By Sally Krutzig & Bridget Lewis
News Editor, Staff Writer
Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati was a devout Catholic, known for giving everything he received to the poor. Pope John Paul II called Frassati the “Man of the Eight Beatitudes” because of his charitable spirit. Living in Turin, Italy in the early 20th century, Frassati, who died at the age of 24, was adventurous, fun-loving and full of laughter. For these characteristics, Frassati is looked to as a role model for many University of Dallas students.
Frassati knew the struggles of being a young student, but he also knew the importance of being one. “In this trying time that our country is going through we Catholics and especially we students, have a serious duty to fulfill: our self-formation,” he said.
According to his sister, Luciana Frassati who wrote a biography on him, he went to great lengths to ensure his friends did not fall behind in their school work. A known prankster, Frassati once put a donkey in his friend’s bed to tell his friend what he thought of him not keeping up with his studies.
He also created a secret society, called “The Sinister Ones,” made up of friends seeking adventures together. The group’s favorite activity quickly became mountain climbing, which outdoorsman Frassati saw as an opportunity to grow in faith, friendship and self-discipline, according to Luciana.
Near Frassati’s house was a monastery on one of the smaller mountains near Turin, Italy. He often woke up before dawn to climb the mountain and attend mass at the sanctuary of Oropa.
Members of the spring 2013 Rome class, Alex Doucet and Bradley James traveled with friends to Turin, where they visited Frassati’s tomb, climbed the mountains near his home and attended mass at Oropa.
It was on this trip that they first began using the famous catch-phrase of Frassati: “verso l’alto,” which translates to “upwards” or “to the top.”
A year later, back at the Irving campus, Doucet and James started their own society of adventurers by creating a school venture club they called “Verso L’alto” in honor of the club’s patron saint.
“Sometimes when we are climbing, or doing difficult things we will say ‘Verso l’alto,’ you know, as encouragement,” Doucet explained. “Pier also used it as like ‘climb the mountain of your faith,’ you know, reach the peak and get closer to Christ.”
Since its beginning, the club members have gone rock climbing multiple times each week, in addition to kayaking and camping.
“We started this club with a purpose…of offering opportunities complementary to the academic life here, because there is so much more to life than books,” Doucet said. “Books are great and important, and it’s good to learn, but it is also great to go out, enjoy nature, and kind of forget about books, step back and enjoy your community as well.”
On Friday, Oct. 17, the venture club went on a two-day camping trip to Cedar Hill State Park, about a half an hour away from the University of Dallas.
Last year, the club had roughly 10 to 20 people participate in the camping trip, and this year, about 40 people participated.
After setting up camp, the club had Mass in the woods with their faculty adviser, Father Thomas Esposito.
“He brought his Mass kit and had an altar and everything,” Doucet explained.
After Mass, the club went down to the lake to have a campout, eat s’mores and watched the sunset. They also had a little musical session around the camp fire until it got dark. People brought their guitars, their ukuleles and other musical instruments. Once back at the campsite, they built a campfire and went back to making music that included Esposito on the harmonica.
The next morning, they started another fire to stay warm. They packed up their camp and spent the rest of their time at the lake kayaking and paddle boarding before having a picnic lunch.
The club members hope that the club will continue to grow and expand its activities in the next few years.