By Marty Denzer
Catholic Key Reporter
KANSAS CITY — Greg Doring was a senior in high school when he invited seven buddies to spend a weekend on his family’s houseboat at Lake Pomme de Terre in southwest Missouri. The weekend was so much fun that he decided to host it again the following year.
“We had such a great time,” he said, “we wanted to do it again. Somebody told a friend about it, and the friend came, and so on. It grew organically.”
Now celebrating its 20th anniversary, Nature’s Call Camp out for Catholic young adults will be held at Pomme de Terre over Labor Day Weekend, Aug. 30 – Sept. 1. Hosted by the Band of Brothers group of City on a Hill, the cost is $20 per person, and will include golf, boating, hiking, relaxing, camp fires, a dance band and dance, even a dirt track race course. Campers bring their own tent chairs and food.
It was initially intended as an unstructured, wholesome weekend, and for the first few years, that’s just what it was, a nameless weekend getaway. Then “it was funny, a guy told me he had really enjoyed the beauty of nature and ‘the retreat,’” Doring recalled. “We incorporated the ideas of a retreat and nature into the name, Nature’s Call. The whole concept is one of ‘carefree timelessness.’” In his book, The Rhythm of Life, Catholic writer Matthew Kelly describes carefree timelessness as spending uninterrupted, quality time with people in your life that you want to get to know better and/or build meaningful relationships. “That’s a big part of the appeal,” Doring added, “to relax and meet new friends.”
The event has grown a bit each year, and now averages about 150 campers each fall. “As I grew in my Catholic identity, so did the weekend,” Doring said. In the last decade or so, priests from the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph have joined in the fun and added a spiritual fillip to the outing. Mass is celebrated, confessions can be heard, and conversations around the campfire might spark new faith.
A priest from Kansas City is planning to drop in for a few hours on Aug. 30 to celebrate Mass and hear confessions. Others are finalizing plans.
David DiNuzzo, Director of the diocesan Office of Young Adult and Campus Ministry, is looking forward to his first Nature’s Call weekend. “Greg’s been after me for years to go,” he said. “This year I’m going. It promises to be totally open and easy. The Young Adult group is easy-going and fun-loving and fun to be around. The goal is to get young people ‘into’ their vocations, whether it’s marriage, the priesthood or religious life, and this is a fun way to go.” DiNuzzo, as well as a few others, plan to bring their families.
The camp out has been a boost for the Young Adult Ministry, he said, great friendships, and some marriages, have resulted from the weekend.
Doring laughed and agreed. “Over the years there have been 10 or 12 marriages that started with introductions at Nature’s Call, including my own.” Doring and his wife, Adrienne, met at one of the camp outs. And last year, he said two proposals occurred during the weekend.
Nature’s Call is “1/3 camp out; 1/3 retreat and 1/3 tailgating party,” he added.
“The campsite near Elkton is beautiful, and only about 2 hours from south Kansas City,” Doring said. “Within just a few hours after people start arriving, a tent city springs up at the site. And there’s more room in the suburbs of the tent city for young adults to join us.”
In the beginning it was word of mouth that helped the camp out grow, but more recently social media has come into play. Through Facebook, its website and other outlets, word has spread about Nature’s Call, beyond the diocese. The camp out now averages 150 or so campers annually. DiNuzzo said that the ministry would love to see young adults from other regional dioceses join those from Kansas City- St. Joseph at Pomme de Terre on Labor Day weekend. “Wichita, Tulsa, Jefferson City, Lincoln (Neb.), St. Louis, Kansas City, Kan., maybe even Little Rock. We’re hoping for 200 campers this year. On Twitter, our hashtag is #200for20.”
Doring said he would like to see Nature’s Call grow as far as the Holy Spirit wants to take it. “So far so good,” he said, “we’ve been blessed.”
If you would like to participate in Nature’s Call or for more information, visit naturescall.org. The site explains the event, saying,” Just imagine the best Labor Day weekend you’ve ever had. Now take it and multiply it by at least 1000. Now you’re getting close to understanding just how great Nature’s Call is. Imagine yourself and a few hundred of your best friends going down to the lake and simply enjoying God’s creation.” Everything you need to know is on the site.