St. John Bosco youth group members kayak in Lake Frederick

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The sun was bright as youths donned life jackets and carried kayaks to the boat ramp at Lake Frederick in Front Royal July 13. The group, many of whom prayed together at Mass hours earlier at St. John Bosco Church in Woodstock, took time to play on a summer day. 

Some were nervous because they had never kayaked, others were experienced. They all crossed quickly to the other side of the lake, some seeing wildlife, some splashing their friends, some racing each other. 

It was the Woodstock youth group’s first kayaking trip and they were accompanied by their pastor, Father Michael J. Dobbins; their youth minister, Marissa Gil; and seminarian Daniel Rice. 

Gil said the group does one big activity and a few smaller events every month. “The youths love being together and get along really well,” she said. “I try to do many group activities where everyone can participate.” 

Father Dobbins, who brought his own kayak, was happy to share his love of the sport with the group. 

“Anything I can share with them that they would have interest in is a great thing,” he said. “You figure this time in their parish youth group is a very formative time. If they can do exciting things together with their pastor, it's something they will carry with them off into the world.”

Father Dobbins’ sea kayak allows him to kayak in the ocean, the Potomac River and lakes. Sometimes he brings his breviary or a rosary along. He enjoys kayaking with his fellow priests, including Father Jamie R. Workman, chancellor, and Father Brian G. Bashista, pastor of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church in Lake Ridge. 

When Father Dobbins served as parochial vicar of Blessed Sacrament Church in Alexandria (1999-2003), a high school student, Rob Kennedy, invited him to learn to kayak. Kennedy worked at a kayak store and sold Father Dobbins a kayak and the necessary equipment. 

After school they would kayak and discuss theology in the Potomac near Georgetown. A couple of years ago, Father Dobbins received a letter from Kennedy — now  Carthusian Brother Maximus Marie Kennedy — saying their time on the Potomac led him to discern a vocation.

One of the youths on Lake Frederick, Shannon Parente, said the youth group “has helped me grow closer with Jesus and connect the Jesus part of my life with the fun part of my life.” 

Who knows where kayaking will lead? 

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2018

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