I spent the last week up in Wausau, Wisconsin volunteering as a counselor at the Institute’s Girls Camp! Even though it didn’t stop me from getting blistering sunburns on my face and 45 degrees was a little too cold at night, we were very grateful for the cool weather during the day. The camp is very similar to your traditional outdoor camps, but the Catholic presence in every minute of every day makes it so much more amazing!
The camp was split up into teams; each having a color, country to represent, and a patron saint from that country. My team was yellow, from China, and our patron saint was St. Agatha Lin!
Each team took time to learn about their Saint and incorporate their lives and their countries culture into as much as possible! Unfortunately, we don’t know much about St. Agatha Lin, but we did know that she was a martyr who was beheaded for teaching the catechism in China. Taking her example to heart one of the ways we imitated her, was that throughout the week we challenged each other to learn more about our Faith, to teach others about different devotions we had, and put questions in the designated question box for the Canon’s to answer.
We also incorporated China into everything we could! Our team cheer invoked our Patron Saint. I would shout “St. Agatha Lin” and they would yell out “Pray for us, Huángsé” Which is a (very rough, I’m sure) translation of “Yellow”; as in pray for the yellow team (us!!). During the cooking contest (most stressful event of the week), we prepared traditional stir fry, along with crab rangoon and fortune cookies!
YES, I made fortune cookies from scratch ON A GRILL! You should be impressed. My girls did a fabulous job and even wrote out hilarious fortunes. The Canon’s got “You will have a great sneeze” and “You will suddenly become allergic to chocolate.”
One of the most impressive aspects of the camp was the respect, charity, humility, and discipline instilled in just about every single one of those girls. There is always a select few troublesome ones, but for the most part, those girls were much better campers than I would have been at that age. We had a really rigorous schedule with keeping them up until 10pm (or later), up at 6:00am for Mass at 6:30am, and long periods of silence. They showed a lot of discipline in dropping everything at the shrill of the whistle to race, line up, and see what Canon wanted us to do. Their devotion at Mass, in going to confession, during our nightly rosary, and eagerness to answer theological questions was also beautiful to see. I felt a little intimidated by the knowledge these girls had of their faith and how few of questions *I* could actually answer.
One of questions that came up was “What is actual grace?”. I saw a few hands go up, but this was a pretty hard one as one by one the older girls kept getting it wrong. Finally after about 5 wrong answers, one of my 9 year olds started to slowly raise her hand. I told her to put it up really high (since she was so small Canon probably couldn’t see her), and finally he came over and asked her to answer it. Quickly and matter-of-factly she recites:
“Actual grace is the supernatural help from God which enlightens our intellect and strengthens our faith”
I didn’t know the answer before but I’m certainly not going to forget it now! That moment is so impressed into my memory!
This might sound silly, but it was also very relieving to be in an environment where “normal” girls wore their faith on their sleeves. Our personalities were wide and incredibly varied (not just those stereotypical conservative catholic ideals). We wore skirts for every event (Living proof that you *can* do just about everything in a skirt), didn’t worry about our scapulars sticking out of our clothes, and could openly discuss our faith while applying it to the miniscule events we encountered! I learned more about what being a Catholic really “looks” like when we can radiate our Faith in so many different aspects.
The Abbé’s also poked a bit of fun by telling the girls about a horrible CIA experiment gone wrong, called a Jackalope. It is a cross between a jackrabbit, antelope, and vampire bat which can run at speeds of 100 mph, jump over 50 feet, and although it was trained to kill farm animals (to hopefully ruin Russia’s economy), it escaped and is learning to eat humans. We had warning signs throughout the camp property, brightly colored team bandanas around our necks to scare them off, and a special Jackalope alarm. When we heard the alarm, we had to drop to the ground and cover our necks. Although most of the kids figured our “attacks” weren’t real, we even had the older ones believing that it at least existed since the Abbé’s were incredible at presenting the most ridiculous facts with utter seriousness.
Overall my wonderful girls were not exceptional athletes, cooks, or artists as we only placed 6th out of 8 teams for the week. However, my girls all had great personalities and made the entire week so much fun! I wish I could go back next year, but since I will be in Scotland, I will have to wait until I get back!