Camp Tekawitha has been on a path of increasing its numbers and programs for our children, ages 7 to 14. Located near Shawano Lake, this camp has been physically renovated and restored in the last several years, thanks to the generosity of many people like you. Our goal is to pack this camp every week with youth by providing an atmosphere of dynamic proclamation of the Gospel along with loads of fun.
This summer alone the estimated number of participants has been around 500. While there is potential for welcoming many more kids, you can see that the camp is being discovered again by a new generation. Under the leadership of our diocesan youth minister, Eric Blumreich, Camp Tekawitha is developing a growth plan to make more children and parents aware of this great facility.
I encourage you to send your children or grandchildren to this camp. Training for some teens in leadership has enriched the experience of the youth. Next year the camp will be used for confirmation retreats, unique environmental study programs by our Catholic schools, and an enhanced Catholic identity component to the camp presentations so that the campers will know more and feel more a part of the church.
Catholic Youth Expeditions
Catholic Youth Expeditions, begun by our own Fr. Quinn Mann, is in its second year of operation at the former St. Joseph retreat house on Kangaroo Lake in Door County. This youth retreat experience in the wilderness is literally saving souls and is giving meaning to young people, sometimes for the first time in their lives. In this environment, our young people are able to connect to the book of nature in an extraordinary way by experiencing the outdoors, some, also, for the very first time. They explore the book of God’s love for them through exploration of the Bible and the lives of great heroes of our faith, the saints, and through an experience of Christian community.
Peggy Duemling assists the effort by helping to form the young women. There is a leadership training process for the CYEs through which 31 college-age student volunteers assisted the youth. This summer the CYE touched nearly 850 young people. I am so happy to report to you that many of our seminarians help out with these programs as part of their summer formation in their home diocese.
Young adult ministry
Our young adult office, under the leadership of Julianne Donlon-Stanz, hosted several young adult events as we strive to fulfill the mission of the pastoral letter that highlights reaching out in new ways to these people. Their programs included a “Spirituality and Sushi” night, a “Faith and Freedom” night around the Fourth of July and “You and the Universe” in August. All of these events were very well attended and the young adults enjoyed the opportunity to engage with one another and with diocesan leadership. The diocese also joined with St. Peter the Fisherman Parish to co-sponsor a series of young adult events in Two Rivers.
World Youth Day
This past Sunday marked the conclusion of the 26th World Youth Day in Madrid, Spain. The office of young adult ministry, led by Jennifer Lee, coordinated this trip. Fr. Daniel Schuster, our vocations director, was the spiritual director. World Youth Day is a life-changing, week-long spiritual journey where pilgrims from all over the world unite to share their faith. The week includes prayer, song, concerts, drama, sharing, liturgy, catechesis and an unforgettable vigil and closing Mass with the Holy Father.
The 26 pilgrims from the Diocese of Green Bay included seminarians, priests and young lay men and women. While our number of participants was small, Jennifer, Fr. Schuster and the Frs. Sember (Ben and Joel) report that it was a great experience for all of them. Being with over 1.5 million young people throughout the world who come to pray with the Holy Father and with one another is an extraordinary experience. I was not able to go this year, but have attended four World Youth Day experiences in various parts of the world in the past. There are always great benefits from these trips for those who make the experience. The next World Youth Day will be in Rio de Janeiro in 2013!
A new opportunity presented itself this summer when I had the privilege to celebrate Mass for nearly 1,000 Catholic young people, their families and friends at the 13th annual Lifest Christian music festival in Oshkosh. More than 20,000 Christian youth attend this five-day event and this Mass was the first one celebrated by the Catholic bishop of Green Bay. The diocese was able to reach thousands of young people through the presence of representatives from evangelization and worship, vocations, communications, The Compass and education departments. Fr. Dan Schuster anchored our expanded campsite area, which offered daily prayer, rosary, Mass, confession and food throughout the festival. It was a great opportunity to reach out to all the youth with special attention to our Catholic population and those from other Christian groups.
Catholic soccer camp
In July, a Catholic soccer camp for boys was hosted locally by Jeff and Tina Pallini. There have been so many other experiences in our parishes for children and youth. They are too numerous to list in the space of this short column.
Certainly after hearing the past year all of your dreams for youth and young adults in the diocese, you can see just through the things that I have written about that many wonderful initiatives are happening here in the Diocese of Green Bay. It remains our challenge to get youth and young adults and adults who have fallen out of the habit of attending Sunday Mass to engage with their faith in a more dynamic and active way.
This truly has been a youth and young adult event-filled summer. I think all of you will join me in thanking God that so much good is happening with and for our youth and young people. Let’s thank God and thank all those in leadership who are making it happen.