Connect: With God, Myself, Others and the Church

“In the Gospel of John, Jesus reminds us: ‘I am always at work, and my Father is always at work.’ That action was wonderfully evident during the entire camp.” 
Fr. John Pietropaoli, LC

Challenge Clubs from the northeast held their annual Challenge Camp during the week of July 17-23 at Incarnation Center in Ivoryton, CT. More than thirty 5th through 12th-grade girls from Connecticut, New Hampshire, New York, and New Jersey participated in the camp. This year’s theme was “Connect: With God, Myself, Others and the Church”. The goal of the camp was for the girls to learn ways to form authentic connections, have a deeper relationship with Jesus through prayer, and approach their own self-discovery from a Godly perspective.

The young ladies worked together in age-appropriate peer groups led by high school-age team leaders who would guide their girls through the events of the day. Each day started with Morning Prayer and a short meditation led by Elizabeth Stromberg, a Consecrated Woman of Regnum Christi. Later in the day team leaders led their group in a daily Gospel reflection. Each evening ended with Night Prayers which included another short mediation. At the end of the week, many of the girls commented that the times for prayer and reflection were the highlight of their day.

As Chaplain, Fr. John Pietropaoli, LC accompanied the campers throughout the week by offering Mass and Confessions as well as daily “PowWow with Padre” Q&A sessions. Fr. John shared, “Each day we would discuss questions about God, about the nature of reality, about the Church, about truth, about freedom about our relationship with Christ and our new life in Him. I was very humbled to explore those questions with the campers, and to witness their desire to know Jesus Christ, the Way, the Truth, and the Life.”

The camp included fun activities such as water balloon fights, Capture the Flag, and “Messy Olympics.” This traditional event involves the girls moving from station to station where they would do things like jumping jacks and playing Simon says. The “messy” part came into play when they were doused in whipped cream, chocolate syrup, confectionary sugar, etc. making these girls “sweeter” than they already were. After the Olympics, the girls walked down to jump into the lake!

Walking to the beautiful spring-fed lake for swimming was part of the daily schedule. Swim time at the lake, along with special activities such as the waterslide and the low ropes team-building course created other opportunities for the girls to make authentic connections with their peers.

During the week, each group of girls worked on decorating small altars with flowers and various sacramentals, in advance of Thursday’s Eucharistic Procession. Each group also wrote a prayer to Our Lord that was read at each altar as they processed throughout the camp. In total, there were 6 altars to visit. The Eucharistic Procession was held in preparation for making the ECYD Pledge of Friendship. The Pledge includes age-appropriate prayer and commitments such as daily morning and night prayers and striving to live the ECYD virtues of sincerity, obedience, generosity, purity, joy, charity, and apostolic zeal.

After the Eucharistic Procession, the girls had the opportunity to make a special visit to Our Lord during nocturnal adoration. Many of these young ladies expressed how special this intimate time with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament was for them. As Father John noted, “To see everyone before our Lord, in silent prayer, brought to mind His joy when we visit Him in the Blessed Sacrament. As Proverbs 8:31 puts it, his ‘delight is to be with the children of men.’ ”

At the end of the week, the girls had the opportunity to share what they liked best about camp. Many mentioned that spending a week without their mobile devices had actually helped them get to know their friends better, and they realized they had more fun because they were not constantly on their phones.

Many of the young ladies who participate in Challenge Camp return each year to be reunited with their friends from camp. Several girls who started out as campers and then became team leaders are now heading off to college. They had these thoughts to share:

“Challenge Camp is definitely the one thing I look forward to each year. It’s amazing to be a team leader and to help my girls grow in their faith.”  – Katherine, NJ

“My first year I didn’t really know what to expect, I just clicked with my team right away. I’m so grateful for having all the leaders that helped me, I feel so lucky that I have been in this position to grow with Challenge and now to be a team leader. I told the girls to cherish their time here, (at Camp) because it’s only one week of the year and you fill it with so many emotions in so little time. I feel so blessed”.  -Amanda, NJ

Summer Challenge Camp 2023 will be held during the week of July 16-22. If you know a young lady who would enjoy spending a week growing in faith and friendship with other young ladies, we hope you will consider signing her up for next year’s camp!

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