Thirty Years Among The Trees

For 30 years, students have been going out into the woods to find God. They hike, camp, gather water, pray and offer witness to each other in the Allegheny National Forest, far removed from all of the distractions of school, cell phones and the modern world.

The weekend of April 28, 2017, marked the 30th anniversary of the Wilderness Retreat at Saint Ignatius High School. In April 1987, Latin teacher Daniel Cavoli ’76 led a group of students on the first ever Wilderness Retreat. Some have described the wooded mountains of nature as “God’s Finest Cathedral,” and Wilderness participants find that the rugged landscape to be the perfect setting for a four-day retreat.

“I would say one of the best gifts of retreat is, students most often talk about getting to know some of their classmates,” said Augie Pacetti ’96, Director of Campus Ministry. “Kind of peeling back a little bit of ‘Who am I, as a person?’ and when everybody does that we can all be little bit more ourselves with each other.”

Pacetti leads the two Wilderness Retreats that take place each year. Roughly 20 students and a few faculty make each trip. Before embarking, students learn the fundamentals of surviving in the wild, such as collecting water, setting up a tent and hiding food from wildlife.

Retreatants follow Jesus into the Wilderness to discover God both in creation and in community. As with the popular Kairos retreat, seniors lead this journey, which features talks, prayer and reflection time, and physical outdoor activities. After three decades, the Wilderness Retreat continues to inspire students to find God in all things.

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