by Joe Bollig
WILLIAMSBURG — Has he ever been tempted to take a ride down the Prairie Star Ranch zip line?
No. Archbishop Emeritus James P. Keleher is quite content now to experience the physically demanding aspects of the ranch vicariously through the young campers and counselors.
But the spiritual aspects — well, that’s more to his liking.
The 15th anniversary of the camp’s founding was celebrated on July 28 with a Mass by Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann and with other activities. Archbishop Keleher could not attend, but he visited campers earlier in the month.
“Not only does the camp inspire the young people,” said Archbishop Keleher of his visit. “Those young people inspire me and help my faith as well.
“In a world where there is such confusion and sometimes neglect of faith and love of God, for an old guy like me to see the faith of these youths — the counselors, campers and administrators — is an inspiration, to be sure.”
It was 15 years ago that Archbishop Keleher, inspired by the teachings of the Second Vatican Council, sent Msgr. Thomas Tank on a mission to find a place to build a youth camp. And he did — at a failed dude ranch on nearly 300 acres about an hour south of Kansas City.
With a lot of work and the financial support of some very generous covisionaries, the camp was established. The rolling prairies, which recall the limitless sea, inspired Archbishop Keleher to borrow from a Marian antiphon used in night prayer to name the camp Prairie Star Ranch.
It heartens Archbishop Keleher tremendously to see that the camp has produced good fruits, and will continue doing so under the beneficial direction of Archbishop Naumann.
“Archbishop Naumann and I have mutual missions and dreams,” he said. “There’s nothing I’ve started that he hasn’t enhanced and made better.”