Tag Archives: Summer

Behind the scenes of Crux and Joust by Father Hasser

I interviewed Father Hasser about some of the questions I had about the behind-the-scenes of Crux and Joust.

EL: Can you compare/contrast Crux and Joust for those of us who don’t know the difference?

FH: Crux & JOUST are really two different retreats that use a lot of the same foundations. CRUX is open to any middle school boy, but JOUST is specifically for the high school young men in the Knights of the Holy Temple. CRUX is about awakening in the middle school boys an awareness of God and their relationship with Him, with themselves, with others and with all of the created world given to us by God. JOUST is the premier annual competition between the various parish chapters of the Knights, set on the cornerstone of their relationship with God and celebrated in daily Mass, Eucharistic Adoration and confession. Both events take the young men outdoors into the summer sun, the cool water of the Wildcat Creek, the dark clear cool summer night sky full of stars, the ball fields for dodgeball, basketball and football, space for archery, ultimate frisbee, tug-of-war and a large demanding obstacle course for the high school men.1002137_560267040703050_513913287_n

EL: How did these retreats come about? How have they evolved over the years? How do you foresee/hope these go in the future?

FH: Both were started under Fr. Brian Doerr’s direction during his time as the Director for Vocations. JOUST developed as an event to bring all of the Knights chapters together for fraternal bonding through good-natured competition. CRUX developed as an opportunity for seminarians to reach out and serve the middle school young men as they prepare and transition into adolescent experience of their relationship with Christ. In the future I hope to see both of them continue to grow…this year we saw a very significant growth in participation at CRUX, and we are making plans to continue allowing even more growth in the coming years.

EL: What is the connection with Camp Wojtyla?

FH: Camp Wojtyla is a youth camp for both young men and young women in Colorado that I discovered almost two years ago at NCYC. I really liked what I saw in their literature, and I have asked a few of our seminarians to participate in their summer camp as staff counselors. This gives them an intensive opportunity to learn a lot of skills that they can then implement back here at home in their work with our youth. It is still early, but the skills that they are bringing back is helping us to build even strong models for both CRUX and JOUST.969165_560236437372777_688252962_n

EL: What do you hope are the biggest “takeaways” for the boys? For the seminarians?

FH: For the boys…I hope they take away a greater experiential awareness of God and His Church through their experiences. I hope they take away a better sense of our faith as it can and needs to be lived out in daily activities. I hope they take away a better ability to look for and find God in the tangible world that God has surrounded them with in comparison to the increasingly virtual world that they swim in every day in our culture.
For the seminarians…I hope they take away the same things as the boys but on an even deeper level. I hope they also take away experience with the administrative responsibilities and minutia that are involved in priestly ministry. Both of these events are primarily planned and directed by the seminarians. This gives them the opportunity to stretch and exercise their administrative muscles, sometimes learning which muscles need to be used more or with greater precision. This is ultimately practice for their future ministry as pastors of parishes and schools where the activities and goals are even more serious and take even more effort.988614_559735127422908_174775775_n

EL: Have the boys/seminarians taught you anything during the retreats?

FH: Most of what I learn from the young men and seminarians during these retreats are by observation. They have reminded me of their goodness and faithfulness, their desire to know the LORD and to live by His path. On a lighter note, they have also reminded me that they are still learning and aren’t perfect! Staying up and praying the rosary to get the middle school boys to stay quiet and go to sleep at night reminds me of what parents experience all the time! As the seminarians plan for the retreats and bring those plans to reality, I am reminded of their passion for the Gospel and for serving the young men who attend.

EL: The Catholic Moment article talked about the emphasis on masculinity. Why is this so important?

FH: Masculinity is an important element in both retreats because elements in our culture systematically dismantle and eliminate masculinity from our daily life. Young men (and many adult men, too) don’t know what it means that God made them male. A parallel reality is that young men (and many adult men, too) don’t know what it means that God made girls female. There is a dangerous foundational ignorance about who we are and why God made us as such. These retreats are not meant to be a comprehensive course on masculinity; rather, they simply fill in some of the void that is left by the culture. It is important for their relationship with God, with themselves and others and with the created world. We are not gods, and we are not identical to each other as male and female. We are unique and beautiful, but the world tells us that we are all beige, or worse, blank slates that can become whatever we want to be. Our retreats don’t address all of this directly, but rather they shine lights on various sides of reality which have been hidden in the shadows of darkness.

EL: Any stand out moments this summer? Or any summer? Best memory–both fun and/or spiritually profound?

FH: Haha, yes, one moment definitely stole the show and stands out above the rest. During CRUX one of the middle school boys took the risk of standing up at campfire one night and singing a hilarious song. It changed history. He instantly became a rock star. The campfire that evening was losing steam and the boys as a whole were losing interest. Many of us adults wondered what was going to happen if something didn’t change. It was soon going to be the shortest campfire celebration in the history of summer camps. But them during a quiet moment this particular young man got up and walked to the front of the crowd with his head held high and his confidence probably dangerously overflowing. He gave a little disclaimer about his voice not being in the best condition, and then he began to sing a camp song that not one of us had ever heard before. It was hilariously engaging, and at the end of each verse you could feel the crowd hoping it was over but at the same time secretly looking forward to another verse. And verse came after verse…again…and again….and again…and everyone was rolling laughing. At the final ending, this young man finished strong and proud, and the crowd whooped and cheered and whistled with delight as he took a delighted bow and went back to his seat with a skip in his step. He was now a rock star and it was a grand evolution of a young man. I’m sure it is an experience that he will remember for his whole life.


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July 31, 2013 · 8:16 PM

Crux and Joust retreats

August 4, 2013

Focus on faith, fellowship at two retreats for young men

By Caroline B. Mooney (The Catholic Moment)

RUSSIAVILLE — Back-to-back retreats held at a 60-acre camp offered young men a chance for spiritual growth and fraternal bonding with each other, seminarians, priests and deacons of the diocese.

“I thought it was fun being out here in nature — God’s creation,” said Gabe Klinker, 12, of the Cathedral of St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception, Lafayette.

“I really wanted to come renew my relationship with Christ. It was cool to have Mass in the amphitheater and when we processed with the monstrance outside in nature, it was very peaceful and calm. It was still so I could just focus on God with no distractions.”


Oakbrook Valley Camp in rural Kokomo was home to 80 sixth- through eighth-grade boys from 18 parishes for the fourth annual CRUX retreat July 16-18, and 45 high school-age JOUST retreatants from July 19-21. The young men slept under a tent, went canoeing, hiking, learned archery and played football, ultimate Frisbee and dodge ball. They spent time in prayer and attended Mass and reconciliation.

CRUX (Latin for cross), was open to all young men, while the JOUST retreat was open to members of the Knights of the Holy Temple, which has chapters at eight parishes. The Knights, which began in the diocese in 1999, serve Mass and work in their parishes and communities.

Father David Hasser, diocesan director of vocations, said the retreats give the vocations office a way to establish contact and a real presence with young men.

“This is a great way to plant seeds,” he said. “The retreats are not all about vocations to the priesthood – it’s about young men becoming who they were created to be. We talk about the heroes God calls them to be and help them reach for God’s grace through sacraments and prayer.

“JOUST is the premier event for the Knights of the Holy Temple, allowing members to meet young men from other chapters,” Father Hasser said. “Although the chapters are autonomous, they are all following the same path. Their fraternal bonding is fruitful, especially as they graduate high school. Often they end up together at college and have their spiritual and human support amidst the challenges of college life.”

He said the retreats offer a good pastoral experience for seminarians as they work with youth in a spiritual and human way.retreats02-large

“We are trying to instill in these young men an opportunity to encounter Christ in a real way,” said seminarian Derek Aaron, retreat coordinator. “The main goal was to have them seek to be good, holy Catholic gentleman by being immersed in God’s creation and the sacraments.”

At CRUX, boys were randomly placed in groups in order to meet other boys and to encounter and have a God experience on their own. Each group wrote full value contracts after discussing what they could strive for and how they could better themselves.

Each CRUX group was named for a different male saint. Members learned about their patron and then made a flag, which was carried at all times as a standard to show pride in their Christian identity.

CRUX and JOUST offered Eucharistic adoration and Eucharistic processions. Young men prayed the Stations of the Cross in the woods, picking out logs to carry on their shoulders to bear the wood of the cross.

“They don’t pick little twigs – they pick hefty logs,” Aaron said. “These boys want to become men, and by becoming men they strive for greatness. When they strive for greatness in activities, we want to parallel how we can strive for greatness in a relationship with our Lord.

“Each activity was a chance to grow spiritually,” he said. “For instance, in archery, we tried to instill good form, how to aim for and focus on a target. Afterward, we would reflect on the activity, relating it to our spiritual life. With archery, we related a bull’s eye to keeping your eye on Christ. If your aim is off, it is like not paying attention to your actions and that can lead to sin.”

“The boys at CRUX can find their Christian identity and know that God loves them and will be always there when you need help,” said Miles Newkirk, a seminarian leader from St. Maria Goretti, Westfield.

“The point of the retreat is to help them grow in relationship with Christ,” said seminarian Jimmy O’Connor, from St. Joan of Arc, Kokomo. “I really hope we connected with the boys and made that happen. We also want them to have a good time and meet some new people. Ultimately, though, we want to show them the next step.”

“Everyone is so nice, and you can go further in your faith here,” said Drew Fitzgerald, 12, of St. Patrick Parish, Kokomo. “I came here and instantly loved it. And last year, no one could hit me in dodge ball.”

Jonah Lyons, 13, of St. Maria Goretti Parish, Westfield, said he enjoyed “meeting new people who share your faith, and it’s fun to hang out with the seminarians.”

Conner Knipp, 12, from Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Parish, Carmel, enjoyed hiking, being outdoors and looked forward to canoeing. “It’s a very faith-filled atmosphere with Mass every night and our group prayers every day,” he said.

At the JOUST retreat, Aaron said, “We ask God to guide the young men to what he wants for them, not what they want for themselves. They adhere to an honor code that states they are always conscience of who they are as Catholic gentlemen and of the example they set for others. We must never underestimate the power we have as witnesses to Jesus Christ.”

Each JOUST chapter has male parishioners who serve as chaperones or “confreres”, and mentor the young men.

Tom Lingafelter is a confrere at St. Alphonsus, Zionsville.

“These young men are the best,” he said. “They are what you want your next generation to be. To watch the kids work together spiritually is wonderful.”

“These kids are so much more spiritual than I was than I was at their age — all I thought about was cars and girls,” said Jim Spitznogle, a confrere from St. Elizabeth Ann Seton. “It’s great to see how faithful the young men are. One group was playing ultimate Frisbee and they stopped for a spontaneous rosary – all their own idea. This is a great group of guys and has been a lot of fun.”

Ian Finley, 17, a high school junior from Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, Carmel, said he really enjoyed meeting guys from other Knights chapters and hanging out together.

“One of the best parts was a game of ultimate Frisbee that lasted until 11:30 p.m.,” he said. “Afterward, praying the rosary together was powerful.”

“This is a family that we can’t get anywhere else,” said Chris Ellington, 16, a junior from St. Maria Goretti. “We all become actual brothers , non-blood, but still brothers in the connection we can get. We have a lot of time where we’re allowed to be ourselves, and I don’t get that time anywhere else. This retreat has helped me in every aspect of my life, including my faith life.”

“The best thing about being a Knight is serving Mass, seeing and understanding what is going on during Mass,” said Mitch Witt, 15, a sophomore from St. Mary Cathedral, Lafayette. “At JOUST, we have great male bonding and pure fun. It’s been a great experience.”

“I think it’s fun seeing all the buys from other chapters here,” said Jacob Fox, 15, a high school freshman from St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, Carmel. “It’s cool to be around guys who share the same faith and meet a lot of seminarians.”

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July 31, 2013 · 6:31 PM

Seminarian Farm Experience

DSC_1566Photo ID: From left are Hube and Charlene Tragesser, Christian DeCarlo, Will Summerlin, and Lou and Steve Tragesser. (Photos by Caroline B. Mooney)

Summer experience gives seminarians taste of farm life

By Caroline B. Mooney

The Catholic Moment

TIPTON — The formation of future priests doesn’t take a summer vacation.

Experiences for seminarians of the Lafayette diocese this summer include: parish assignments, working with the Missionaries of Charity in Chicago, organizing and planning retreats, attending a 30-day spiritual retreat, attending a faith-filled camp in Colorado, working in a diocesan office and attending a musician’s workshop.

Seminarians Christian DeCarlo and William Summerlin spent six weeks of life on farms near Tipton, home to St. John the Baptist Church.

Their work included driving and repairing tractors, milking cows and goats, working with sheep and hoeing gardens. They learned about seed hybrid operations at two companies and donned suits to extract honey from a beehive. They spent a week on a farm with 60,000 chickens that produce 50,000 eggs daily, picked berries, made jelly and jam, and learned how to make a pie from scratch.


“The majority of our diocese is made of rural and agricultural communities,” said Father David Hasser, vocations director for the diocese. “I want our seminarians who didn’t grow up nearfarming communities to have an experience of that so they know how to be a pastor. They can learn the values, culture and day-to-day life of that type of community and see how that life works.”

Father Hasser spoke to Father Leroy Kinnaman, then-pastor of St. John the Baptist, about seminarians living and working on a farm. The priest suggested asking if brothers Hube Tragesser and Steve Tragesser were interested. The farmers agreed, were interviewed, and on June 13, they opened their homes to the seminarians. DeCarlo is a fourth-year student at St. John Vianney Seminary in St. Paul, Minn. Summerlin is a third-year student, also at St. John Vianney Seminary.

Hube Tragesser has made a career of farming and has 300 acres of soybeans, corn and wheat. Steve Tragesser, who retired after 36 years in the auto industry, farms another 100 acres. The brothers live about three miles apart.

Hube and his wife, Charlene, who raised seven children, hosted DeCarlo, whose home parish is St. Alphonsus Liguori Parish, Zionsville.

DeCarlo grew up visiting his grandparents’ farm in southern Indiana, but his stays were recreational: riding on the combine and four-wheelers, and enjoying the harvest.

Steve Tragesser and his wife, Lou, parents to four grown children, hosted Summerlin, a member of St. Maria Goretti Parish, Westfield, who had no farm experience.

“Every day has been different — a phone call can change everything,” Hube said. “When a pig broke its leg, that became a day to learn how to butcher a hog.”


He taught the men the difference between a summer hat and a winter hat on the farm, and imparted the importance of a good seersucker shirt in the heat.

DeCarlo and Summerlin became part of the parish community at St. John the Baptist by serving at Mass, helping with Vacation Bible School and youth groups. They painted the garage, mowed the lawn, fixed pews, and helped blacktop the parking lot. They were extra muscles when Father Kinnaman moved out of the rectory and the new parish administrator, Father Christopher Shocklee, moved in.

“When a big chunk of stone fell out of the church building, slid down and got wedged, Father Shocklee called,” Hube said. “Eight hours and a bucket truck later, we got it fixed.”

“It was so nice to witness these young men with their strong faith,” Charlene said.

“It helps the men getting to know what the people here are like, what the life is like, how we work, and spend our time,” she said. “But, it helps all the people, too. Parishioners can really identify with the seminarians when they meet them.”

The young men ate well and mightily each day. They tried foods such as butter beans and jicima for the first time.

Summerlin said it was the freshest food he had ever eaten — fresh meat, fruit and vegetables every day.

The Tragessers enjoyed getting to know the seminarians and spending time together working, eating and in prayer.

“They can be ornery, too,” Lou said. “One night, the boys wanted to be sneaky and switch houses, but I was still awake and ruined their plans. They wanted to wake up in different houses and act like nothing had happened.

“It was a blessing to host them,” she said. “They come in and they are happy. I think they are going to make wonderful priests.”


“I think we have taught them a lot,” Steve said. “If I can teach them anything, I think we’ve been successful. The greatest thing was when they were here for the Seminarian Fund Appeal. St. John the Baptist went way over our parish goal.”

DeCarlo said he enjoyed “using a rototiller to work the Lord’s ground, knowing where our green beans have come from. I loved … running out with four-wheelers and driving the tractor. It’s great to work with the cows and realize that is some of the meat we have all year long, from farm to table.

“I learned a lot more than I thought I would,” he said. “I think I will use a lot of my experience down the road. Immediately, it will help me understand the seminarians at our seminary who did grow up on farms. I can talk to them about their experiences … Much of what we have done requires having a lot of common sense, doing things in a good way — the right way — and completing your tasks.”

“We knew we were going to learn something, but we didn’t know what,” Summerlin said. “We just trusted that God would provide and he sure has.

“Baling hay was hard work, but I really enjoyed it,” he said. “It was wonderful to sit down at the end of the day and reflect on the work we just did. I love driving the tractors and field equipment. I have seen it often — driving by a farm — but had no idea what they do. Some of it is pretty daunting, but the Tragessers trust us more than they trust themselves sometimes. You learn by doing. The best way to learn is just to do it. Simply just try it.

“This will benefit us as pastors to understand what our parishioners go through every day,” Summerlin said. “Parishioners want to have a connection with you, and we will be able say, ‘Yes, I know what you are talking about — I have done that before.’ It would be very hard to relate to people if you haven’t done what they have done. I am looking forward to being able to talk to my parishioners about their lives and say I was able to experience that for a little bit.”

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July 21, 2013 · 9:40 PM

Colorado Rocky Mountain High

rsz_2010-12-31_230000-20This summer we have two seminarians working as Camp Counselors at Camp Wojtyla in Colorado: Kyle Neterer and Michael Bower.  This unique experience adds to the fullness of their formation for the priesthood in surprisingly direct ways!

To give some background about Camp Wojtyla, it was named after Blessed John Paul II who loved to minster to young people in the outdoors.  Continue reading

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July 10, 2013 · 10:00 AM

Seminarian Summer Assignments 2013

rsz_summer_scapeThis summer is shaping up to be packed full of activity and growing experiences for our seminarians.  There are several new initiatives they will be exploring to help prepare them for priestly service in our diocese. Here is a brief listing of their activities, but be sure to look for our summer editions of this newsletter to hear from the seminarians themselves about their experiences! Continue reading

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May 23, 2013 · 1:15 AM

Camp Wojtyla, Colorado


This summer Derek Aaron, a seminarian for our diocese from St. Joan of Arc Parish in Kokomo, is spending two months nestled in the mountains near Jamestown, Colorado.  He is working at a Catholic summer camp named Camp Wojtyla.  This trailblazing Catholic camp was launched in 2006 by FOCUS Continue reading

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March 28, 2013 · 2:50 PM

Seminarian Summer Assignments 2012

Seminarian Cut-outsThis summer is shaping up to be packed full of activity and growing experiences for our seminarians. Here is a brief preview of their activities, but be sure to look for our summer editions of this newsletter to hear from the seminarians themselves about their experiences! Continue reading

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January 15, 2013 · 1:11 PM