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Immersing Teens in Helping Others Through Camps

July 5, 2016

If this is July, then it’s the season for summer camps — but not exactly the camping experience of old.

Fr. John Peeters, center, celebrates at the Hearts of Hope opening Mass in 2015

Fr. John Peeters, center, celebrates at the Hearts of Hope opening Mass in 2015

At nearly all of the places where Viatorians minister, teens will head to camps aimed at immersing them in helping others. These camps combine a sense of community with Catholic social teaching, of peace, justice and serving others.

The Hearts of Hope Mission took place first. Associates Ken and Michelle Barrie led teens this week to Pembroke County, located 25 miles from their home parish, St. Patrick Church in Kankakee, for a week devoted to helping residents during the day and spiritual renewal at night.

“We’ve tried to take the kids to other places,” Michelle says, “but the kids want to return here. They have a heart for this place — and for the people.”

Teens from St. Thomas More help prepare food for Catholic Charities at the 2015 Camp LIGHT

Teens from St. Thomas More help prepare food for Catholic Charities at the 2015 Camp LIGHT

Camp LIGHT Work Camp also took place this week in Henderson, NV. Every other year, the Life Teen ministry at St. Thomas More Catholic Community organizes a parish-based camp, with more than 100 teens spreading out across Las Vegas and its suburban region to help serve the marginalized. At night, they return for Mass and spiritually uplifting programs that always involve music. The camp is so popular, its enrollment filled up immediately in May and a waiting list formed.

Fr. Dan Hall works with campers at the Province Center garden during the 2014 Service & Song Camp

Fr. Dan Hall works with campers at the Province Center garden during the 2014 Service & Song Camp

Next week, the Service & Song Camp opens at Saint Viator High School. Conceived by Fr. Corey Brost, CSV, the fourth annual day camp revolves around the mantra: Praise, serve, live. Junior high campers are divided into two tracks: one that revolves around hands-on service, both in the surrounding neighborhoods and with local service agencies; as well as the other where young musicians learn to perform liturgical music. They open and close each session of the camp.

“Our intention was to let students directly serve those most in need in the local community,” Fr. Brost said in 2013 when it launched, “and learn why service is at the heart of a lived-out Catholic faith.”

Viatorian Youth Congress delegates celebrate at Mass during the 2015 Viatorian Youth Congress

Viatorian Youth Congress delegates celebrate at Mass during the 2015 Viatorian Youth Congress

The Viatorians’ signature program is its Viatorian Youth Congress, which opens July 25.  Now in its seventh year, the gathering draws more than 50 high school delegates — and one dozen college aged leaders — from where Viatorians minister, to a four-day congress filled with leadership and faith formation experiences.

Their congress includes prayer services, workshops, discussion groups, and nightly Masses. A highlight is meeting and interviewing Viatorian associates, brothers and priests and learning about their varied ministries.

Associate Karen Cutler directs the camp for the first time this year and she promises to involve more Viatorians than ever with student delegates.