Walking by faith: Parishioners gather weekly to pray, exercise

Photo by Sue Suchyta

Photo by Sue Suchyta

Sharing a prayer and intentions before hitting the trails are (clockwise from third from left): Jan Bradybaugh, Jo Livernois, Cliff Ditzhazy, John Sudak, Darlene Sudak, Donald Stomber, Audrey Stomber, Cass Gorkiewicz, JoAnn Reno, Linda Korowin, Dean McCall, Jack Barnes, Dian Carmichael and Molly, a golden Labrador retreiver.

Sunday Times Newspapers

TRENTON – Parishioners of St. Joseph Catholic Church, along with family members and friends, are sharing fellowship and footpaths in Elizabeth Park.

And along the way they are improving their physical, mental and spiritual health.

The group, known as Walk His Way to Renew Mind, Body and Spirit, is facilitated by parishioners Linda Korowin and Joann Perna.

It meets from 7 to 8 p.m. Wednesdays, weather and daylight permitting, from mid-May to late September.

On Wednesday the potential for rain kept many participants away. Korowin said 32 showed up the week before, and they have had upward of 50 at one time.

The group gathers at the picnic shelter near the river for an opening prayer and to allow participants to present specific prayer requests. They then walk, jog, run or bicycle around the mile-long oval path, meeting up again at 8 p.m. for a closing prayer. Others spend time on park benches to simply enjoy the setting.

“The whole reason that Joann and I really wanted to push for this program to be part of our parish community was really, first of all, the need for prayer,” Korowin said. “That’s our main focus. But then (it’s) to get people out, people that maybe won’t come out to this beautiful park by themselves.”

The idea for the program was planted in Korowin’s mind about three years ago when she saw a story in the Detroit Free Press about a group in Macomb County that was doing something similar.

Korowin clipped the story and showed it Perna; they then approached their former pastor, the Rev. Steve Wertanen, and shared their desire to start a similar program. He then allowed them to start the program, now in its third year.

Korowin said the fellowship group provides a supportive network of friends for companionship and exercise. She said the park benches with a river view are a popular spot to meet and meditate.

Though most participants do at least walk when they come to the park, Korowin is one of the few who actually comes to run.

Anyone is welcome to join, and participation is not limited to the Trenton community or St. Joseph
parish members.

“We have Catholics and non-Catholics alike that join us, and I think that is what’s important,” Korowin said. “We’re kind of building a family. We may not all come from the same place, but we’re bonding through prayer and through exercise.”

Even pets on leashes are welcome; Jack Barnes walks with his golden Labrador retriever, Molly.

Lest anyone think the group takes itself too seriously, Donald Stomber — aka “Duck” — who started walking with the group about a year ago, is quick to provide some levity.

“About a year ago I came, and I enjoy the ladies – I do enjoy the ladies,” he said.

“It’s a nice walk, you know, and it’s a fun thing, and I need the exercise, so it’s all good.”

Stomber said he walks every week, and they walk while they talk, but they “keep a good pace.” He said he enjoys the fellowship and feels better when he’s walking with a group instead of alone.

Jo Livernois agrees, saying participants have a good time walking and talking. She looks forward to it and feels better after the exercise.

Livernois walks with different people weekly, and afterward enjoys sitting on a bench by the river and relaxing. She added that the brief prayer service makes it nice, too.

“The two gals that run it (Korowin and Perna) are just wonderful people,” Livernois said. “It’s just very inspiring.”

Jan Bradybaugh enjoys having fun with the people she sees at church.

“We just have a good time walking, and the hour goes so fast,” she said. “You know, all of a sudden you’re done. It is fun. I don’t lose any weight, but it is fun.”

Bradybaugh also urged anyone who has been thinking about joining in to just come.

“They’d be surprised at how nice it is,” she said. “If the weather gets a little bad, you don’t mind it because it doesn’t take that long to get around here.”

“The ducks are funny, too,” Livernois said. “They’re hilarious. They want to be fed, and they don’t get out of your way because they own this place.

“They’re funny – and they won’t hurt you, and they’re not going to bite you or anything.”

Michelle Allen, who has arthritis, doesn’t walk much, so she rides her bike around the path. She said she also enjoys taking digital photos of Elizabeth Park’s natural beauty and has taken photos in the fall and spring, and on foggy days.

“It’s just a lovely place,” Allen said. “I’m sorry that … we’re so busy we don’t get here as often as we should. We’re lucky to have it. It’s a nice place.”

Jackie Shoemaker and her adult daughter, Katrina Nerowski, walk every day and value the social interaction, as well as their mother-daughter bonding time.

“We walk. I do not run. There is no way,” Shoemaker said with a laugh.

“We get out of the house,” Nerowski said. “It gets us off the couch.”

They say the time is just for them, and that they leave the other family members at home while they walk.

“We just get away from everybody else,” Nerowski said. “You can make an hour. That’s all this takes is an hour.”

She added that they feel better after an hour of walking, but not in the way one might expect.

“Well, yeah,” Nerowski said, tongue firmly in cheek. “We’ve trashed everybody we know, so we feel better!”

“We do all our gossiping right now,” Shoemaker laughingly confirmed.

They leave feeling better having exercised and “vented.”

Regarding advice to those who always seem to find excuses to avoid taking the time to exercise, Nerowski said, “I really don’t know. You just need to find someone else to go with. It keeps you motivated.”

“It really helps if you have someone else to walk with,” Shoemaker said.

For more information about joining Walk His Way call the St. Joseph Parish Center at (734) 676-9082.

(Contact Sue Suchyta at sue.suchyta@yahoo.com.)