A 50-pound pack on his back, Matthew Krzewinski slogged up the steep mountain trail, rain and mud making the 3,000 climb even more taxing.

By the time the 16-year-old had made it to camp at the top, he and his hiking group had covered an arduous 10 miles.

Physically, the sojourn in the Sangre de Cristo mountains in northern New Mexico last summer certainly was grueling. But as one of two Boy Scouts selected by the Archdiocese of Los Angeles to participate in the St. George Trek, that tough hike — as well as others during 12 days of backpacking totaling about 75 miles — was also spiritually extraordinary.

“I learned so much about my faith and life vocation,” said Krzewinski, now 17 and an incoming senior at Granada Hills Charter High School, an independent school known for its students’ high academic achievement.

Being extraordinary is kind of common for Krzewinski.

In addition to being selected to participate in the St. George Trek — which partners high school teens from around the country to discern their vocation with priests, religious, and seminarians —  Krzewinski is a super achiever in the Boy Scouts and at his home parish, Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Northridge.

It probably would be easier to list what Krzewinski hasn’t done at Our Lady of Lourdes.

When he was 6 years old, he started in the church choir, then became an altar server. Krzewinski has also served as a cantor, lector, and an actor in the Theatre Repertoire of Our Lady of Lourdes (TROLL).

Matthew Krzewinski poses with the 3D-printed prosthetic hands he produced for the nonprofit Different Heroes, as part of his Eagle Scout project. (Submitted photo)

And since first grade, Krzewinski has been a member of the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) and three of its programs: Cub Scouting, Scouts BSA, and Venturing.

Faith is closely integrated into the Boy Scouts, with its 12th point of Scout Law being reverence. Every Scout can earn five special Catholic awards, and — no surprise — Krzewinski has earned them all.

Each one can take a lot of work.

One of those awards, the Ad Altare Dei Religious Emblem, required intensive study of the seven sacraments. 

Another, the Pope Pius XII emblem, required perfect attendance for over four months and a board of review. Krzewinski was one of only 12 Scouts throughout the Archdiocese of Los Angeles to earn this emblem in the 2021-22 school year.

“Matthew is an asset to the Catholic Scouting community and a great contributor to the community as a whole,” said Lori Sorensen, Krzewinski’s Scout religious award teacher for two of his religious awards.

“The Boy Scouts of America defines honor as ‘the core of who you are: your honesty, your integrity, your reputation, the ways you treat others, and how you act when no one is looking.’ Matthew is someone who exemplifies this honor. He has always shown an inquisitive nature and a good disposition.”

It was Sorensen, also Krzewinski’s junior high school adventure backpack instructor, who encouraged him to sign up for the St. George Trek.

Although the physical hikes are the focus of the St. George Trek, the heart of the trip is centered on vocations.

“We talked about how God is calling you, and the priests and deacons would speak about their role in the Church and how God’s call affected them,” Krzewinski said. “Exposure to them in this context was interesting and special.”

Maureen Brown, chair of the Catholic Committee on Scouting for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, was one of two people who interviewed candidates applying for the St. George Trek.

“During the interview,” Brown said, “we mention that the St. George Trek is designed to help Scouts determine what God is calling them to. It’s an awesome backpacking trip, but it’s also a lot more.”

St. George Trek participants are asked to commit to two other events following the backpacking adventure. Krzewinski gave a talk at the annual Catholic Scout Retreat in October 2022 and at an Adult Awards Banquet this March.

“Matthew has been very gracious about volunteering for other events when asked, including serving as a lector at our Awards Presentation Mass at the cathedral in May,” Brown said.

Matthew Krzewinski, center, stands with his mother, Janice, and father, Kevin. (Submitted photo)

His father, Kevin Krzewinski, noted that Matthew’s name means “gift from God — and we truly believe that.”

He and his wife, Janice, had two miscarriages before their only child was born.

“We thank God for him every day,” Kevin said.

When Krzewinski was baptized later than usual, at age 2, he answered “Amen” to the priest’s prayer.

“He knew all the prayers at age 4,” Kevin said. “We are proud of his academics, proud of his Scouting achievements, but most of all his relationship to God and the Church.”

Krzewinski earned his Eagle Scout rank last year. His project: making 56 prosthetic hands for children on a 3D printer for the nonprofit Different Heroes, which helps kids with missing limbs.

“I wanted to do something interesting that involved technology,” Krzewinski said.

Since he was a child, Krzewinski has been fascinated with robotics and his favorite subjects are math and science. His dream college is Caltech. 

So far, Krzewinski has earned 121 merit badges out of a maximum 135 in the Boy Scouts — and is working on earning more before his 18th birthday in October. Most Scouts earn a couple dozen.

“I still have to learn how to play the bugle,” he joked.

After he ages out of the Boy Scouts on his 18th birthday, Krzewinski plans to keep participating in his troop as a scoutmaster or assistant scoutmaster.

Said the highly motivated, highly devoted Catholic teenager: “I wouldn’t have been as involved in Scouting as much as I have been if it hadn’t been for my faith.”