghetti dinner, but no sooner had we storm-proofed our stoves than the onslaught began once more. I dived under the tarp-like transformer shelter with the rest and prepared to be miserable. I am ashamed to say the only thoughts that entered my mind were “I am wet, I am hungry, and I am FED-UP with COR.”

Thoroughly disgusted at having allowed myself to be allured by the wilderness, I huddled with my fellow travelers and did my best not to sob. How on earth was I going to survive three whole weeks in the wilderness? If I thought this was difficult now, the rest of the journey seemed impossible. I would fall and never pick myself back up.


Yet before the despair took hold, I heard a sweet, solitary song through the storm’s din. Grasping for anything to keep myself from falling apart, I clung to that still, small voice.  “Rose, rose, rose red, will I ever see thee wed? I will marry at thy will, sire. At thy will…” Perhaps it was the haunting theme of the melody, or the sincerity with which it was sung. Whatever it was, the notes struck a chord in my shivering body. It was beautiful that an innocent rose could place so much trust in the one she loved. She could stand before him for all eternity, patiently awaiting the time when the two shall become one. Suddenly, another thought struck me. I realized how unlike the rose I was being. There I was, in the middle of God’s country. At that moment, it wasn’t the most picturesque scene I could find myself in, but I knew this was where I was called to be.


If I accepted my duty as a daughter of God, offering up my discomfort and placing my faith in Him, surely I could then put aside my fears and trust in His plan. In that moment, I sank into the love of our Heavenly Father. And as soon as I had done this, a peaceful warmth radiated throughout my body, lending courage to my spirit.

Looking back on this experience, Matthew 6:26 perfectly embodies this lesson I learned from COR. When you’re in the wilderness, you need Him to climb that peak at 5:00 in the morning, or cross the icy waters and hike the rest of the day in wet boots. When you begin to despair, you must rely on His strength to see you through. The backcountry has an amazing way of pushing you to your own personal limits, forcing you to turn to our Lord for help and place your trust in him. Just as the birds of the air can’t always provide for themselves, so too must you turn to God in order to receive the fortitude to carry on. I pray that I will be able to follow the example of God’s creatures and remember my need for reliance on God. Like the bridal rose, may I always put my faith in Him who will see me through every hardship.

Spirit Lake Stewardship


Written by John Azpell; Marquette University High School Science Teacher 

The Spirit Lake Buckthorn Removal outing on Saturday was a success. It took place on the 155 acre Ozaukee Washington Land Trust preserve near Mequon, WI .  The Spirit lake preserve contains a one-half mile tributary that flows to the Milwaukee River, upland hardwood forest, lowland hardwood forest with ephemeral ponds cattail marsh, fresh (wet) meadow, and a small, restored grassland. The Marquette High group removed buckthorn, honeysuckle, and other invasive species from the edge of a forest near Spirit Lake.  The goal was to make sure the deciduous forest growth under the canopy were saplings of Oaks, Hickories, Hawthorns, and other trees.  The thick amount of buckthorn shrubs was preventing this understory of the forest from growing these native trees.

Before we arrived at the site, a group working with the Land Trust had cut down buckthorns with chainsaws and handsaws.  They continued to work while we were there.  Our job was to move the buckthorn into piles to be burned later this fall or winter.  The boys were very efficient in clearing out the buckthorn and piling it up.  When we were finished we were able to see much more light hitting the forest floor than before we had started.  This light penetrating is crucial for small woodland wildflowers and floral biodiversity. 

At the end of our work day we ate apples picked from an apple tree nearby and we took a quick hike on the Spirit Lake Preserve and looked at the beautiful oaks and hickories in the forest.  We also checked out an area where an ephemeral pond had been and where frogs and salamanders prosper in the Spring. It was a good day!

To learn more about Ozaukee Washington Land Trust and their Preserves Click Here

Finding God During a 3 Week Wilderness Expedition

“The mystery of Christ…at work in a hidden manner.”


Reflection by Wyoming Catholic College senior Joseph Fredriksson

Photos taken by Wyoming Catholic College student Marissa Daskiewicz

One of the many highlights of one’s time at Wyoming Catholic College is the 21-day expedition into the wilderness. With this experience, one mimics the life of Christ, which was filled with retreats into the wilderness, especially in the Gospel of Luke.

One may wonder why Christ gives us the backcountry retreat model.  Specifically about the 21-day trip, what is so valuable about this backcountry experience?  Why so long?  I believe the silence that comes from a prolonged period away from modern society’s endless noise is one of the things that makes the trip so profitable.  In the wilderness’ silence—ever pregnant with the Word—one learns to listen for a truly meaningful whisper from the Lord, a whisper birthed by the silence. With Elijah, one hears and gains strength from the “still, small voice.”


In addition to the silence, the arduous physical activity provides us with another beautiful experience; it reminds us that we have flesh, flesh that is to be subdued with the aid the Spirit.  Without conquering ourselves physically as Christ models in his own forty-day desert fast, we cannot hope to return to the front country ready to act properly in a theandric (both human and divine) manner.

This past August, I led the 21-day expedition along with two other Wyoming Catholic College students for a group of eleven freshmen.  Though the students were admirable in a number of ways, some of the students profoundly understood the above points: the power of silence, and self-mastery.

One of the students, who usually refrained from unnecessary chatter throughout the trip, gave a struggling student the strength to keep going by saying truly meaningful things in a “still, small voice.” He served as an example of Christ, since he was master over himself physically. He was an example of, as Pope Francis puts it in Laudato Si, “the mystery of Christ…at work in a hidden manner” (Laudato Si, Paragraph 99). From his silence he could speak a word of strength to the weak.

The struggling student, too, in and through his hardships, served as an example of Christ.  Despite the arduous nature of the trip, he didn’t quit.  He wrestled with nature, the “created cosmos” and “[threw] in his lot…even to the cross.”  “He opened not his mouth” as he bore his cross, following in the footsteps of Christ.


One of the trip’s spiritual highpoints came at its midpoint.  The group was growing tired after a few difficult days of hiking; we had an opportunity to rest. Once we woke up in the morning, Father celebrated Mass as usual, but this time saved a consecrated host.  He then processed with the students chanting the Salve Regina to a tent that was set up for 24 hours of Adoration.  Throughout the day, a day which the students had set aside as time of silence, each student took a holy hour to be with Our Lord. It became more beautiful that night, when one could just look out from his tent and see the bright light shining from the tent, the stars’ own complement, and know that a student was alone with Him, “the light of men…the light that shines in the darkness.”


All of us, instructors and students alike, profited from the silence and physical challenge of this trip. I believe that we all are better equipped to face the challenges of the classroom and society at large because we have come to experience, to some degree or another, “the Christian understanding of the world, the destiny of all creation…bound up in the mystery of Christ.”



Welcome Aboard


Laudato Si’ Project welcomes our newest school partner, Catholic Memorial High School in Waukesha, WI. Catholic Memorial has a great academic program coupled with a strong faith community. Service is at the core of student life at the school and students are required to complete service hours throughout their four years.

Laudato Si’ Project was invited to attend their 2016 community service fair where students connect with organizations that can provide them the opportunity to give back in a meaningful way. Students were excited to learn about all the stewardship projects we are involved in and the recreational opportunities we provide throughout the year. Over 50 students are now signed up to help and be involved with Laudato Si’ Project. We look forward to working with Catholic Memorial High School students and faculty this year and beyond.

“Once we start to think about the kind of world we are leaving to future generations, we look at things differently; we realize that the world is a gift which we have freely received and must share with others.”   -Pope Francis Laudato Si’

St. Gabriel Flea Market

A young family checking out some North American animal hides and pine cones.

Laudato Si’ Project spent Saturday at the St. Gabriel’s annual flea market in Hubertus, WI. Despite some rainy, cold, and windy conditions, lots of people were able to learn about the call of  Laudato Si’, explore our educational displays, and learn more about the mission of our organization.


Thanks to all the individuals who donated items to be used for educational displays and our brave volunteers who helped out in our tents. It was a great success!



New Partnership with Wyoming Catholic College


Laudato Si’ Project is excited to announce a new partnership with Wyoming Catholic College.  Wyoming Catholic College (WCC) is a four-year coeducational Catholic college whose primary educational objective is to offer a traditional liberal arts education that schools the whole person in all three dimensions—mind, body, and spirit.


One way they accomplish this is by immersing their students in the beauty of the outdoors. In their freshman outdoor courses, students engage and experience God’s creation as part of that creation themselves—indeed, as the crowning glory of that creation. Freshman are immersed in nature and their imaginations are nourished through a three-week summer program, and one-week winter wilderness expedition which specifically prepares students to plan and lead winter outdoor adventures and to participate in winter field science labs during their sophomore year. Four “Outdoor Weeks” are scheduled each year to facilitate these adventures.

Wyoming Catholic College believes that becoming a true leader means taking on the mantle of responsibility in any setting: from classroom to wilderness. It is the outdoor programming that helps fully accomplish the goal of forming leaders.


Laudato Si’ Project’s partnership with WCC will give those students a greater connection between the outdoor emphasis of the college and Pope Francis’ call to Catholics in the encyclical Laudato Si’: On Care for Our Common Home. It is through their outdoor experiences at WCC that students will connect personally with Creation and thus fall greater in love with Jesus and His Church. In the future, we will have WCC students post on this blog about their experiences at the college and on their outdoor trips, exemplifying how they are “living” Laudato Si’.


Laudato Si’ Project is very excited about this partnership! Find out more about more about Wyoming Catholic CollegeInformation about WCC was taken from the Wyoming Catholic Catholic website.  

New Work of Mercy: Care For Our Common Home


Pope Francis has followed up his writing of Laudato Si’: On Care For Our Common Home, by making September 1st a World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation. To emphasize the need to be good stewards of this planet, Pope Francis also announced a new work of mercy: care for our common home.  Pope Francis says, “human life itself and everything it embraces includes care for our common home.”


He continues in his message released today, “As a spiritual work of mercy, care for our common home calls for a grateful contemplation of God’s world which allows us to discover in each thing a teaching which God wishes to hand on to us. As a corporal work of mercy, care for our common home requires simple daily gestures which break with the logic of violence, exploitation and selfishness and makes itself felt in every action that seeks to build a better world.”

Pope Francis addresses some tough issues in his message and does not shy away from describing the major negative impacts humans have had on the planet. He says, “God gave us a bountiful garden, but we have turned it into a polluted wasteland of debris, desolation and filth.” He continues, “We must not be indifferent or resigned to the loss of biodiversity and the destruction of ecosystems, often caused by our irresponsible and selfish behavior. Because of us, thousands of species will no longer give glory to God by their very existence, nor convey their message to us. We have no such right.”

In the sixth section of his message, he offers hope that God is with us and will never abandons us. Let us end with the prayer he wrote:

“O God of the poor,
help us to rescue the abandoned
and forgotten of this earth,
who are so precious in your eyes…

God of love, show us our place in this world
as channels of your love
for all the creatures of this earth,
God of mercy, may we receive your forgiveness
and convey your mercy throughout our common home.”

Praise be to you!


The full message released today can be found Here and a also Video of press conference about the World Day of Prayer for Care of Creation