By Marty Denzer
Catholic Key Reporter
KANSAS CITY — A new diocesan week-long summer camp opens in a few months for junior high kids who want to play and pray, hard. Camp Savio, at Maur Hill-Mount Academy in Atchison, Kan., will offer a week of the sacraments, adventures and prayer June 10-15 and June 17-22, led by trained college students.
For a number of years, youth ministers in the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph took junior high school students to LifeTeen Youth Ministry’s Rockyvine Camp in the St. Louis archdiocese for a week each summer. In 2010 however, a tornado seriously damaged Rockyvine, forcing it to close.
The following year, Diane Pickert, Youth Director for St. Gabriel Archangel Parish and Tim Volk, Director of Youth Ministries for St. Therese-North Parish in Parkville, organized a week-long camp at Maur Hill-Mount Academy, a private, Catholic boarding school in Atchison, Kan. The academy had a long tradition of camp-hosting, a tradition which had ended as the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas developed Camp Kateri Tekawitha in Williamsburg.
Maur Hill’s president, Phil Baneiwicz, former LifeTeen vice-president and a staunch supporter of youth ministry, willingly rented the dormitory facilities and grounds to Pickert and Volk. The camp was called “Edge Camp,” after a successful LifeTeen summer camp.
St. Gabriel parishioners and parents Sandra and Kent Scheuler served as chaperones for the week-long camp in both 2011 and 2012. “It was a lot of fun,” Sandra said. “The camp was run by trained, and very enthusiastic, college kids, so we helped set up activities for the campers. We slept in the dorm, and watched over and did things with the campers, and we’re still sane! Kent did get dishpan hands washing dishes,” she added.
The couple has four children who have or are attending St. Gabriel School, and their involvement with the youth camp dates back to their oldest daughter’s first time attending Rockyvine Camp. “She was in the 7th grade and didn’t want to go all by herself. So I went with her,” Sandra said. “The next year her younger sister went to Rockyvine also, and they had a great time. Our oldest is now 20, so we’ve been doing this a long time.” The camp was organized independently of the diocesan Youth Office, with staffing supplied by both St. Gabriel’s and St. Therese-North parishes, and insurance provided by St. Therese. After that first year, 2011, St. Therese decided that, as many of the campers were not St. Therese parishioners, the parish could no longer pay for the insurance. Pickert and Volk turned to the Youth Office.
Understanding the value of the summer camp ministry, Director Jon Schaffhausen and the Youth Office assumed primary responsibility for the camp’s finances and insurance so that it could continue to serve the youth of the diocese.
Edge Camp 2012 was considered a great success, Schaffhausen said, with about 100 junior high students in attendance, with chaperones and 30 staff members. Camper and chaperone feedback was overwhelmingly positive, he said, and Maur Hill continues to regard the camp as a valuable mission and promotional partner. However, since the camp was now under the direction of the diocesan Youth Office, it was decided to change the name. The name “Edge Camp” is associated with LifeTeen, which could discourage those who thought they had to be a LifeTeen youth group to attend. With the idea of attracting more kids to the camp, the Youth Office sent out a survey and poll of several teenaged saints’ names to youth and youth ministers. The name Camp Savio, honoring St. Dominic Savio, was selected.
Dominic Savio was only 15 when he died in 1857. While studying to be a priest under St. John Bosco, he was known as an ordinary boy with an extraordinary love for God. He wrote four promises in his journal the day he received his First Communion in 1849: 1. “I will go to confession and Holy Communion as often as I am allowed to;” 2. “Sundays and holy days belong completely to God;” 3. “Jesus and Mary will be my best friends,” and 4. “Death but not sin.”
Canonized in 1954 by Pope Pius XII on the basis of having lived a holy life, Dominic Savio is the youngest non-martyr to be canonized a saint.
Schaffhausen said he thinks St. Dominic Savio will be a fantastic role model for the campers. For, as Pope Pius XII argued to those who thought Savio too young to be a saint, no one is too young—or too old or too anything else—to achieve what we are all called to be, saints.
Like the camp’s namesake, the focus will be on ordinary kids with extraordinary love for God. They will, as camp co-founder Tim Volk said, play hard and pray harder.
“The St. Gabe’s Youth Group,” who with Diane Pickert, are some of the people working to get Camp Savio going, “are really dynamic,” Sandra Scheule said. “They’ve established a level of experiencing faith, of praise and worship that’s wonderful. They’ve had guest speakers at meetings that really connect with the kids. The speakers are funny, but faith-filled. They’re like kids themselves, but grown up.”
Mornings and afternoons will be filled with a variety of games, activities, and adventures (team building activities, messy games, mud pit, low ropes, obstacle courses, field games, and more), and nightly retreat-like sessions that revolve around the yearly camp theme, which this year is “Fearless 2013!”
There will be opportunities for the sacraments – Reconciliation, Adoration, and daily Mass. An off-site day will be spent at Schlitterbahn Water Park, and there will be free time to shop at the campus general store.
From what she’s experienced at Edge Camp and heard about Camp Savio, Sandra thinks the camp will be “a mountaintop experience” for the campers. “The importance of the sacraments in our lives will be brought home to the campers, but in a real-world, non-classroom type of way,” she said. “Kids are drawn to the fun and they quickly discover there’s time for fun and time for respect and reverence. Camp Savio will be both physically challenging and faith-filled. Campers, camp staff and the chaperones can all learn more about what their faith can mean to them.”
Schaffhausen said campers must attend in a group sponsored by a parish. If a junior high student wishes to attend Camp Savio and his or her parish is not sponsoring a group, they can contact Schaffhausen or Katie Troup, the Youth Office assistant to connect with a sponsored group.
Catholic, faith-and-fun-based summer camps have the potential to impact thousands of people over time, Schaffhausen added. They promote vocations among both campers and staff members, he said, as well as create a culture of mission that carries over into careers in ministry, family life and committed participation in parish life.
A summer camp that is well run, with strong leadership and stable finances, will create a lasting legacy of faith in the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph. “We’re talking 25 to 30 years from now, when the children of today’s campers attend Camp Savio like their moms or dads did,” Schaffhausen said.
Junior high and college students, parents, parish youth ministers and other interested people can learn more about Camp Savio by attending the Camp Savio Kickoff from 7-9 p.m., March 22, the Cardinal Baum Room of the Catholic Center, 20 W. 9 Street, Kansas City. During the informal reception to introduce the new diocesan camp, there will be a promotional video, speakers and testimonies from campers and staff, and of course, refreshments. There will also be information on supporting and registering for the two summer sessions. For more information, visit www.campsavio.com/kickoff.