The Lake Charles American Press recently profiled St. Louis Catholic’s summer COR Expedition in which Mia Orgeron and 11 students – Madison Brinkman, Emma Faul, Caroline Obluda, Mary Dempsey, Sophia Tassin, Abigail Fontenot, John Patrick Broussard, Aaron Orgeron, Carson Mixon, Joseph Belcher and Luke Ledet – embarked on a life-changing adventure.  Read on for the full story:

Eleven students from St. Louis Catholic High School recently traveled to the back country of Wyoming for a seven-day wilderness expedition in Lander, Wyoming. Led by COR Expeditions missionaries, an outreach of Wyoming Catholic College, the team hiked the Wind River Range carrying 45-70 pound backpacks, free of any of the conveniences of modern technology.

Mia Orgeron, SLCHS director of student life, accompanied the team and said the simplicity of nature allowed each team member to see a side of themselves often hidden behind the bustle of everyday life. “The noise and distractions that we have here kind of take away from who we are as people and what our identity is. It creates kind of a mask that we put on for society.”

Each day consisted of physically mapping out the day’s trek, hiking, making camp, cooking meals, campfire and daily “Kairos” time, private spiritual reflection. Hiking anywhere between four and 12 miles a day depending on the altitude, Orgeron said the team learned the true meaning of authentic community.

“They formed community in such a short amount of time because of the no distractions. Like, this is my true authentic self: I have dirt under my finger nails. I haven’t showered in seven days. No pretense.”

Vulnerability was another lesson learned during the trip as each member had to rely on other teammates for even their simplest of needs like food, shelter and even going to the bathroom, as no one was to be left alone in the wild. “The whole purpose of the trip was to develop leadership qualities and to find out who we are as students and how we can take that back to St. Louis, into our community and into our world,” Orgeron said.

Madison Brinkman, senior, said COR Expedition was the first experience that actually required minute by minute application of the truths being taught. “Other camps or retreats talk about trust and communication, but at COR, you have no choice but to put them in action. Being in the middle of nowhere, all you have is the person next to you, so it teaches you how to lean on one another to survive.”

The team’s survival included packing all of their necessities in rainy, mosquito filled and sometimes snowy conditions and even a bear sighting that required them to tear down camp and move to a new location one night. Such uncertainty and lack of comfort in the wild produced significant internal growth, however, Brinkman said.

“It was all uncomfortable; but at the same time, it was the most amazing experience ever. I now know, going into the future, that it’s okay to feel awkward or out of your element. Most of the time it’s better than okay because it means that you’re growing, learning something you didn’t know before.”