Aleteia logoAleteia logo
Saturday 31 July |
Saint of the Day: St. Ignatius Loyola
home iconSpirituality
line break icon

Following in the footsteps of the snowshoe priest, leaving modern gadgets behind


Courtesy Bishop Baraga Association and Curtis Chambers

Jim Graves - published on 03/06/18

Trekking miles across Michigan's harsh winters, Curtis Chambers has learned that Venerable Frederic Baraga was in "incredible shape."

What do a 19th-century Slovenian missionary and a 21st-century descendant of Ottawa Indians have in common? They’ve both walked hundreds of miles over the snow during northern Michigan’s harsh winters, motivated by their love for Christ and desire to share their Catholic faith.

Seven years ago, 64-year-old Curtis Chambers of Cheboygan, Michigan, was serving as tribal chairman of the Burt Lake Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians and researching his tribe’s history. He came across an 1840 letter written by Venerable Frederic Baraga (1797-1868), the first bishop of the Diocese of Marquette, Michigan. In it, he asks the tribe to show hospitality to a priest he assigned to serve them.  

Chambers began reading more and more about Baraga, and was impressed with what he learned: “He was tenacious. The man did not quit. He must have had an incredible faith to come here from Europe in the first place. He didn’t know if he’d be martyred; he trusted in God.”

Baraga is known as the “snowshoe priest,” due to the many miles he’d travel during the region’s hard winters. Chambers, an avid outdoorsman, decided to walk the same routes Baraga once walked, even using the same maps Baraga used.

Chambers was recently a featured speaker at the Diocese of Marquette’s commemoration of the 150th anniversary of Baraga’s death, leaving participants marveling at stories of his travels.  

Len McKeen, director of the Bishop Baraga Association,related, “Curtis is amazing. He goes out there in the middle of nowhere, without the aid of modern technological gadgets.”

Chambers typically takes his “Baraga treks” in February (although this year in March), and heads out regardless of the weather. He once walked 30 miles in a single day, but ended the day hyperventilating and hallucinating. Today, he keeps it to 20 miles or less. He’ll walk into a blizzard, but admits “if it’s 20 below zero or less, I’ll stay put for the day.”  

This year, he’ll take a “short trip” of only 130 miles. He’ll take with him modest supplies, including his snowshoes, food, a tent and a sleeping bag. The sleeping bag keeps him warm up to 35 degrees below, which along with the tent is a big advantage he has over Bishop Baraga. He explained, “The bishop had only a tarp to put over his head and a blanket to wrap around himself. I feel pretty spoiled.”

  • 1
  • 2
Support Aleteia!

If you’re reading this article, it’s thanks to the generosity of people like you, who have made Aleteia possible.

Here are some numbers:

  • 20 million users around the world read every month
  • Aleteia is published every day in seven languages: English, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish, and Slovenian
  • Each month, readers view more than 50 million pages
  • Nearly 4 million people follow Aleteia on social media
  • Each month, we publish 2,450 articles and around 40 videos
  • We have 60 full time staff and approximately 400 collaborators (writers, translators, photographers, etc.)

As you can imagine, these numbers represent a lot of work. We need you.

Support Aleteia with as little as $1. It only takes a minute. Thank you!

Daily prayer
And today we celebrate...

Top 10
Cerith Gardiner
Gold-winning Filipina Olympian shares her Miraculous Medal for th...
Cerith Gardiner
Simone Biles leaves the Olympics with an important lesson for her...
Zelda Caldwell
World-record winning gymnast Simone Biles leans on her Catholic f...
J-P Mauro
Reconstructing a 12th-century pipe organ discovered in the Holy L...
Mathilde De Robien
Did you know Princess Di was buried with a rosary?
Zelda Caldwell
German women’s gymnastics teams modest dress protests sport’s ...
Lauren Daigle
J-P Mauro
After 3 years Lauren Daigle ousts herself from #1 Billboard spot
See More
Get Aleteia delivered to your inbox. Subscribe here.