Camp can change lives of kids lucky enough to go

Life will be victorious

by Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann

The following is an excerpt from a letter that I received this fall from a youth preparing for confirmation. In this portion of the letter, she is explaining to me why she chose her confirmation saint.

“My saint that I chose is Saint Kateri Tekakwitha. I chose her because I go to the camp Kateri Tekakwitha every summer since I was allowed to go. Every summer, camp has led me further into my faith and left me awestruck in God’s glory. Camp Kateri Tekakwitha is such a special place to me that I wish I could just stay there forever. Maybe it’s because of the beautiful stars in the sky, or the deep adoration sessions that we have. Maybe it’s the feeling of being away from everything else in the world, or being with the people that I meet that are all amazing. Whatever it may be, it is where I feel closest to God. That’s why I chose her, because just her name makes me feel calm and closer to God. She has already done so much for me by helping me build my faith. I can just think of her once when I feel like my faith is being tested. I can think of her and all the struggles she endured — like losing her family — but still choosing God. By thinking of my experiences at camp, I feel the urge to do what’s right.”

This young woman’s testimony is by no means unique. Many young women in the archdiocese take for their confirmation name Kateri Tekakwitha. Often at the reception after confirmation, I will ask some of the newly confirmed if they chose Kateri Tekakwitha because they attended camp. Without fail, their response is an enthusiastic: “Yes!”

Each year, many, many young people thank me for our camp and share with me some of the powerful experiences of God’s presence and love that occurred while they participated in Camp Tekakwitha at Prairie Star Ranch. Many parents thank me for the camp and share with me the positive impact that Camp Tekakwitha has had upon their children and upon the faith life of their entire family.

When I was a young child, my grandfather paid for me, my brother and my cousins to attend Camp Chaminade, a summer camp in St. Louis conducted by the Marianists. I have many fond memories of my experiences at Camp Chaminade. I still remember Brother Leo, my camp counselor. My grandfather could not have given us a more cherished gift.

As much as I enjoyed my experience at Camp Chaminade, it pales in comparison to what our young people receive every summer from their participation in Camp Tekakwitha. While we did many of the same activities (horseback riding, swimming, experiencing the beauty of the natural world, etc.), what I received from Camp Chaminade does not compare with the faith formation that is woven into the camp programs at Prairie Star Ranch.

Parents, if you have not done so already, I encourage you to enroll your children and teenagers in camp this summer. For every camper, it is a wonderful experience. But for some each summer, the camp is life-changing. Grandparents, consider giving your grandchildren an even better gift than my grandfather gave me 60 years ago.

I want every young person in the archdiocese to have the opportunity to attend Camp Tekakwitha. I do not want finances to prevent participation. Scholarships are available for families with financial need. Camp registration and information can be found online at: www.archkck.org/camp. Camp Tekakwitha has sessions specifically designed for fifth- and sixth-graders; seventh- and eighth- graders; and high school students.

I am very grateful to Archbishop James Keleher, Msgr. Tom Tank, and Deacon Dana and Debbie Nearmyer for giving birth to the camp. I am also thankful to Greg and Katie Wellnitz and the incredibly talented and energetic young adults who staff the camp. They go through an intensive formation program each year to prepare themselves to serve our young campers.

This is not just a summer job for our camp staff. For them, it is a ministry through which they become the human instruments that God uses to make his love known to our young people.

Your donations each year to Call to Share help fund Camp Tekakwitha, as well as the cost to maintain and operate Prairie Star Ranch. However, if Our Lord has blessed you financially and you wish to make an additional donation to a ministry that is transformative for youth, please contact Deacon Nearmyer at (913) 647-0331 or by email at: dnearmyer@archkck.org. Your generosity will provide more scholarship opportunities for Camp Tekakwitha. Your gift will help more young people experience God’s love in a way that has the power to change forever the course of their lives.

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