A time for fun & faith
By Jay Nies
St. Catherine of Siena was a confident, faith-filled woman who let God use her to strengthen His Church and make His world a better place.
She and other great saints were the inspiration for Camp Sienna, a five-day summer experience for high-school-age girls of the Jefferson City diocese.
Twenty-two teens took part in the July 27-31 camp at St. Patrick parish in Laurie.
“It’s a camp for young women, planned by women and was inspired by God,” said Marybeth Hunton, events coordinator for the diocesan Vocations and Youth Ministry offices.
“And it’s been awesome!” she said.
Organizers designed Camp Siena to be “a week-long camp/retreat of swimming, playing, serving, and time to hear witness and experience growth and encouragement on how to be Christian women in today’s world.”
This year’s theme was “Women of Joy.”
Each day focused on one of the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary: the Annunciation (trust), the Visitation (faith); the Nativity (God’s plan); the Presentation (friendship); and the Finding of Jesus in the Temple (total commitment).
Campers rode ziplines near the Lake of the Ozarks; played “Musical Bingo” with the residents of Laurie Care Center; and spent most of a day getting to know participants in Camp Wonderland for people with developmental disabilities.
The young women took part in an outdoor scavenger hunt on the Laurie parish property and tested their coordination with an unusual obstacle course.
Volunteers served as chaperones, prepared meals and organized each day’s activities.
What friends are for
On the day dedicated to the Presentation, the young women focused on friendship and prayed for their friends.
Julie Watts, a Macon native who lives in Columbia, talked about the importance of being in the right kind of friendships.
By that, she meant the ones that bear fruit in this life and will continue to do so in the next.
“If your friendships are helping you become a positive person, the woman God created you to be, then great! Continue to put a lot into those friendships,” said Ms. Watts.
“But if your friendships are leading you away from God,” she continued, “then maybe you should think about creating new friendships or seeing if you can be the positive influence in your group.”
She also cautioned against negativity and gossip, which poisons friendships.
Later, the young women and the volunteers gathered in the chapel, where a bowl of sand had been placed before the altar.
Each participant received a small candle.
“We invite you to thank God for those friendships and present your prayers for your friends to the Lord, symbolized by the light of your candle,” said volunteer Chelsea Schuster of Camdenton.
One by one, each young woman came forward to light her candle, state the name of a friend she was praying for, and set the candle in the sand.
As the circle of candles grew, so did the light they gave.
“The light of Christ that we have in us by virtue of our baptism — see how much brighter it shines when we pray together!” said Ms. Schuster. “See how much more God can work through us when we’re united!”
She noted that God made people to be in friendship with one another — “the kind of friendship that is centered on Christ and lets His light shine through.”
“I didn’t want to leave”
Camille Akers of St. Clement parish in St. Clement arrived at Camp Siena without knowing anyone else there.
By bedtime, she felt like she had 21 new friends.
“The people are so welcoming, I felt right at home,” she said.
Katerina Careaga of St. Peter parish in Jefferson City didn’t find out about Camp Siena until the day before it started.
A friend who had gone previously insisted that she should go and that she’d love it.
“And I’m just really glad I’m here,” she said. “I’m already feeling the benefits.”
Katerina and Camille especially enjoyed their time at Laurie Care Center and Camp Wonderland.
“The people at the Care Center were really happy to see us,” said Camille. “It did our hearts well. It was great!”
“‘Musical Bingo’ was so much fun, even though we didn’t know too many of the songs,” said Katerina.
The next day, the campers did some service work at Camp Wonderland, which is for people ages 6 and up who have developmental disabilities.
Then the young women got to play in the pool with the campers and paint faces at the Camp Wonderland Carnival.
“We made a whole bunch of friends there,” said Katerina.
“It was a lot of fun,” said Camille. “There were games and sno-cones. We were there for like six hours, and I didn’t want to leave.”
“Spread it around”
Katerina and Camille said the activities, prayer experiences and camaraderie at Camp Siena were making them keenly aware of God’s presence.
“You just KNOW He’s here, in our hearts and in our minds and in all of our activities,” said Camille.
“You can really see Him in the people, like the elderly or the disabled, and sometimes just in the atmosphere,” said Katerina.
Camille said Camp Sienna was helping her faith grow deeper and that she wants to “spread it around” when she gets back home.
“I’m having so many great experiences and will have so many stories to share,” she said. “Hopefully, all of that will be reflected in me and will reflect on the people around me as well.”
Camille and Katerina acknowledged that high school can be an exciting but challenging time.
They asked for prayers for guidance and enlightenment, so that they make the right decisions and become the women God created them to be.
“I hope people will pray that we can stay with God and be faithful to Him and do whatever He wants us to do,” said Camille.
“I need help and guidance so I’ll make the right choices,” said Katerina.
God’s eyes and ears
Mrs. Hunton said she hoped all the young women would leave Camp Siena with a better idea of who they are and what God may be calling them to be.
“I hope they’re seeing things more through God’s eyes and listening more through God’s ears to better see and hear what His plan is for them,” she said.
She noted that organizers have already booked the use of the Laurie parish property for next year’s Camp Siena.