By Lois Rogers | Correspondent
In his self-described younger days, John Muka did some hiking along the Delaware Water Gap, where he took inspiration from the natural setting of rolling waters framed by the wide expanse of mountains on the New Jersey side of the Appalachian Trail.
He’ll be returning to the scenic North Jersey area June 15, the day before Fathers’ Day, with men from around the Diocese to hike the Dunnfield Creek Natural Area to the top of Mount Tammany, which will culminate with Mass at the summit.
The Mass on Top of the Mountain is being sponsored by the diocesan Department of Evangelization and Family Life under Josue Arriola, director. The bilingual Mass will be celebrated by Father Jorge Bedoya, parochial vicar of St. Joan of Arc Parish, Marlton.
Muka, who helped organize the men’s group participating from his parish, St. Vincent De Paul, Yardville, said he’s looking forward to connecting with nature on the two- hour climb, but there’s more to it this time, much more.
“Yes, nature is inspiring and a good change from the over-technological world we are mostly trapped in today,” said Muka, one of the founders of The King’s Men, a men’s support group for prayer and discussion that meets every Monday.
“For this particular hike, though, it’s much more about solidarity with other men,” he said. “Men bond more by doing things together. Hopefully, there will be many good conversations among the men as the hike brings us closer to the Eucharist. I hope that many of the men will be able to bring their sons along.”
“We need more men to be active these days in strengthening and standing up for our Catholic faith. I hope this activity will do that,” he added.
The day will begin with the men gathering at 5 a.m. Arrival at the mountain is set for 6:30 a.m., followed by the hike, Mass and time to eat, take pictures and relax before heading back down Mount Tammany for a noon departure.
“We’ve gone up there to walk the trail – and it’s just beautiful,” Arriola said. “You hear the birds, you see the natural beauty,” he said of the trail which is known for its pristine setting amid shrubs, trees, herbs and abundant grasses.
Having a beautiful Mass at the summit will be the highlight of the day, he said. “Our goal is to recruit new members to men’s groups around the Diocese,” Arriola said.” Most men want to do something like this, and when you encourage them, it creates a bond.”
Mark Disciullo, who is part of the men’s ministry in Jackson’s St. Aloysius Parish, said his expectations of the day are high. “There definitely will be a bonding and brotherhood. I also want to get to know how the other men are experiencing God’s Creation,” said Disciullo, who will be joining Ken Perry of St. Robert Bellarmine Co-Cathedral, Freehold, in providing music for the Mass.
Father Bedoya is upbeat over the fact that “this is the first time the Diocese is doing something like this on Father’s Day weekend. It’s a new opportunity to get together, exercise and grow in faith. How many times do you have a chance to celebrate Mass on top of the mountain? I hope this is the first of many spiritual experiences like this. It’s a mini-pilgrimage.”
For more information or to register your group, contact Josue Arriola at (609) 403-7155 or email Jarrio@DioceseofTrenton.org.