Boys’ Camp in El Triunfo, Guayaquil (Ecuador), April 2017
This year we wanted to make Sr. Clare the main protector saint of our camp, even though she is not a canonized saint just yet. The theme for this years’ camp was “All or Nothing” to encourage the youth to give their lives totally to the Lord and our Blessed Mother just like Sr. Clare did.
We decided to have one summer camp, older boys and younger boys together. There was a total of 16 younger boys and 17 older boys. Br. Luke Demasi was in charge of the older guys, who were divided into three groups. The names of their groups were St. Maximilian Kolbe, St. John Bosco and Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati. Br. Ben Gurries was in charge of the little ones, who were also divided into three groups: the Shepherd Children of Fatima, St. Jose Luis Sanchez del Rio, and St. Dominic Savio. Fr. Dominic helped to buy the food that we would eat each day, and also by giving us our spiritual food, that is, the Eucharist and Confession.
To create excitement and motivate the campers, we made a game up with a visual point system. It was a mountain made of cardstock that each team had to "climb." Each night we evaluated each team to see who won points for having practiced different virtues throughout the day, such as obedience, piety, joy, etc. We also saw which teams lost points because of vices, such as anger, laziness, selfishness, etc. At the end of the day, each team was able to see how they were advancing on the ascent to holiness.
The camp this year took place in “El Triunfo,” which is one hour away from Guayaquil, in a place called “pedacito del cielo” which means “A piece of Heaven.” There we had at our disposal four pools, a volleyball court, a chapel, a grotto to Our Lady, a big room where we were able to see videos, and a cabin with 30 beds, each one with a screen to protect against mosquitoes. We cannot forget to mention our great team of cooks during the camp: Loli, Virginia, Magali and Yoli. One day they made a cake for John Jairo Ullaguari who celebrated his birthday, and throughout the whole week the campers sang, “The cooks are awesome,” to thank them for their meals and deserts.
To nourish the boys spiritually, we had a daily formation talk, Mass, Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, and Rosary. The formation talks for the older boys had to do with ideologies, the current political situation, chastity, etc. With the younger boys we watched Catholic Stuff episodes about prayer, spiritual combat, and the three enemies of the soul (the devil, the world and the flesh). After seeing each episode, we split up into three groups to reflect about what we had learned and to get something practical for our spiritual life out of it.
During play time, the boys played sports games each morning such as rugby, hand ball, flag football, dodgeball, and they even learned how to play a decent game of baseball. Their favorite sport, hands down, was soccer. However, the boys did enjoy the other sports where they had to learn how to play according to the rules and they had to be humble about not knowing how to play. This was something that was very good for them and it made them more humble with regards to their athletic abilities. On the last day, the boys participated in the Iron Man Challenge in which they were challenged both physically and mentally. They had to go through different stages such as running, doing push-ups, skipping rocks, juggling a bottle, throwing a ball and make it go through a tube, swimming, and responding to different questions about the camp. The winners were Alex Calle for the younger ones and Jaime Zumba for the older ones.
One of the things that the boys enjoyed the most during camp was swimming in the four pools. This year we had two giant blow-up tires and the boys were able to jump onto them, make waves, play basketball and play water polo. A couple of times in the circular pool we made a whirlpool and the boys were able to feel what it was like to be in the middle of a very strong current and how hard it was to go against the current. This taught us how the world many times offers us an easy path that eventually leads to our death and how hard it is to fight against that current.
At night we played different games: strategy games, Murder in the dark, capture the flag, etc. We also had a rosary procession with an image of Our Lady of Guadalupe which we carried on our shoulders and which ended up in the grotto of Our Lady. We also had a Eucharistic procession, carrying the Blessed Sacrament to two altars that we had prepared for Him in the middle of the campgrounds.
Since we were still in Lent when the camp took place, we used that as an opportunity to pray the Way of the Cross every day. One night we saw a movie about the martyrs of the Cristero War, and St. José Luis Sánchez del Río especially stood out to us from that. This made us reflect on whether or not we are ready to suffer for Christ, especially in our everyday lives where we have to die to ourselves by overcoming our laziness, suffer being made fun of, etc. During camp one of the most common cheers that could be heard on the campgrounds was “Viva Cristo Rey" (Long live Christ the King).
We can’t forget that a camp just isn’t a camp without a hike in the mountains. For this we had to go on a bus to a place called Bucay where we started our hike up the mountain for two hours. We stopped by a river to rest, have lunch, and enjoy nature. Going down the mountain we prayed the rosary and gave thanks to Our Blessed Mother for giving us such a beautiful day.
The craft during this years’ camp consisted in making rosaries. The boys were certainly tried in their patience because it was hard for them to learn how to make the knot for the rosary, but they persevered until the end.
On the last night each team put on a skit that they had prepared during the week. It was a great opportunity for the boys to overcome their shyness and create an environment of joy and laughter. After that, we gave prizes for the best camper, the best team, the person who overcame himself the most, the most pious person, the winner of the Iron Man Challenge, etc. We also gave prizes to the cooks in gratitude for their hard work during the week. One of the cooks, Magaly made a small speech saying that this camp had been a gift for her and a privilege because so many young people today are stuck in drugs and impurity, and the atmosphere of our camp was totally different.
We are so happy with how the camp turned out. Now we have to pray so that the seeds that have been planted will give fruit in the boys’ lives. We will keep working with these boys so that we can help them on their way to holiness.