by Moira Cullings
WILLIAMSBURG — Camp Tekakwitha at the Prairie Star Ranch here has much to celebrate this summer.
The archdiocesan camp is turning 25.
“We came from humble beginnings,” said Deacon Dana Nearmyer, “but we’re so grateful for the support of all the families over the years, and all of our staff, priests and archbishops.
“Twenty-five years is pretty amazing.”
Deacon Nearmyer and his wife Deborah were integral to the establishment of the ranch 25 years ago under the leadership of Archbishop Emeritus James P. Keleher.
Since then, the ranch’s various offerings — in particular, Camp Tekakwitha — have formed thousands of young people from across northeast Kansas.
“In 25 years, many young people have encountered Jesus in a unique and powerful way during [eucharistic] adoration or Mass,” said Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann.
“Many young people have grown in their faith during the past 25 years,” he added.
Some 75 staff members are currently preparing to meet an estimated 1,500-1,600 campers who will attend various sessions this summer.
Registration opens Feb. 15.
Nearmyer is especially eager to welcome more priests this year, since the ranch’s Kapaun Priest House was completed in October 2021.
“We’re hoping that there will be more priests that can spend time down there and make reconciliation, Mass and some of the other different prayer experiences more readily available,” he said.
Camp’s theme for 2022 is: “Revival: Eucharistic Amazement.”
Coinciding with the eucharistic amazement campaign launching across the country this year, the archbishop hopes the theme will make campers more aware of Jesus’ unique presence during the Mass.
That presence, he said, can be experienced in a special way at Camp Tekakwitha.
“The camp provides an opportunity for young people to come to know Jesus and the richness of our Catholic faith,” said the archbishop. “The camp helps to renew and strengthen families.”
Deacon Nearmyer said the power of camp comes from the contrast of its exciting outdoor adventure activities and quiet prayer time in the chapel.
“We’ve watched kids that came in pretty anxious and burned out from all the tension that they’ve lived through during the school year and just thrive down there,” he said.
“There’s not too many new gizmos [this year],” he continued, “but the existing grounds and the fun things to do are really just medicine for the soul.”
Although Camp Tekakwitha was created for youth, entire families can get in on the fun this summer.
Prairie Star will host a family camp, as well as a camp for families who have a child with special needs and one for Spanish-speaking families.
Deacon Nearmyer stressed the importance of the brand-new Spanish camp since the community is “such a gift to the church” but has been hesitant to send their children to camp.
He hopes the opportunity for parents to experience camp with their children will ease their worries.
“The Hispanic community is so precious in our diocese,” he said. “We haven’t done our best job at reaching them during camp.
“We hope our Spanish family camp becomes a treasure, too.”
Registration for camp begins on Feb. 15. To view session dates and to register, visit the website at: archkck.org/camp.