Campers prepare for the kingdom

WINTER PARK | Despite the heat, campers at San Pedro Spiritual Development Center’s middle school overnight camp enjoyed the Florida sun and grew in their faith through talks, interactive programs, Mass and Adoration. From canoeing to swimming and outdoor games, the sixth through eighth-graders learned “The Kingdom Awaits”.

“We talked about God and His love for us; about His open arms that are always waiting for us, inviting us to heaven,” said Gwyn, a 13-year-old from Most Precious Blood Parish who returned for her fourth year. She says every year she looks forward “to learning about God while having fun” and playing some of her favorite games.

Eleven-year-old John Paul was back for a second year. Both he and Gwyn attend St. Mary Magdalen Catholic School. John Paul says at summer camp, “They teach us about God, but in a fun way that’s so much easier to learn.”

“The talks (for middle schoolers) are a little different and they go into more detail,” says Gwyn. John Paul adds, “(The counselors) go into their life experience of God and how they got into God and how He is there for you. They’re kids like us. We haven’t really experienced anything, but they have, so it helps us see God is out there for us.”

This year’s lead counselor is Lisa Karpinski, a former camper herself for five summers, who is serving her third year as a counselor. “It’s such a loving environment and welcoming community. I enjoy being a big part of the campers’ lives. It’s rewarding to see how shy they are when they come and how open they become and how spiritually filled they are in just a week.” Her sentiments echo those of her team.

James Martin is a counselor from St. Isaac Jogues Parish in Orlando and is part of Catholic Campus Ministry at the University of Central Florida. “I love the camp and being able to live out my faith and teach it to them (campers) is really empowering. This isn’t just the future of the Church, but also the present.”

This year’s theme, The Kingdom Awaits, focuses on living the promises of Christ in the present, and looking forward to the heavenly kingdom that awaits the faithful. Each day the theme is broken up into related topics: the king, the trust, the kinship, the sacred, and we are royals. Karpinski says the focus “how we are going to reach (heaven) as a family, as a unit, as a community, holding each other accountable and getting there together… understanding the gifts and talents God gives each person and how we use them to spread God’s love and Word in the world.” She adds, “We explain to the campers that we are this big puzzle and we are each a puzzle piece. If you take one piece out, the picture is not complete… We are all a part of it, special and important in this family.” To help bring the teaching home, they will conclude with a charity project, making “diaper cakes”, packages of diapers made to look like a cake, for the Pregnancy Center of Oviedo.

John Paul says camp helps him carry his faith into his everyday life. “I think this place is awesome. It goes really deep into your faith and tells you about it so you know more. It really opens your heart to new things.”

By Glenda Meekins of the Florida Catholic – June 13, 2019