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Mt Everest Mass a physical and spiritual high

THE profound spirituality he experienced of climbing the world’s highest mountain has remained with Brisbane priest Fr Morgan Batt more than three weeks after the climb.

Fr Batt, 40, became the first priest to celebrate Mass on Mt Everest when he led other members of his party in prayer and worship on Easter Sunday.

‘Celebrating the highest Mass was an absolute joy and I thank God for that,’ Fr Batt said.

Although he did not reach the summit, he made it to 7200 metres, climbing Everest’s North Col with an expedition coinciding with the 50th anniversary of the climb by Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzig Norgay.

‘It was profoundly moving to be there,’ he said.

The feat completes part of a dream for Fr Batt, who has a passion for mountain climbing when he is not busy serving the archdiocese as chaplain at the Australian Catholic University’s McAuley Banyo campus, military chaplain at Enoggera Barracks, state spiritual adviser for the St Vincent de Paul Society and working with the Archdiocesan Youth Office.

His dream is to climb seven of the highest mountains in the world – Kosciuszko (Australia), Kilimanjaro (Africa), Elbrus (Europe), Everest (Asia), Aconcagua (South America), McKinlay (North America) and Vinson (Antarctica).

He has climbed Kosciuszko, Kilimanjaro and now Everest, and Aconcagua is next.

He said climbing Everest was ‘fantastic’.

It was during Holy Week and Fr Batt was amazed at how the climb reflected that spiritual journey.

‘It was a deeply spiritual journey and it profoundly affected me,’ he said. ‘I’m still working through it.

‘For instance, on Palm Sunday, we were walking across the high plateau and I noticed all the Sherpas were carrying juniper branches, and it reminded me of Palm Sunday.

‘On Holy Thursday when we got to base camp, someone arranged for us to have showers, so there we all were having this big wash, and it reminded me of the washing of the feet.

‘Then, when we got up the next morning, one of the group was missing and I asked what had happened.

‘I was told he had to go back because he couldn’t stand the altitude, and all day it was like a mourning, like there’d been a death.’

Then, on Easter Sunday, they awoke to find there had been a snowfall and ‘everything was white’.

After celebrating Mass, Fr Batt organised an Easter egg hunt for ‘mashed up Mars Bars’.

The climb was physically gruelling and he lost 9kg during the expedition.

‘When I got back to camp three or two I was absolutely smashed – because it’s one step, four breaths; one step, four breaths. It’s hard work.’

Fr Batt returned in time for the opening Mass of the Synod Assembly in Brisbane archdiocese.

‘People were excited and congratulating me,’ he said. ‘And I’m thinking ÔWow, I’ve done it’.

‘I want to say thanks to the people of Brisbane who have prayed for me – and there were thousands.’

Fr Batt is hoping to tackle his next big climb – Aconcagua – in South America in January 2004.

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