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By Joseph Lynch | A Benedictine College junior and track athlete from Eau Claire, Wisc., Joseph Lynch is a communications intern at St. Benedict’s Abbey in Atchison, Kansas.
Bonfires at State Lake in Kansas, hiking with friends in Weston, Mo., and an annual trek to the Rockies were once the only opportunities at Benedictine College to satisfy most students’ itch for adventure.
This year, that is changing with the emergence of a brand new club centered around camping and the outdoors called JPII Outfitters.
Junior Monica Loesel, a Gregorian Fellow, spent the past summer at Camp Wojtyla in Colorado where she says she fell in love with the authentic conversations and relationships she was able to have while living in the mountains.
Loesel says during that time she was inspired to bring these experiences back to Atchison because she knew a lot of students would be interested in joining something of that nature.
As Loesel soon found out, an unofficial initiative had already begun on campus. Sophomores Corey Hallis and Brynn Suellentrop had begun to organize a hiking club at Benedictine, though it had not yet been recognized by the school.
The three shared a similar vision and decided to collaborate with the help of junior Rachel Shaver and several other students in the creation of the new club, JPII Outfitters.
“Our motto is to pursue the beauty of Christ inherent in community and nature,” Loesel said. St. John Paul II was chosen as a patron saint.
“JPII embodies adventure — adventure into the heart of Christ,” Loesel said. “He presents the same faith in a new way by living this lifestyle of fun and craziness and sports and acting and art.”
Corey Hallis, co-founder of JPII Outfitters, pointed out that St. John Paul II’s outdoor adventures with the youth in Poland was an inspiration for the club.
“He got people outside. He got young men outside and he built these relationships,” Hallis said. “And the caliber of men that came from that is impeccable.”
Hear St. John Paul’s words about hiking with college students in the video above, or by clicking here.
Loesel and Hallis set up a stand at the club fair in the beginning of the semester and were met with a strong response. In one day, the club had over 200 members and is still growing.
To match the level of interest, the Outfitters are acquiring proper gear. The new camping club will feature what is known at some other college campuses as a “gear-brary.” Essentially it is a place on campus where students can rent outdoor equipment, solving the problem of students not having the means to go hiking and camping.
With the right gear, the opportunities for the club are nearly endless, ranging from state parks in the midwest to the Rocky Mountains.
“Somebody suggested going to the highest elevation in Kansas,” Loesel said.
So far this fall, the club has held camping trips at Indian Cave State Park in Nebraska and Perry State Lake in Kansas.
Loesel hopes that these kinds of trips will eventually take place on a weekly basis and be largely led by members of the club.
Along with outdoor trips, JPII Outfitters is also sponsoring audiences, which are student talks and discussions on topics that range from theological ideas to practical skills.
“The idea behind the audiences is to get people thinking, to just challenge people to seek out something greater and more,” Hallis said.
Senior Tommy Killacky, a speaker at one of the audiences this fall and a self-proclaimed “very enthusiastic member” of JPII Outfitters, is excited about the new camping club.
“JPII is a club that encompasses what I think is just so important right now which is the need to philosophize,” Killackey said, “the need to think, to wonder, to awe, to see God in nature.”
Originally published by The Circuit; used by permission of the author.