MANITOWOC — Sarah Major hadn’t visited Wisconsin before.
But that changed once she heard about Camp Franciscan.
Major, 18, of Baton Rouge, La., was among 57 young women who flocked to the Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity motherhouse to participate in the camp, which was held June 17-20.
Major knew sisters serving in Greenwood, Miss., which is how she learned about Camp Franciscan, first held in 2007. She used the camp as an opportunity to not only take part in fun, faith-based activities with other young women, but also to see the motherhouse, interact with as many sisters as possible, and determine whether the Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity was an order she felt comfortable joining.
“The camp has been great and this place really feels like home for me,” Major said. “I fit right in. The way the sisters act, they joke around and have fun. I like to be funny and joke around, too. Everything just fits for me. It’s not all prayers.”
Camp participants, who ranged from sixth graders to college students, stayed at the motherhouse, allowing them to interact closely with dozens of sisters, nearly all of whom contributed to camp activities in one way or another.
Among the numerous activities: making purses, creating photo boxes, embroidering note cards, acting in skits, singing songs, experiencing cultural dances and going on a prayer pilgrimage.
The camp drew the maximum number of participants. In addition to Louisiana and Wisconsin (10 parishes in the Diocese of Green Bay were represented), campers hailed from Illinois, Nebraska, Texas, Arizona and Mississippi. A leadership orientation program for older campers was held the first official day of camp.
One of the camp leaders was Emily Biese, 18, the niece of Sr. Natalie Binversie, the community director for the Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity.
Biese, who lives in rural St. Nazianz, was attending camp for the sixth straight year.
“It’s a lot of fun,” she said. “I like helping other people out. And I like the group sessions and doing activities with everyone else. You learn new things every year.”
Biese added that she continues attending camp in honor of her grandmother, Rita, who passed away last year after being very supportive of her attendance at previous camps.
Sr. Regina Rose Pearson, emcee for Camp Franciscan, said the event is “about creating opportunities — opportunities for young women to see the joy that can be found in a life of Christ as well as to join others who share their faith.”
The sisters also want to provide an opportunity for young women to discern God’s call for them, she said, “by creating experiences of love, faith and prayer. … All in all, it really is a very special few days, and I believe that the Holy Spirit works through every encounter we experience in these days.”
This year’s theme was “Christ for Every Nation, Christ for All the World.” That theme was addressed to campers and sisters alike on June 18 during a morning Mass led by Fr. Brian Wideman, who was ordained last month as a priest in the Diocese of Green Bay.
“In a world that has become very small for so many, we wanted them to be aware of the vastness of Christ’s spirit, which extends beyond them, their school, their home and even their country,” Sr. Regina Rose said.
Sr. Pamela Catherine Peasel, who served as co-emcee for the camp, was happy to be helping lead this year’s activities.
She was a participant at Camp Franciscan in 2008, when she was a 28-year-old discerning her call to religious life. She said the camp experience helped solidify her decision to join the Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity not long after camp ended.
“I want to reflect the joy of religious life to the younger girls here at camp,” Sr. Pamela Catherine said. “I want to help show them how joyful we are and share our lives with them and create bonds with them.”