Where the waters of Sherman Creek and the Juniata River flow into the Susquehanna River at Duncannon in Perry County, a distinct a mount rises above the valleys below to form Hawk Rock – an 800-foot ledge that requires a rather strenuous hike to reach the summit along the famed 2,000-mile Appalachian Trail.
On a wet, dank, March 30, a week before Good Friday, Missionary of St. Francis de Sales Father Dijo Thomas, assisted by Deacon Patrick McCormack, led some two-dozen faithful up the rocky trail in an impressively solemn and reverent prayer-filled Stations of the Cross. Faithful from Our Lady of Good Counsel, Marysville, and St. Bernadette in Duncannon, along with several others from other parishes, joined together in the mystical experience along the boulder-strewn pathway that bends around the mountain to a rocky summit that gives the hardy climber a stunning vista stretching some 15 miles north across the ridge lines of rural Pennsylvania.
The event began as an idea after Father Thomas preached about Christ’s Transfiguration when Jesus’ divine nature was revealed to three of his disciples, Peter, James and John, who were in awe high atop Mount Tabor. While Hawk Rock may be no Mount Tabor, the lonely perch that peers down the steep slopes seemed the perfect place to celebrate Holy Mass upon reaching the top.
After hearing Father Thomas’ homily on the second Sunday of Lent, parishioners began planning the event and seeing the feasibility of doing the feat. It was a total team effort, according to Father Thomas, and the journey up the mountain was prayerful in every way, yet at each Station there was a genuine camaraderie and ease with one another that had a discipleship feeling to it.
At the pinnacle, Holy Mass was celebrated by Father Thomas. Afterwards, he shared his heartfelt thanks to all who contributed to the planning and details of the evening. “I thank God for this great opportunity to come atop Hawk Rock and to do the Stations of the Cross and above everything to able to celebrate the Holy Sacrifice of the Lord…. We worked together and what a great and wonderful experience …. It is my wish that we can have this every year.”
Weather was a concerning factor, as heavy rains were forecast to spread over central Pennsylvania ahead of a warm front. But, Father Thomas and his faithful decided that the weather was going to break and there were signs from God, they said, that the hike could occur safely in a window of rain-free weather.
“If you want a mountaintop experience, Father Dijo told us in his homily a few weeks ago, you must put effort into it, you have to climb the mountain. Well, we did it,” St. Bernadette’s parishioner and one of the event organizers, Steve Ciccocioppo, said. “I was afraid we might be a little distracted with this beautiful distraction of nature, but nothing can distract you from the Holy Eucharist and the creation of God. And we are all a part of it.”
(Photos by Chris Heisey, The Catholic Witness.)
By Chris Heisey, The Catholic Witness