Boys' Summer Camp in Hawthorne (Florida), USA, summer of 2016.
After a day and a half´s rest after our Georgia Summer Camp, we were back in action, this time with the younger boys at Camp Kateri in Hawthorne, Florida. With the opening Mass, Fr. Joseph Valle, S.H.M, celebrated his first ever Mass at an HM camp. He was also an HM camper when he met the Home years ago, so he was able to share his personal experiences on how the summer camp changed his life, to the point that on returning home from camp his mom questioned him: ¨Joseph, why are you ironing the clothes?¨
We continued with the same theme from the older boys' camp: “All for the Glory of God,” giving the meditations based on the lives of Sister Clare and the five candidates.
For the formation talks, we spoke about the seven capital sins and their opposing virtues. Months before camp Fr. Joseph prepared a board game in which each team begins from the city of Jerusalem advancing day by day by conquering each capital sin and finishing at the gates of Babylon by conquering pride with the virtue of humility. Each day, the teams had to conquer each vice while playing a game called the “Boss fights” in order to advance. Each team gained glory points based on their virtuous behavior in camp: obedience, piety, joyfulness, promptness, etc.
The boys slept in treehouses, in which each treehouse had two bunk beds, which they had to keep clean. We played sports and went to the Lake every day. There are two lakes on the property where the boys went swimming, jumping off the dock, fishing, kayaking or just playing in the sand.
Mass, Adoration, and the Rosary were always the central moments of the day. They also had daily chores, where each team was assigned to the Liturgy (altar serving), Washing the Dishes, Serving or Cleaning the Bathrooms. The chores were the test to challenge their virtues, teaching them to overcome themselves.
Thursday evening we had a Eucharistic procession. The boys helped decorate different altars around the campsite, showing their creativity. They searched throughout the forest to find plants and grapes to make a worthy altar. During the procession we sang songs to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament as we carried Him throughout the campsite.
On the final day the annual Iron Man competition was held, as the monitors helped prepare each station of the obstacle course. The competition was not only a physical test, but also an intellectual one: we asked them questions on the main topics that were discussed throughout the week, like for example, the seven capital sins. For the final test Fr. Joseph was waiting at the finish line with a Gatorade jug, and all the boys were dying of thirst. The test involved figuring out that they had to serve Gatorade to others before taking a drink for themselves. It took ten minutes for them to figure it out, as many drank the Gatorade first, until Christophe Farrell shouted “I got it!” and offered Fr. Joseph a drink before taking a drink himself. He won the final test.
The last night we celebrated with pizza, campfire, and fireworks. Around the campfire the boys shared their thoughts on their experiences in the camp. Many enjoyed Mass and Adoration. We also asked them how many wanted to become priests. Around ten to twelve boys raised their hands. We asked them why and one boy responded: “I think it would be really cool to have the Eucharist in my hands.”
We finished off the camp with Adoration, a Rosary walk around the campground, and Mass. We hope that the boys had a personal encounter with Our Lord and Our Lady, and that they all become saints!