Archdiocese Local

Camp Tekakwitha registration opens online Jan. 30

Camp Tekakwitha in Williamsburg not only provides campers with many exciting outdoor activities, including horseback riding, mountain biking and water slides, but also a peaceful space to grow deeper in faith through prayer experiences. LEAVEN PHOTO BY JAY SOLDNER

by Moira Cullings

WILLIAMSBURG — According to a 2017 study published by Saint Mary’s Press in Winona, Minnesota,  74% of Catholics who left the faith said they stopped identifying as Catholic between the ages of 10 and 20.

The median age at which participants stopped identifying with the faith was 13 years old.

“We know that young people need to experience a Catholic Church that speaks to them comprehensively,” said Deacon Dana Nearmyer, “not just intellectually.”

The deacon, who is the  co-director and co-founder of Camp Tekakwitha at Prairie Star Ranch in Williamsburg, said youth desire a welcoming church, genuine friendships and a community rooted in faith.

“They want to ask sincere, hard questions,” he said. “They do not want to be judged, and they want deep, concise, authentic answers to the questions.

“This is what Camp Tekakwitha does.”

Registration for the archdiocesan summer camp, which has provided youth with faith-based adventures for more than two decades, is opening soon. (See sidebars for camp dates and registration information.)

Junior high youth let out a cheer during their time at Camp Tekakwitha at Prairie Star Ranch in Williamsburg during the summer of 2023. Registration for 2024 camps opens soon. LEAVEN PHOTO BY JAY SOLDNER

Youth who attend the camp will have the opportunity to participate in exciting outdoor activities, including horseback riding, mountain biking, water slides and more.

They’ll discover a peaceful space to grow deeper in faith through prayer experiences and meaningful conversations.

And this year, the experience will be elevated thanks to improvements that are part of the ranch’s 10-year master plan.

The plan includes simple fixes like creating systematic paint schemes, as well as more elaborate enhancements like additional lodging, said Deacon Nearmyer.

Some of these are underway while others will require time for fundraising.

“Numerous beautification projects have been completed since last year,” said Deacon Nearmyer, “including enhanced tile in cabin showers, improved road drainage, adding subterranean propane tanks and new lodge siding and paint color.

“The overall effect of the cumulative changes is an even more beautiful and comfortable setting for Camp Tekakwitha.”

Deacon Nearmyer and the camp staff are thrilled by the plan they’ve created for improvements.

“But we concentrated most deeply on finding and forming extraordinary counselors and staff so that the faith will be shared authentically in exciting, deep ways that campers understand and embrace,” he said.

Camp dates

Junior High 1: June 3-8
Kateri 1: June 10-12
Family Camp Special Needs: June 14-16
Junior High 2: June 17-22
Kateri 2: June 24-26
Family Camp III Spanish: June 28-30
Kateri 3: July 8-10
Family Camp 1: July 12-14
Junior High 3: July 15-20
Sr. High Extreme: July 22-28
Women’s Retreat (women 18+): April 26-28

Register for camp

Registration opens online for 2024 camps as follows:

High School Extreme (campers entering 9th-12th grades this fall), Women’s Retreat and all Family Camps: Jan. 30 at 9 a.m.

Jr. High 7th/8th Grade Middle School Camps (campers entering 7th/8th grades this fall): Feb. 6 at 9 a.m.

5th/6th Grade Kateri Camps (campers entering 5th/6th grade this fall): Feb. 13 at 9 a.m.

To register or for more information, go online to:

About the author

Moira Cullings

Moira attended St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Overland Park and Benedictine College in Atchison. She majored in marketing, minored in psychology and played center midfield for the women’s soccer team. Moira joined The Leaven staff as a feature writer and social media editor in 2015. After a move to Denver, Moira resumed her full-time position at The Leaven and continues to write and manage the website, social media channels and Archbishop Naumann's Facebook page. Her favorite assignment was traveling to the Holy Land to take photos for a group pilgrimage in 2019.

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