WARREN, N.J. — As the early morning fog lifted over the top of Mount Tammany, the snapping of twigs underfoot mingled with light conversation and prayer.
But most often, the soft sounds of the woods were enveloped in a peaceful quiet, as about 150 men hiked North Jersey’s Dunnfield Creek Natural Area, Warren County, to the summit in silent contemplation.
At the peak, men from the Diocese of Trenton, many of whom were joined by their sons, knelt on the rocky ground as a bilingual Mass was celebrated.
Josue Arriola, director of the diocesan Department of Evangelization and Family Life, which sponsored the “Mass on Top of the Mountain” hike, said the day was about prayer, evangelization and creating bonds.
“Part of the goal was to strengthen men’s groups and to help them recruit new members,” he said, explaining that in addition, at least two parishes represented that day left with plans to start their own men’s groups where one didn’t previously exist.
“God’s presence was felt,” he told The Monitor, Trenton’s diocesan newspaper. “Men who started the hike alone reached the top with a new friend or a group.”
The principal celebrant of the June 15 Mass was Father Jorge Bedoya, parochial vicar of St. Joan of Arc Parish in Marlton. The concelebrants were Father Javier Diaz, pastor of Christ the King Parish in Long Branch, and Divine Word Father Krzysztof Pipa, who is parish administrator of St. Ann Parish in Browns Mills.
John Muka, who helped organize the men’s group from his parish, St. Vincent de Paul in Yardville, said it was important to show a public display of faith. He explained how along the way, the men encountered other hikers who were curious about the group expedition and their faith.
At the end of the hike, Muka said, “I kept thinking how we threw one rock in the pond, and it made some ripples. Now let’s figure out some other things to do. We have to keep throwing rocks in the pond. We have to keep making those ripples. There’s too much against us — the world is trying to pull us all apart.”
Arriola said he was grateful for all who helped make the event a success and the family and spousal support the men received.
“The encouragement of the wives was instrumental to making this possible,” he said. “They saw this as a beautiful opportunity for fathers and sons to interact.”