In 2002, a Canadian friend was planning an ascent of Mt. Kilimanjaro with her 62 year old mother and she asked me if I wanted to join her. As an outdoor enthusiast I readily agreed. Plus, the intrigue of going to Africa was thrilling. We were also going to tack on a safari through the famed Serengeti and the Ngorongoro National parks at the end of the climb. How many more reasons did I need? One of these destinations is usually on everyone’s bucket list.

So fast forward to 2021 when a faithful group of Catholics from the San Francisco Bay Area asked me to be a chaplain to the same mountain the following February. Why would I do this again? And what purpose would it have? That’s a good question indeed. After all, there are plenty of other destinations that our world has to offer. And, we don’t necessarily need to re-conquer things.

The difference between 2002 and 2021 for me are vast. For one, I am now a Catholic priest of the Dominican Order. Trekking with a group has an entirely different purpose. Certainly I would like to get to the top of almost any mountain. But it takes on a different dimension as a priest. My primary purpose is to be priest and to confect the sacraments whenever and wherever I can. Back in 2002, while I was Catholic, a newbie at that, and it was a significant part of my being, the Faith didn’t participate (as much) in my decisions to climb the mountain.

In contrast, the question of my 2022 climb of Mt. Kilimanjaro is how I can do it as a priest. How can I do it logistically? How can I do it effectively? How can I be a witness of Faith to the people that climb with me? And, can I evangelize through my actions (more so than words) to the Maasai people of Tanzania, and indeed any other person doing the trek. When I take all of these things into consideration, then I had to ask myself how I could not do this trek. My next blog entries will attempt to record answers to all these questions.


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