St. Veronica Rangers combine faith and the great outdoors

Despite the cold spring day with a high of just 20 degrees, 18 members of Ranger Company No. 712 from St. Veronica Church in Chantilly recently traveled to Massanutten Mountain for their annual skills hike and campout. The chilly conditions did not stop the company from having a day of fun and adventure on the banks of the Shenandoah.

In the middle of unloading the trailer and the hustle and bustle of setting up camp, all preparations stopped at noon. The Rangers gathered around Ranger Guide Kirby Smith who led the company in the Angelus and prayed that God would bless them with a fruitful trip. After prayer, the boys continued their work, looking forward to a day of fishing, canoeing and hiking.

The boys are part of a two-year old program at St. Veronica that got started after the parish's Boy Scout charter was not renewed.

"The boys didn't feel challenged the way they wanted to be," said St. Veronica Ranger Chairman Sean Anderson. "We thought we could provide something very positive for them that we could tailor to our needs."

The Ranger mission is to help boys grow into men of character and virtue. They work to cultivate lives rooted in the Catholic faith, service to others, patriotism and vocational excellence, all while enjoying outdoor activities, learning practical skills and achieving physical fitness.

To guide them on their way, many of the adult leaders are trained in outdoor activities such as marksmanship, hunting and wilderness first aid. The guides encourage the boys to take leadership roles and work together to overcome challenges that can occur in the wilderness.

"A great way to shape young men is to put them together in a group and present them with some shared adversity," said Smith. "We try not to intervene unless there is a necessity to do so."

While Rangers stress the importance of knowing how to tend a campfire and have a good time with friends, what is most important is fostering a young man's relationship with God. Rangers involve faith in everything they do as a squad by praying during campouts, discussing the intricacies of the faith at meetings and participating in the sacraments. When the Rangers go on their annual summer camp trip to Canada they bring Father Michael C. Isenberg, St. Veronica parochial vicar, with them to celebrate Mass.

"We have Mass almost every morning of the week at summer camp, and we have altar servers and we also have confession after Mass," said Joey Basinger, Ranger second class.

According to Christopher Mathias, Ranger basic class, one of his favorite faith activities is when the whole company gathers around the campfire to pray the mysteries of the rosary.

"Every night we make this practice on our campouts," said Mathias. "(The Rangers) have really helped me grow in my faith and make good friendships."

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