by Olivia Martin
WILLIAMSBURG — Kathryn Hurd was only two years old when she attended Camp Tekakwitha here for the first time.
But it’s her attendance each of the 17 summers since that sets her apart.
Hurd and her family, members of St. Paul Parish in Olathe, attended Family Camp when it was first offered in 2001. She continued going to Family Camp until she was old enough to go to camp on her own.
“It was my first exposure to young people living out their faith and having fun with it,” said Hurd.
There are people around who still remember that first visit.
“It’s been a remarkable experience,” said Deacon Dana Nearmyer, the founder and director of Camp Tekakwitha, “to watch [Kathryn] go from a toddler to this very incredible, vibrant young woman.”
“The Hurds as a family are definitely one of the few families who have been totally in from the beginning and continue to be a part of the camp’s story,” he added.
Hurd did not stop with camp attendance. Last year she worked as a counselor at the camp, and this year serves on the vaunted Blue Team, on which detailed experience of camp is a requisite.
In addition to producing a total of three camp counselors — siblings Erin and Sarah have served as counselors, too — parents Marissa and Dennis Hurd have made the trip to Williamsburg each year to pray over the counselors and staff as they arrive at camp for the summer.
“They keep a journal of all the staff names,” said Deacon Nearmyer, “and pray for them every day during the summer and school year.
“It’s a pretty unique thing.”
The life of camp has made such an impact on Hurd, she can’t help but follow her desire to give back to the place and the people that have impacted her so much — even those she knew while still quite small.
“When I was very little, I had this crazy friendship with a counselor named Jared Cheek,” said Hurd. “He was a seminarian for the archdiocese and was the complete opposite of my personality — he was very loud and boisterous!”
Hurd recalled the fun of riding on Cheek’s shoulders and writing pen-pal letters before Cheek, who became a seminarian for the archdiocese, was killed in a car accident in 2005 along with fellow seminarian Matty Molnar.
“All of my counselors have been amazing,” she said, although she found Cheek especially so.
Hurd attributes much of her knowledge of conflict management and different leadership styles to growing up watching her counselors handle those situations.
“My senior year cabin counselor . . . really opened my eyes to being present in conversations,” she said. “My cabin had two totally different personalities, but she realized that and helped us create bonds that bridged those personalities.
“That was very impactful for me.”
Spiritual food for the road
Camp Tekakwitha is a place for youth to experience the truth of Catholicism, receive the sacraments, participate in Bible study and enjoy time for reflection and prayer each day — not to mention have a blast at a camp renowned for its water activities, high ropes and more.
But for Hurd, it’s the spiritual component that has become indispensable.
Prayer at camp, said Hurd, is different from the rest of the year because of its magnitude and intensity.
“It re-centers me,” she said. “Witnessing other people praying and living out their faith gives me tools for the rest of the year — to reconnect with them and to imitate them and make that my own, too.”
Now a student at Kansas State University in Manhattan, Hurd spends nine months of the year as part of a Catholic community outside of camp.
“Camp, for a long time, was the only Catholic community that I saw really being on fire,” she said. “Luckily, I found the same [fire] . . . in college with St. Isidore’s Catholic Student Center.
“Camp gave me the ability to see and recognize Catholic communities that are on fire and ready to spread the news out in the world.”
A different way to lead
Camp certainly has been a time of heightened self-learning for Hurd, requiring her to stretch herself in ways that haven’t always come naturally.
“One of the biggest things I’ve learned,” said Hurd, “is that there are a lot of different types of leadership.”
Hurd said that in high school she was hard on herself for not being an obvious leader because of her quiet, introverted personality.
However, she has come to see that leaders come in many shapes and sizes.
“Invest[ing] heavily in small groups of people is one of my strengths,” she said, “[and] being able to recognize my own gifts as a leader has empowered me to be a better leader.”
These leadership skills landed Hurd with a position on the Blue Team this year. Blue Team members assist with many managerial tasks to ensure camp runs smoothly — a position that requires strong leadership, compassion and interpersonal skills.
Allie Foster, assistant director of Camp Tekakwitha, has known Hurd for eight years as a camper, counselor and now as a Blue Team member.
“Kathryn is an outstanding servant- leader,” said Foster.
“When she interacts with campers, staff members and Blue Team,” she said, “she focuses on how she can help them, pray for them and support them in their mission at camp.”
Nicole Tubbesing, from Holy Trinity Parish in Lenexa, has also known Hurd for years.
The two met during high school and their friendship blossomed at camp, leading them to work together as counselors and now as a counselor and Blue Team member.
Each week, Hurd meets with Tubbesing to discuss prayer life, potential improvements and to provide performance feedback.
Tubbesing never dreads these meetings because of the gentleness of Hurd’s quiet leadership and genuine desire to be helpful. She couldn’t be happier having a friend for a guide.
“It’s really easy to open up to her,” said Tubbesing. “If something is wrong, she can tell right away even if I don’t want to say it.
“[Hurd] helps me with my prayer life . . . [by] showing me the ways she prays and the ways she finds God in moments throughout the summer.”
Tubbesing is also continuously struck by Hurd’s capacity to lovingly give constructive correction.
“Even though [Hurd] is on Blue Team,” said Tubbesing, “every interaction she has is as a friend — it’s not as a boss.
“She tells you things because she wants you to be better. It’s for the other person at all times and is always full of joy and love.”