Jill Boughton
Freelance Writer
March 28, 2023 // Diocese

Help Your Child Grow in Faith this Summer

Jill Boughton
Freelance Writer

When you hear the words “summer camp,” what comes to mind? Tents or cabins, s’mores over bonfires, mess halls, swimming holes, boating, archery, skits, silly songs? How about growing faith and continuing the great adventure of journeying with Jesus in the Catholic Church?

Begin with your own parish. Many churches offer a week of Vacation Bible School. Even better, your parish may host a Totus Tuus team for a week. During that time, four college students will live with parish families and run evening programs for middle and high school youth and daytime programs for younger children. According to the website, diocesefwsb.org/totus-tuus/, “The mission of the Totus Tuus summer program is to inspire in the next generation a true longing for holiness, a deep desire for daily conversion, and an openness to their vocation by constantly challenging them to give themselves to Christ through Mary’s example.” Participants this year will focus on the Lord’s Prayer and the luminous mysteries of the rosary.

Alivia Buescher of St. Vincent de Paul in Fort Wayne is seen here with her best friend enjoying ziplining at Catholic Youth Summer Camp in July of 2020.

Three diocesan parishes (St. Jude, South Bend, Sacred Hart, Lakeville, and St. Vincent de Paul, Fort Wayne) sponsor a Spirit-filled Catholic Youth Camp June 25-30 for children entering grades 4-6. The location is Camp Lutherwald in Howe. According to camp directors Dave and Jan Torma, these “fun and faith-filled days” are “designed to inspire the campers to deepen their love for Jesus Christ and their Catholic faith.” Mass is offered every day, with time for inspiration, worship, and testimony at flags and campfires. Fun activities include swimming, boating, crafts, an obstacle course, zip line, and climbing wall. More information can be found at stjudeparish.net.

Youth Service International, an Opus Dei outreach, sponsors a Leadership Camp June 11-17 for boys in grades 6-8. The Indiana location is Franklin L. Cary Boy Scout Camp east of Lafayette. This is an action-packed camp that “aims to help boys develop the skills and virtues necessary to be leaders.” Activities include morning classes on everything from film-making to self-defense, afternoon sports competitions, and evening activities like capture the flag, a treasure hunt, and a talent show. Daily Mass, Rosary, and confession are offered. Every morning, campers attend a talk on a specific virtue. Counselors guide them in applying leadership principles and lessons from those virtue talks to concrete situations that arise during normal camp activities. They help individual boys grow in self-knowledge and make resolutions to keep growing in character after camp. For more information, go to ysi.org/leadership-camp-indiana/.

Catholic Youth Camp runs June 25-30 in Howe, Indiana. More information can be found at stjudeparish.net.

Another camp for students entering grades 7-9 is Pine Hills Catholic Camp sponsored by Renewal Ministries. This is held at the YMCA’s Storer Camp in Jackson, Michigan. There is a Boys Camp from June 12-18 and a Girls Camp from Aug. 7-13, each expected to draw 200 campers and involve 100 service team members and counselors. Both camps are Jesus-centered and aim to enliven faith through talks, praise, and worship (“a nightly taste of heaven”), as well as the witness of spirit-filled counselors. They promote authentic friendships, with plenty of outdoor adventure thrown in. For the boys, leadership-formation is built in, with squads of boys from each grade level competing in an epic week-long conquest game. Girls explore their creativity and are encouraged to Be His, Be True (as beloved daughters of God), and Be Love (equipped to live in love as disciples in the world today).  More information can be found at pinehillscamp.com.

The University of St. Francis in Fort Wayne hosts Discovery Academy summer camps in 12 different areas of interest from healthcare to wilderness skills. There are day camps for younger children and overnight camps lasting from one to five nights. Of special interest to high school students wanting to deepen their faith is the July 9-13 Theology Institute with the theme “Beauty Will Save the World.” In this resident camp held on the college campus, participants will explore the Beauty of Creation, the Beauty of Art, The Beauty of the Body and Sexuality, the Beauty of Vocation, and the Beauty of Worship. The experience is co-sponsored by the theology department and the Assisi program (for leadership development among college students). In previous years, campers have completed writing an icon under the tutelage of Sister Jeana Visel, an iconographer at Saint Meinrad Seminary. This year, she will guide them through the beginning stages of making an icon, but the program has been broadened and deepened to include the other forms of beauty listed above. There will be enriching talks, discussion, and fun activities to round out the experience, including a nature hike, a Theology of the Body workshop with John and Claire Grabowski from Catholic University of America, Mass with Bishop Rhoades, and an interactive concert with local sacred music choir Ecce. For more information, visit sf.edu/about/camps-and-community-programs/.

Alivia Buescher of St. Vincent de Paul in Fort Wayne is seen here with other campers enjoying the worship and praise activities at Catholic Youth Summer Camp in July of 2020.

Last summer, 15-year-old Ethan Crumney of St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church participated in theology institute. He calls it “a unique and enjoyable experience. “I loved the theological discussions and Liturgy of the Hours,” he said. His mom, Mollie Crumney, said, “My son had a great time! I love that he had the opportunity to be independent on campus, focus on prayer through art, and build relationships with other teens who are serious about their faith.” She added that Ethan also attended Damascus Catholic Youth Summer Camp and observed, “He loved the intensity of CYSC but also appreciated the laid-back atmosphere at USF. There was a lot of time for reflection and conversation at the USF camp, while CYSC is heavily programmed from morning to night. Both fun, but very different!”

Similar beauty-related themes infuse Embody Theology Summer Institute for high school girls, being held July 16-21 on the campus of St. Mary’s University, Notre Dame. This six-day exploration of beauty, justice, and faith in action enables girls to meet others from around the country with similar passions and questions. Other objectives are learning about oneself and healthy self-care, developing pre-college academic skills, and discovering the true meaning of beauty. Besides Mass and liturgical prayer, other ways of praying are explored. Outreach opportunities in the local community aim at serving, not just helping. More information can be found at saintmarys.edu/embody-summer-theological-institute.

Notre Dame Vision and Holy Cross College Saints and Scholars are stand-alone programs, but are also scheduled so they can be experienced in tandem. They are designed for students entering through having just graduated from high school, who are ready to ask big questions like: How is God calling me to use my talents to serve the Church and the world? Participants will develop relationships with college mentors from Notre Dame, St. Mary’s, and Holy Cross as well as peers from all over the country, giving a more personal sense of the wider Church.


Vision, sponsored by the University of Notre Dame’s McGrath Institute for Church Life, offers “theological depth, accompaniment, prayer and reflection — and lots of fun,” according to the website. True to its name, it is designed to “sharpen your spiritual vision better to recognize God’s grace at work in your life.” There is also a track for youth leaders who bring groups of high school students. Although many local young people have visited the Notre Dame campus, living in a dorm for a week is a different experience and a foretaste of college life. Participants pray together daily and get to listen to nationally-known speakers then reflect in small groups. This year’s program definitely has a Eucharistic focus and will include a musical based on the Gospel of Luke which is being written for the National Eucharistic Congress in Indianapolis in the summer of 2024. The theme from Luke is, “My disciples hear the Word of God and act on it.” (Luke 8:21). You can find more information by visiting mcgrath.nd.edu/about/centers-initiatives-and-programs/notre-dame-vision/.

Holy Cross College Saints and Scholars, “one week that will change the way you see the world,” enables high school students to “pray with saints, learn with scholars, and heal the world.” Participants address the question, “What kind of saint is God calling me to be?” through prayer, community-building, and seminar discussions rooted in the Catholic intellectual tradition and guided by Notre Dame/Holy Cross faculty. Specific tracks, with relevant community service, include public health, media, ecology, education, and the visual arts. Go to hcc-nd.edu/saints-and-scholars/ for more information.

Damascus hosts Catholic Youth Summer Camps on its main campus in Centerburg, Ohio, as well as the Great Lakes campus in Brighton, Michigan. Information can be found at damascus.net/programs/catholic-youth-summer-camp.

Damascus hosts Catholic Youth Summer Camps on its main campus in Centerburg, Ohio, as well as the Great Lakes campus in Brighton, Michigan. There will be 4,500 middle school and high school students who attend one of the nine weeks offered this summer. They will be awakened, empowered, and equipped to live the adventure of the Catholic faith. Campers will experience high adventure activities on land, air, and water (high ropes, a giant swing, paintball, archery, tag, and a vertical playpen, along with water activities like a zipline and obstacle course on the lake). Through daily Mass and Prayer Lab, opportunities for adoration and reconciliation, they will find their faith energized through a deep personal encounter with Jesus. Community-building occurs in groups of nine with a missionary leader assigned to maximize the possibility of continuing relationships after they return home. Programming each evening creates an environment of encounter, using skits and dancing, teachings, and witness to help each camper get ready to take the next step in his relationship with God. Information can be found at damascus.net/programs/catholic-youth-summer-camp/.

Alivia Buescher of St. Vincent de Paul, Fort Wayne, and her best friend attended CYSC the summer before her senior year of high school. She was looking forward to swimming, high ropes, and paintball but thought the “Catholic part of camp would be boring; it was anything but boring! The talks were absolutely amazing, but what really inspired me was how the missionaries enthusiastically and unashamedly lived out their faith in every aspect of their lives — even when having fun. That showed me how our faith is supposed to saturate every aspect of our lives. I went into that week at probably the lowest point of my faith, and I came out a completely different person. Unlike other retreats where I got a ‘retreat high’ then went back to normal life, going to CYSC completely changed my ‘normal’ life.”

Will Gray, another St. Vincent de Paul parishioner, says his parents and Father Jay Horning encouraged him to go to CYSC in 2021. “I didn’t know what I needed to receive, so I just came with an open heart. I loved the high adventure activities, my small group, and getting hyped every night before the main event, but my favorite part was the night we had Adoration, Praise, and Worship. Singing to Jesus in the Monstrance, I was filled with the love of the Holy Spirit in a new way. That night changed my life forever. I didn’t want to lose this fire in my heart, so I invested more and more in my relationship with Jesus after I went home.” More information is available at cysc.com.

A five-day liturgical leadership conference for groups from a particular high school or youth program and their leaders is “One Bread, One Cup” at St. Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology. The program includes community-building, leadership development, catechesis, theological reflection, liturgical, and spiritual formation. Participants leave ready to sustain their faith community and take active roles in their parish liturgies. However, both sessions scheduled for this summer were already full long before the March 1 deadline. No group from our diocese participated last summer. Next fall would be a good time for Catholic

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