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placeholder June 23, 2014   •   VOL. 52, NO. 12   •   Oakland, CA
Health & Wellness

Parishes that walk together

Rev. Lawrence D'Anjou

Rev. Mathew Vellankal

Rev. Paulson Mundanmani

Rev. John Prochaska

When Rev. Lawrence D'Anjou talks about taking a hike, he means it in a good way.

The priest, currently serving as parochial administrator at St. Raymond Parish in Dublin, has hiked regularly for the past 11 years. Sometimes he walks alone, other times with friends. These days he can also be seen taking a monthly hike with members of his parish.

As the name implies, these hikes are not just a stroll in the park, rather Father D'Anjou and a group of his parishioners meet at about 10 a.m. and hike for about a couple of hours on Saturday mornings in one of the many scenic parks in the East Bay.

"We have visited about six or seven different parks in the area," Father D'Anjou said. "We try to make it a good three to five miles. Usually it is not too strenuous." After the hike those who can make it set up a picnic lunch.

Father D'Anjou has been an inspiration, said Chuck Haupt, who coordinates the parish hiking group. "This activity has proven to be very popular at our parish."

Another hiking enthusiast is Rev. Mathew Vellankal, pastor at Holy Spirit Parish in Fremont. He takes a small group of parishioners out for a walk every Wednesday morning. "Wednesdays are my day off," he said.

The usual destination for the Fremont hikers is from the parish to Mission Peak — the summit is at an elevation of 2,500 feet. Father Vellankal estimated that the hike itself is about six miles round trip. He has also taken members of the parish youth group on hikes to nearby parks and, on occasion to Yosemite.

"I find a great spirituality in nature," Father Vellankal said. One can't help but feel awe while in the mist of such natural beauty, he added. Sometimes the priest celebrates Mass at the top of Mission Peak.

Fathers Vellenkal and D'Anjou have gotten together with their fellow hiking priests — Father Paulson Mundanmani, parochial administrator at St. Mary Parish in Walnut Creek, and Father John Prochaska, pastor at Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish in Fremont, to go on backpacking expeditions.

Hiking is among the activities sponsored by the Yaggies at Holy Spirit-Newman Hall in Berkeley. The Yaggies are the young adult, graduate student group at the Newman Center.

Regular brisk walking is an activity with benefits. It helps trim the waistline, strengthens your bones, lifts your mood and even helps to stave off or manage many chronic conditions as type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure, according to an article on the website of the Mayo Clinic.

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