Catholic Youth Camp wants kids to have an experience at camp that will inspire them to seek a lifelong relationship with God, said Natalie King, CYC director for the past four years.
As she looks forward to her fifth summer and CYC’s 65th anniversary, King said that the counselors and staff are excited and eager to talk about the importance of their faith and having Jesus in their lives.
“The people who are drawn to Catholic Youth Camp — both campers and the staff — are pretty fired up about their faith,” she said. “The group I have this year is very passionate about their faith. I have several who have been on NET traveling around doing missionary work with that. I have several who want to be youth ministers.”
King said the main thing she wants in counselors is an excitement about sharing their faith with kids and getting kids excited about their faith.
One of the benefits of CYC is that it shows kids a different way to pray and discover God, King said.
“We start every day with morning holy ground, which is prayer or reflection and song and a challenge for the day. We end every day with praise and worship. We have presentations, Mass once a week, nightly devotions and ministry activities,” she said. “The bigger thing — and what makes us more powerful — is kids are seeing prayer in a different way. Prayer can be done in a canoe, prayer can be done in the middle of the woods.”
Former campers sending kids
Brenda and Mike Czarnik are among those former campers and camp counselors who began sending their children (Justis, 15; Liberty, 12; Honor, 9; Hero, 9) to Catholic Youth Camp.
“We actually met at a camp conference over 20 years ago,” the Czarniks wrote in and email interview. “At camp, you learn that even the small tasks given to you are important to the successful operation of the camp as a whole . . . being a camp counselor helped us to realize that by serving others, we are also serving the Lord.”
The Czarniks said that they were impressed by Justis’ experience at Catholic Youth Camp.
“His counselor from his first summer, Justin, helped bring him out of his shell — to become more confident with his social abilities. Now it is difficult for us as his parents to put him back in his shell and stop talking,” they joked.
Justis wrote that, “Being at camp gets you excited about your faith. What I have experienced at camp has made Mass more important and meaningful to me.”
The Czarniks, who attend Holy Childhood in St. Paul, said that camp helps children “experience independence in a safe environment.”
“We believe that when children are given meaningful opportunities to experience God on their own level, it sticks with them into adulthood,” the Czarniks wrote. “This reason is exactly the opportunity they receive at CYC.”
Emily and Greg Mailand, members of Assumption in St. Paul, said that their children “can’t wait to go” to camp each year. This year will be the first for John, 7, and follow-ups for Therese, 16; Mary, 14; Anna, 12; and Clare, 9.
“One big reason our kids love CYC is the awesome staff people. Our girls have said how inspiring they are,” Emily wrote. “There are lots of camps out there, but Greg and I feel good about sending our kids to a camp that is Catholic in its focus. Our Catholic faith is the center of our family. Attending CYC is one more way to reinforce the faith.”
One fond memory the Mailand girls share is the year of the “Mailand sweep.” Each girl won an award for a camp activity: Therese for dance, Mary for drama, Clare for art and Anna for fishing.
“I guess what we are saying is ‘CYC is the place to be,’” Emily said.
Catholic Youth Camp is available to youth from 7 to 17 years old. Sessions begin Sunday and end Friday for youth in first through sixth grade, fourth through ninth grade and seventh through ninth grade. Campers stay in cabins with boys or girls their age and a camp counselor. Information and registration is available online at http://www.cycamp.org.
Photos Courtesy Catholic Youth Camp
What: A family fun day with alumni, campers and counselors to celebrate 65 years of Catholic Youth Camp.
Activities: Canoeing, arts and crafts, singing, games, meal available for purchase, meet the staff and tour the camp.
Time: 11 a.m. through 6 p.m.
Date: Sunday, May 20.
Place: Big Sandy Lake in McGregor.
Instructions: Bring sunscreen, shoes that can get wet, whatever you need to be outdoors.