ALLOUEZ — Large barn-style doors open on the sides of the chapel at Camp Tekakwitha. One side offers a scenic view of the woods. Look out the opposite doors for a glimpse of Loon Lake.
Opening up the space not only highlights the sights of nature, but also the sounds.
“There is no better place to start an outdoor education camp,” said Eric Blumreich, camp director. “Believe it or not, you can get eighth graders into that chapel, open the doors and ask them to spend 60 seconds in silence just listening to how the breeze blows and for the noises in God’s creation, and they will do it.”
The summer camp season at Camp Tekakwitha opens in June. The Shawano County site, which began as a Catholic girls summer camp 88 years ago, provides campfires, canoeing, archery, games, songs and other activities in a faith environment. Each day begins and ends with prayer.
Registration for the diocesan summer camp opened earlier this year than in previous years. In early February, Blumreich reported that 132 campers had registered compared to only 11 at that time a year ago. Camp Tekakwitha receives support through the Bishop’s Appeal and is featured in this year’s appeal video. Blumreich said that the increased exposure from the video may result in all camp spots being filled this summer.
Stephen Zepp, a seminarian for the Diocese of Green Bay, will serve as a counselor at Camp Tekakwitha for the third consecutive summer. Fr. Daniel Schuster, vocation director for the Diocese of Green Bay, recommended that he consider camp ministry.
“I wanted to work somewhere where I would have that interaction with the kids and be able to kind of share my love for God and spread the faith a little bit,” said Zepp in an interview for the appeal video.
“The ministry here at camp might change lives by bringing some of the kids closer to God and if not closer to God, at least closer to the realization that religion isn’t always just going to church,” he added. “It also can help kids to really interact with other people in a way that they haven’t before. And find some new role models and hopefully learn something about the way that a good Christian lives.”
New this summer are leadership development opportunities for teens. Separate groups for boys and girls, ages 15 to 17, will begin the week at Camp Tekakwitha before traveling to the Door Peninsula for three days of kayaking and camping at Rock Island State Park. Door County Adventure Center will lead the activities. A co-ed leadership camp for ages 14 to 17 in July will include a day trip to Wildman Adventures in Silver Cliff for rafting and a ropes course.
“We noticed that we didn’t have an opportunity for kids who have been going to camp for years and loved camp, to really do something once they aged out of the traditional summer camp format,” said Blumreich. “We surveyed parents last year, in order to get some ideas for older campers. The intention of these leadership camps is not just to be a future counselor at camp, but to develop skills and self-confidence that can be used in whatever they do.”
Physical site changes continue to enhance the camp experience. A course made from mostly recycled materials was added last year. Blumreich said that renovations to create a year-round nature center with meeting and classroom spaces are a goal.
Camp Tekakwitha is available for groups year-round. The non-summer season is “not only building up, but filling up,” said Blumreich.
“Catholic schools are deciding to do a camp,” he said. “That’s been growing over the past four years. We have a good location for most of the schools in the diocese. We do the programming. We are focused on outdoor education, teambuilding and leadership development with strong faith integration. That’s what separates us from other camps. We are here as a ministry for the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay.”
School retreats, confirmation retreats, staff outings, Foundational Catechetical Certification classes, the annual Family Day Retreat and other group events filled 150 days at camp last year in addition to the summer camp season.
“This site is here to serve everyone in the diocese,” said Blumreich. “If there is an open day, if somebody is looking for a space to have a retreat, we are able to accommodate.” For more information, go to www.camptekakwitha.org.