-Daniel Kipp Astin
January 16th, 2021. My entire body quaked with the chill of winter, in the woods of Hawk Mountain, 2.5 miles from the Appalachian Trail. This was my first Philly Frassati event. It was a last minute affair for me. When I woke up that morning at 6:00AM, a strong part of me felt convinced to lay in bed a few more hours and send the ‘bail’ text, informing my coworker who invited me, that I would not be coming. It was too easy to lay in my warm bed a little longer than to drive 45 minutes to where my ride would be to take me to the mountain. Yet, somehow I managed to lumber to my warm winter clothes in the closet, put multiple layers on for the cold weather, and find my mud-crusted hiking boots. I would have hated to admit it at the time, but they hadn’t been worn since early fall. My body begrudgingly allowed me to make it to my coworker’s home, where he was kind enough to spare an extra seat for the journey.
Fast-forward the long ride down Pennsylvania highways and back-mountain roads, and I was standing in the middle of the woods, trying to shoulder off a shiver in the winter cold. A member of the group insisted (perhaps a little to my chagrin), that we all stop to pray. I hadn’t been to church in at least a year, and the winter cold definitely made now seem like not the most optimal of moments. However, after the longest time I had spent until that day, praying among other outdoor enthusiasts and Christians my age, someone in the group, one of the individuals I suspected to be a leader in the organization, began to sing Amazing Grace, in the soft winter silence of a Pennsylvania forest. The singing was beautiful and I was immediately impressed by this person’s talent. The leadership demonstrated to begin spontaneously singing a hymn, on a public trail, among many strangers astounded me.
Before long, we were all trudging back along the muddy trail, scrambling over boulders and making our way across the mountain’s infamous 5.5 mile looped trail. I decided I had to know this individual who resembled some combination between Christ and a young Eric Clapton, and what made him tick. I soon learned his name was Jack Terzian, one of two original founders of the organization, and the rest is history. After spending probably 100 hours with him, over the course of the last eight months or so, I could tell anyone that Jack is an enthusiastic, creative, spontaneous, empowered individual. Jack is the kind of person who gives out stickers to random strangers with the phrase “Be cool be you” on it. He is someone who will pray the rosary in public, while walking back to the parking lot, following going out at nearly 1:00AM. One quickly realizes that the type of individual who is capable of going on a 6 hour bike ride in Philly, giving the homeless hugs and praying with strangers, does not fit into any sociological box. Jack stands above the pack. He is easily one of the most unique people I have ever met. Among many things, he taught me to sign the cross, do a handstand and most importantly, donate my time to write for this blog. There are many other things I could write about Jack as a person, but given he is also incredibly modest, he probably wouldn’t even want me to write what has already written, something everyone who is a part of Philly Frassati already knows.
Jack is about to go on the adventure of a lifetime, to begin the process to enter the clergy, and ultimately with a little luck and prayer, become a priest. He leaves for Rome soon, and although I know many (including myself) are not looking forward to his absence, I know he will be one of the most interesting, unique and informative priests one could have the privilege to meet.
Good Luck Jack and thank you for all the hard work!