Young adults headed to Alaska wilderness for Catholic theology, philosophy

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Eagle Eye Ministries, an outreach to young adult Catholics, founded by the Community of St. John, will conduct an Alaskan Summer Institute from July 11-21, beginning with a four-day hike along the famed Crow Pass Trail. The anticipated 20 participants, who range in age from 20 to 35, will spend the remainder of the Institute at Holy Family Retreat Center, taking classes in theology and philosophy, celebrating Mass, in prayer and adoration, and much more. The schedule and rhythm of these days follow those of the St. John Community.

The ministry, founded in 2003, states on its website that it “endeavors to form, unite and inspire young Catholics for the new evangelization by deepening their relationship with Jesus Christ through prayer, study, culture and community.” The Alaska experience is one of several it offers throughout the year to both teens and young adults. The theme chosen for this year is “All in a Day’s Work: Seeing Work From God’s Perspective.”

Michael Larson, one of two ministry volunteers who will join with a priest and brother from the Community of St. John on this summer adventure, said Eagle Eye Ministries, “brings young adults closer to Christ in seeking in nature a path to define Christ.”

Ilona Matulaitis, who has been working with Larson on this year’s Alaskan offering, said the wilderness setting is key to creating a sense of community among participants.

Larson and Matulaitis, having participated in several past institutes, are leading this year’s event for the first time. They are filling the hiking boots (so to speak) of David and Rachel Andrews, a local couple who are expecting their second child.

Matulaitis said she and Larson are following the successful format of the past and are grateful to have the Andrews as a resource. While the two focus more on the details of the actual hikes, the pastoral team develops the presentations on theology and philosophy that will make up the second half of the Institute.

Their past experiences with Eagle Eye have had a profound impact on the new leaders. Larson said that he didn’t think he would be a practicing Catholic without it. His conversion to the Catholic faith was a result of his participation in a Summer Institute in Alaska in 2015. The next logical step of that spiritual renewal was a desire to help facilitate it for others, he said.

For Matulaitis, Eagle Eye was the result of her search after college for a young adult community for “people searching to go deeper,” she said. Her 2017 adventure kindled a desire to learn more about Catholic philosophy and theology.

Eagle Eye often leaves a significant mark on its participants, Matulaitis observed.

“People leave with more clarity about their next steps, as to where God is guiding them,” she said.

Community-building efforts result in new friendships, some of which have been sustained over several years and many miles, Larson added. Some Eagle Eye outings have even resulted in religious vocations, as well as marriages.

For those considering Eagle Eye, Larson pointed out that most participants are likely to be from the Lower 48, though Alaskans are encouraged and welcomed to join. Prior wilderness experience is not necessary, though the ability to carry a 40-pound pack while walking on uneven terrain is required. Larson noted there have been participants who have never camped outdoors prior to Eagle Eye.

The adventure begins with an introduction to Catholic theology and spirituality, followed by a day hike to Flattop. The group will then traverse the Crow Pass Trail — part of the historic Iditarod trail — a 24-mile excursion, over four days. Returning to Anchorage, attendees will stay at Holy Spirit Retreat House, where they will have opportunities to deepen their spiritual practices, continue to grow as a community and learn more about their faith.

In addition to Eagle Eye, Brother John, of the Community of St. John, will give a one-hour public talk at St. Patrick Church in Anchorage, following the 5:30 p.m. Mass on Wednesday, July 10. His presentation will expand on the theme chosen by Eagle Eye Ministries for this year’s many activities. The lecture is free and open to all.

For more information or to register for the upcoming Eagle Eye Institute, go online to eagleeyeministries.org/summer-institutes


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