Boys' Summer Camp in Blairsville (Georgia), USA, summer of 2016.
We began the camp on a very positive note with a visit to Rod Nobrega, the father of Father Matthew Nobrega, Servant Priest of the Home of the Mother. Rod was in hospital in an unconscious state after he suffered from an anxiety attack that put him in a coma for three months. Before arriving at the campsite, we all met at Assumption parish in Jacksonville to have Mass with the boys and their families. By God´s providence, after leaving Jacksonville Fr. Joseph, Fr. Peter, Delores and I were able to stop at the halfway point in Atlanta to give the anointing of the sick to Rod, ten days before he passed away. Faith, Mrs. Nobrega, was living the difficult situation with much strength from the Lord, as she was there by his side to comfort him throughout the last three months of his life. After hearing the news during the boys' camp in Florida that he had passed away, we were able to accompany Fr. Matthew to the funeral shortly after the Florida camp ended.
This year’s theme for both camps, “All for the Glory of God,” was inspired by the passing of Sister Clare and the five candidates in the earthquake of April 16th in Ecuador. After a Holy Week Encounter in Playa Prieta, one of the Servant Priests complimented her on how great the music was in the Liturgy. She humbly responded: “All for the Glory of God.” Every day in the camp when the Blessed Sacrament was exposed, we had a meditation that was centered on one of the sisters that died in the earthquake. The priests and I shared a brief biography of their lives and challenged the boys and ourselves to follow their example. One memorable meditation that really helped the boys pray was when Fr. Peter read a letter of Jazmina directed to her friend, which contained phrases like these: “When your heart is not inflamed with love, many will freeze to death…. Think of everything that God has given you up until now. And you… have you given Him anything in return yet?”
Having Adoration and Mass in the outdoors, surrounded by nature, was one of the things that the boys enjoyed most during the camp, as well as all the hikes and sports they played. This year fourteen boys attended the Georgia camp. We also had three adults who helped cook the food and also gave medical attention to the boys. They were a great group of volunteers: Kevin Hernandez, Steve Paglioca, and Mike Miller. Also, Rich Dittus, Fr. Peter's brother, came for a couple days to help with the music in the Liturgy.
Each day we were able to go on waterfall hikes with the boys. Shortly after arriving, we discovered High Shoals Falls Trail, which had two beautiful waterfalls; one which the boys swam and jumped off of into a deep pool at the base, and at the second one we prayed the rosary. The most difficult hike for the boys was Panther Creek Trail, which was a six mile hike and in the midway point there was a waterfall where the boys were able to swim. And of course, we couldn't miss the opportunity to go to Tallulah Falls, with the sliding Rock. The boys enjoyed the gorgeous views, jumping from rock to rock, sliding down the waterfall, and climbing up the countless steps to finish off the hike.
The boys were also able to receive formation talks, the guiding theme of which was “Two types of persecution: East and West.” The talks were centered on the gender ideology, New Age, yoga and Spiritism, separation of Church and State, and the last day was dedicated to the persecuted Church. The campers expressed interest in the New Age topics, as many were surprised and disgusted by the pantheistic beliefs, where man is no longer a creature but puts himself in the center as if he were God.
At the campsite the boys slept in tents in their teams. One day it rained a lot, as we were surprised to see when we returned from our hike. The tents were soaked, with some of their clothes and sleeping bags wet. The Lord was offering them a test, so that they could offer up this little suffering.
One of the more profound reflections that one of the boys shared from camp was: “I realized that I have been asking God for everything, but I haven't ever said thank You.” On the last night one boy entered the Home of the Mother of the Youth and three others renewed their commitments. We give thanks to God for the Georgia camp and we hope that the boys will water the seed that has been planted in their hearts at the camp.