The shout by a counselor and was followed by a response from a small group of children, who moved quickly to become appropriately distanced.
While the response was rote, its meaning had an added dimension. At San Pedro Summer Camp, the cow-moo game offered a fun way to practice appropriate distancing by keeping a cow’s distance apart.
The game’s purpose was to establish and follow guidelines set by the Centers for Disease Control. The camp counselors take the guidelines to heart as they take care of others, a Marian characteristic emphasized in this year’s camp, “Out of This World.”
Campers are inspired to build and take care of their community. Visible displays of caring abound as campers play and worship while wearing face masks (despite the 90-degree weather) and frequently wash their hands.
“We’ve been very pleasantly surprised with the young ones,” said Lisa Karpinski, camp director. “We thought it would be really difficult for them to abide by social distancing and maintain the mask-wearing, but they’ve been on it.”
Fifth-grader, Chas, is in his second year at San Pedro Summer Camp in Winter Park. The 10-year-old said the Marian theme has taught him about trusting God and living differently. “(Mary’s) an example of caring for other people, forgiving people, and loving people,” he said, noting how everyone can “follow her steps.”
Although Chas’s favorite part about camp is making friends and hanging out with counselors, he said he appreciated what he learned. He said he thinks Mary’s example of trust will help him in daily life. Now, whenever facing fear, he said, “I would think of what San Pedro taught me about Mary — to stay calm.” “I would say ‘yes’ to God by praying every day when I go to sleep and by going to church every Sunday,” he added.
Kimmy Zeiler, program director, agreed. “Because of the support of the parents, the way they’ve entered into this mission with us and really accompanied us on this journey to still provide something, (summer camp) has been a huge success,” she said. “We’ve had the campers more willing and able to abide by our new social distancing and mask rules.”
Zeiler admitted she had anticipated more of a struggle in terms of following health safety guidelines. But that wasn’t the case.
“Our counselors and staff are so in sync with this — really seeing mask-wearing and social distancing as a way to care for others,” she said. “They’ve taken that to heart and are stepping up the game.”
Following CDC guidelines facilitated the Marian theme of letting go and embracing what God has in store. Counselor training has also made an impact.
“It ties in tremendously to the idea of surrendering to God and not being afraid. Of course, we’re taking every precaution, and more than the CDC requires,” Zeiler said. “I taught them how to share their witness, how to share their story of how they encountered God — why they love God and why they’re still Catholic.”
In training, each counselor shared their personal story and Zeiler found the need for a “sense of community” was an “overwhelming theme” amongst those who shared, along with understanding God’s role in community.
“(Also), trust in the goodness of God. That amidst everything, God is good and he has a plan and it’s a good plan. Those are two very Marian attributes,” she said. “If you think of all the stories of Mary in the bible, it was always in community. She replied ‘yes’ to God and immediately went to her cousin. Pentecost happened in the Upper Room. She was assumed into the Communion of Saints. Mary is all about community. … Her Magnificat speaks to the goodness of God.”
To help drive the lessons home, campers learned the joyful mysteries, made rosary bracelets, strung kindness (or sacrifice) beads, and spent time in Eucharistic Adoration – after which there was an opportunity to celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Aside from being eager to “get out of the house” after a long COVID-19 quarantine, 10-year-old Chloe said she looked forward to confession.
“When you’re done, it feels very nice,” she said. “It feels like things are clearer.”
She enjoyed learning the joyful mysteries and acting out in the skits depicting each mystery. She was the angel Gabriel in the Annunciation.
“I’m glad that I learned that (Mary) had a very close relationship with Jesus,” she said, adding she now sees Mary more as a mother. “It taught me to listen to my mom more.”
By Glenda Meekins of the Florida Catholic, July 22, 2020