Calling all campers

Registration opens soon for Tekakwitha sessions

by Jessica Langdon

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — No family member is ever too young to make a difference — in their family home or within their parish family.

That’s why, with Pope Francis planning a visit to Philadelphia this September for the World Meeting of Families, it made perfect sense to organizers to zero in on the family as a theme for Catholic youth summer camp sessions in 2015.

The theme for camp Kateri and Tekakwitha sessions this summer at Prairie Star Ranch in Williamsburg is “Love Is Our Mission: The Family Fully Alive,” said Deacon Dana Nearmyer, camp co-director and archdiocesan consultant for evangelization and Catholic formation of youth.

Registration for the summer sessions will open in the coming weeks for campers from fifth grade through high school.

January 27 is the opening day of registration for high school ses- sions, including the popular Tekakwitha Extreme camp.

Junior high registration for campers entering grades seven and eight starts Feb. 3.

And registration for Camp Kateri opens Feb. 10 for campers going into fifth and sixth grades.

Families with accounts from prior years should receive reminder emails.

Camp and registration information may be found by visiting the website at: www.archkck.org/camp.

While many camp sessions will still have space available into the spring, options can become limited, so Deacon Nearmyer encourages families to sign up and make their plans as early as possible.

One big change this year is that families that register online don’t have to mail in medical forms or other signed materials; those may simply be taken to camp instead.

While some areas in the archdiocese have long sent a lot of kids to camp, Deacon Nearmyer hopes to broaden camp’s appeal across the archdiocese through ReachKCK and rural outreach.

The camps saw their best year yet in the summer of 2014 with 1,832 campers, plus attendees of the annual family camp session.

The camps weave faith through days filled with fun activities, outdoor adventures and fellowship with friends.

This year, a donation of eight giant inflatables for the water will add to the experience.

“Our goal is really to get kids into the wilderness of the ranch, but also kind of [into] the wilderness of their spirituality,” said Deacon Nearmyer.

Deacon Nearmyer and his wife Deborah are co-directors of the camp.

Mary Jo Doherty, a parishioner of Church of the Ascension in Overland Park, talked with the Nearmyers about the camp when she traveled to Rome in 2012 with them for the canonization of St. Kateri Tekakwitha, for whom the camp is named.

Her grandson Derrick and granddaughter Micayla are not Catholic, but she was interested in sending them to camp to give them more exposure to God.

They attended camp in 2013.

“I’m telling you, it just blew my grandson away,” she said. “He really got something out of that week.”

Soon he wanted to have lunch with her.

He expressed interest in becoming Catholic.

Bringing the kids closer to God is vitally important to her.

“I hold it so close to my heart that, as camp’s rolling around again, it’s time to start talking about it again,” said Doherty. “I hope they can go this year, too.”

One goal is always to have kids come back from camp inspired to take on active roles in their parishes, said Deacon Nearmyer.

“We want to help them not only plug in at their parish, but to come home and be really active and tak- ing care of their part of family life: getting their homework done, doing their chores, and talking in a way that understands human dignity with their parents and brothers and sisters,” he said.

The sessions aspire to help young campers be the best person they were created to be in their current state of life — and for them, that is family life, he said.

“This year, the pope is really drawing a lot of attention to each person in the family pulling their weight,” he said. “A kid throwing a tantrum or a kid that is really just disengaged from the family can really bog down the family spirit.

“And to be able to reach into the kid’s life and give them meaning and purpose is part of our goal.”

About the author

Jessica Langdon

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