Catholic Youth Expeditions celebrates 10 years

By | July 4, 2012

The concept of Catholic Youth Expeditions was born 10 years ago when Fr. Quinn Mann was a seminarian.


“I had grown up in Door County so I had known a lot about the natural beauty of the county,” said Fr. Mann, who worked at Holy Name Retreat House on Chambers Island as a youth. “So when I was in seminary, I was praying before the Blessed Sacrament and I was inspired by God to come up with a mission statement: ‘To encounter Jesus Christ and foster Catholic Christian community through expedition retreats of prayer, proclamation of the Gospel, and outdoor adventure.’

1223CYE-logo-web2“In 2002 we took seven young adults — some of them acquaintances, and some that I had just met — and we left from Holy Spirit Parish after a Sunday morning Mass to take a three-day retreat expedition on Chambers Island,” he added.

On that trip was Fr. Walter Stumpf, who remembers the spontaneity of those first days.

“I was just taking my cue from Fr. Quinn,” Fr. Stumpf explained. “He said this is something we should do for the new evangelization and meet the young people where they’re at. Do something faith filled and something fun. … Actually I had some of my first spiritual direction at Catholic Youth Expedition.”

Spurring vocations

Also along was Fr. Luke Strand, now a priest of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. On one night at camp he announced his intention to enter seminary, the first of many examples of the Spirit moving young people toward vocations through the vehicle of Catholic Youth Expeditions.

History of CYE

2002: CYE embarks on its first expedition with seven young adults to Chambers Island in Door County.

2006: Fr. Quinn Mann, CYE founder, is ordained at St. Francis Xavier Cathedral in Green Bay.

2008: CYE Base Camp opens its doors on Wisconsin Avenue in Appleton.

2009: Green Bay Diocese leases St. Joseph Formation Center for CYE’s exclusive use.

  • Fr. Mann is named associate vocation director for the diocese.
  • Peggy Duemling, former Missionary of Charity, joins CYE leadership team.

2010: CYE begins first missionary intern apostolate season during the academic year in the Fox Valley.

  • CYE leases Bethany House, a four-bedroom residential home for female missionary interns, located across from St. Pius X in Appleton.

2012: CYE’s 10th anniversary year is highlighted by its first Catholicfest celebration in Door County.

More information about Catholic Youth Expeditions is available at

There are 25 staff members for the 2012 summer season. The group is comprised of several new faces, as well as many veterans, either as summer staff or as missionary interns during the academic year. There are three sets of siblings, as well as one staff member who has made the first two-year commitment for what is being called the “Youth Ministry Missionary Apostolate” and who will be the point person for the Base Camp storefront in Appleton.


The schedule for 2012 includes the first extreme expedition set entirely in Door County. Known as “DC-80,” this 10-day young adult expedition is open to present and past staff only and will be guided by a local outfitter. Also on the schedule are four young adult, four high school and one middle school retreat.

A reason to celebrate

“First and foremost, (it has been) 10 years, so there’s cause for celebration,” said Fr. Mann. “And that’s really the biggest reason for the weekend: to celebrate in thanksgiving to God for so much of what has happened for young people through the apostolate.”

Peggy Duemling, who joined CYE’s leadership team in 2009, looks forward to all those attending to enjoy the artists, to relax, to enter into prayer, and to be at peace in God’s creation. Duemling hopes visitors will witness God revealing himself through the arts and through nature. “It’s just a beautiful time for families,” she noted. “To be a part of the Catholic community that’s here. I’m really excited to serve them, those who come.”

The second purpose of the festival is to bring together artists, musicians, filmmakers and writers, whose work reflects what Fr. Mann refers to as “the good, the true and the beautiful.”

“Those things are definable,” Fr. Mann said. The artists “share their gifts and it also becomes exciting for families to find (these) resources.”

Venue to showcase talents

Fr. Mann hopes to provide a venue to both showcase and support the artists that participate, as well as to offer a spiritual respite to help nurture and encourage their craft. And Door County, which is known as a haven for the arts, is the perfect setting.

“I think it would be a shame if we didn’t do something that is authentically Catholic,” he said, “because Catholicism is meant to preserve the arts, is meant to foster and engender the good, the true and the beautiful. We need to give artists a space, a place to be able to do that.”

Fr. Mann sees Catholicfest as the beginning of another potential ministry. He hopes that one day St. Joseph Formation Center will be frequented by artists, who come for a retreat experience in community with CYE staff and in turn contribute their talent by performing for youth and young adults on expedition during their stay.

“If you’re out there in the world of art, in music or in film or literature,” Fr. Mann explained, “because radical secularism is so strong, it’s difficult to retain your Catholicism. So we want to provide a place where they can gather strength for their work … a behind-the-scenes place for the artist, where they can be part of a Catholic Christian community and be supported in what they do so they have the strength to be able to go out there and engage the world.”

One name on the list of Catholicfest artists that may come as a surprise to some is painter Liz Lemon Swindle, who is Mormon, but whose emotion-evoking and lifelike biblical images have become popular in Catholic and other Christian gift shops and households across the country, enough so that her work has received endorsement by way of a blessing from Pope Benedict XVI.

Fr. Mann was first introduced to the artist’s work while visiting On This Rock bookstore in Oshkosh, and was particularly moved by one piece, an image of Jesus pulling Peter from the water. He noted that there is a campaign to get a copy of Swindle’s portrait of Christ into every household in the United States, free of charge. The non-profit organization Picture of Christ ( will be providing prints to be handed out to every family that attends Catholicfest.

“There might be some obvious differences, but there’s some things that we can (meet) on common ground about,” said Fr. Mann. “Imagery, and the use of imagery to bring Christ to the world, is important.”

Catholicfest on the waterfront

The festival’s main stage will be outside, on the waterfront. Club Genesius will also be used to hold speaking events, and there will also be workshops, such as a “St. Joseph Carpenter Workshop” led by Paul Heidel, the new on-site property manager. Kurt Krauss, former CYE staff member, will be showing clips from his current project, a full-length feature called “Confessions of a Sailor.”

While the deadline for full weekend registration has passed, day passes ($50 family; $30 individual) are still available and can be purchased in advance at Base Camp in Appleton or at the event.

A mobile Base Camp will be set up for hot dogs, coffee and other snacks. Proceeds from food and beverage sales will go toward a Nicaraguan mission trip and for Base Camp. Registered families, teens and young adults will have the opportunity to camp on site for the duration of the festival, and nearby neighbors are offering parking in their fields for the overflow parking.

Catholicfest is intended to be a major fund-raising event, which, if successful, could become an annual occurrence.

Related Posts

Scroll to Top