Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of May 24, 1999
Religion teacher scales 'sacred mountain'
Everest climber studying sacred spaces for Newman Theological College degree
By ANH HOANG
WCR Staff Writer
In scaling Mount Everest, Calgary religion teacher David Rodney had an experience similar to that of Moses' ascent of Mount Sinai, said the professor supervising his master's thesis on sacred mountains.
Rodney, 34, who reached the summit of the world's tallest mountain on Ascension Thursday May 13, is a student of Sister Teresita Kambeitz at Newman Theological College. He is working on a master's degree in religious education.
"He's doing (his thesis) on sacred spaces, with a focus on sacred mountains, particularly those found in the Scriptures," said Kambeitz.
Kambeitz said Rodney has focused on nature as a spiritual medium to connect with God throughout his study. Being an avid climber, he has put an emphasis on mountains.
"There are a lot of mountains mentioned in the Scriptures," Kambeitz said. "El-Shaddai means God of the mountain.
"(Rodney) has a particular gift for recognizing nature as special places where God can be experienced in a special way."
The connection Rodney makes between the mountains and God will be well-received by his students, said Kambeitz.
She herself has felt a spiritual uplifting "not so much by climbing (mountains), but by looking at them.
"It's a very natural way of connecting with God . . . being in the surrounding of what he has created."
Rodney, who is on a leave of absence from his post as a religion teacher at St. Mary's High School, left for Everest in March.
And as he was attempting to make the ascent, his mother was thousands of miles away connecting with God in her own way.
"When he left, I prayed for him and I knew that's all I could do from here," said Rita Rodney of Yorkton, Sask., who was never concerned so much about when her son would get to the top as when he would come home.
When her son called May 16 to celebrate his success of reaching the summit three days earlier, Rita Rodney said she did not immediately share his victorious enthusiasm.
"My selfishness took over a little," she said. "There was this emotion I've never felt for a couple of months. I just felt relief then. I was so happy he was safe. You have no idea how relieved I am."
Her son's safety was a relief for Rita Rodney, who was later informed of the tragic news of Michael Robert Matthews, 21. Matthews, a British climber in David Rodney's group, was separated from the team and is presumed dead.
David Rodney's need to climb Everest left his family with some apprehension, but "I knew how it was bothering him," said Rita Rodney. "He said to me, 'I have to get this monkey off my back.'"
She said her son spent half an hour on top of Everest before beginning his descent.
This is David Rodney's second trip to Everest. In 1997, he provided communication support for the climb by Calgary climbers Jamie Clarke and Alan Hobson.
If David Rodney's future includes a book deal, his mother already has a good title picked out.
"Ascension was on Thursday," said Rita Rodney, a devout Catholic. "That's when he made it to the top . . . that would be a good idea for a title."