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Archives ‘Grateful to be a pastor’

Sept. 29, 2021

Editor’s note: As part of this Priest Appreciation edition, the North Country Catholic is highlighting several retired priests of the diocese and how they continue to live out their vocations here in the North Country.

By Mary Beth Bracy
Contributing Writer

INDIAN LAKE – Some of us struggle to go hiking when we’re young but, in his late eighties, Father Philip T. Allen is still trekking along. In fact, he’s climbed the 46 peaks in the Adirondacks over 25 times, sometimes just because a friend needed a companion to make the journeys. Father Allen also hiked the Appalachian Trail in a series of trips and trekked on other continents.

“Father Larry Cotter got me into hiking in the Adirondacks in the early 1960s,” Father Allen said. “It is a wonderful hobby.”

His daily morning walk has kept him healthy, he said. It is “a good practice for reflection, prayer, and meeting people.”

One of Father Allen’s most memorable hiking experiences was recounted in his 2015 interview with Adirondack Explorer. Father Allen shared: “One time I rescued a guy. It was back in the sixties, in December. They had lean-tos then at Indian Falls on the trail up Marcy. There were no tracks in the snow so nobody had been up that day. Well, in one of the lean-tos I found a fellow and he hadn’t been out, even to get water. He had the idea that he wanted to end the year by fasting and doing yoga. So I climbed Marcy and came back and gave him my peanut butter-and-jelly sandwiches.

“I worried about him, and I went back a week later just to go that far. It was almost Christmas. He was still there. Nobody had come along in a week. That wouldn’t happen nowadays. He had been eating brown rice, and he’d given up eating completely for five days. His sleeping bag was thin. He had put on all the socks he had and plastic bags around his feet. And he had loafers with rubbers on them. They had frozen. They could have been wooden. I persuaded him to come out. Getting his feet into those shoes was really hard. He stepped out of them and didn’t even know. His feet were numb. I got him out of there.

“He could walk but unsteady. I put him up [for] a few days. He spent a lot of time in the bathtub, soaking his feet. He got sick on the first meal.”

Father Allen gave the man a new pair of boots and sent him back home to Boston, along with “a little advice.”

Always charitable, visiting Africa allowed Father Allen to “get to know Catholic Relief Services (CRS) work.” He also went to Ethiopia.

“CRS supports work in developmental relief in so many countries,” Father Allen said. “They even have three active offices right now in Afghanistan, with the turmoil and all. They are very strong in their services, very respected in their services. They deserve all the support that we can give them.”

When Father Allen traveled to Africa, he climbed Mount Kenya in Kenya and Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. He said that “Mount Kenya and Kilimanjaro are awesome to see from a distance.” It required several “days of walking,” and they were “great experiences.” To climb Kilimanjaro, travelers are required to spend at least three days with a hired guide, Father Allen noted. His group chose to take seven days for altitude adjustment.

Father Allen has also traveled to Haiti, Kosovo, and Iraq. He was impressed at “how CRS works with people in these countries in understanding what needs to be done.” They help “people in taking responsibility for their own medical care, agriculture, and conservation of the land. They promote the welfare and dignity of people and peace.”

For instance, when he visited the Holy Land, Father Allen saw CRS efforts in the occupied territories, what they were doing for the Palestinians and their projects.

Another place Father Allen visited was Peru, South America, where he trekked the white snow-capped mountains. While there, he visited where our diocesan priests were serving in Mollendo. Father Daniel L. Chapin, who in retirement became a Maryknoll missionary associate, and the late Father George F. Maroun were stationed there at the time.

Another time he trekked Ellesmere Island – located in the far north of Canada, closest to North Pole – with his sister Frances. Still, Father Allen is “very happy to be in the Adirondacks.”

“A few of my more successful homilies were prepared while walking or hiking,” he said. “There’s not just a literal perspective, but other aspects too.”

True to his character, Father Allen is always giving back. He grows garden vegetables at the farm where he grew up in Peru. It was in his family for several generations and is now owned by his brother. The Knights of Columbus in Indian Lake will sell the pumpkins and squash he grew at the Moose Festival to raise money for home heating charity.

Most of all, Father Allen said “I’m very grateful to God to be able to do ministry as a pastor at this point life.” Although there are some challenges in retirement, he noted the generosity of lay people who make it easier. Father Allen is “grateful to have good companions.” Father Allen still goes hiking and doesn’t really have a favorite mountain. He loves them all.

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