A visit with our bishop

Plan for the best 

Young women at Camp Siena learn to see with God's eyes.

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. 

                                                                                                Christ’s light

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.

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Part of implementation of pastoral plan  

Jefferson City Youth Conference, September 14

Young people from across the diocese to gather for prayer, music and fun 


By Jay Nies

The world’s idea of “perfect” is perfect nonsense.

A lot of young people buy into it anyway and then wonder why they’re unhappy and ruled by drama. 

“If you are feeling lost, insecure or ‘not enough’ and are being dragged down by the world and its demands, I would love for you to come hear my talk,” said Sarah Swafford, the keynote speaker at this year’s Jefferson City Youth Conference (JCYC). 

Sponsored by the diocesan Youth Ministry Office, the conference will be held on Sunday, Sept. 14, in the Cathedral of St. Joseph. 

It is for high school youth and their parents or adult chaperones. 

The day will be filled with music, talks by dynamic speakers, Adoration of the Most Blessed Sacrament, games, fun activities, and Mass with Bishop John R. Gaydos. 

Cell phones are welcome for social media opportunities throughout the day and for “selfies” with a cardboard cut-out of Pope Francis. 

Break-out sessions will include talks aimed at high school girls, high school boys, and adults. 

The sacrament of reconciliation will be available during Adoration. 

The musical presenter will be John Angotti,a contemporary Catholic composer, singer and full-time music missionary who travels throughout many parts of the world providing a clear musical message: that there is hope, healing and truth with the love of God. 

He has nine recordings to date and is published through World Library Publications in Chicago. 


“If you want to find out what the ‘Emotocoaster’ is and how to stay off of it, this talk is for you,” said Mrs. Swafford, Catholic speaker, writer, family woman and founder of Emotional Virtue Ministries.

One of her life’s passions is to show young people how to let go of some of their baggage and find real happiness in the truth.

“I have a new plan and a new attitude to approach life and relationships, drama-free!” she said. 

The mother of three is passionate about emotional virtue because she’s seen too many people suffer from a lack of it. 

“Relationships and wounds from the past — especially pain from being used or using others emotionally or physically — are some of the main things that I see keeping people from our Lord and His Church,” she stated. 

“Our passions and emotions can get the best of us sometimes,” she continued. “We have to learn to train them toward the true, the good and the beautiful and live a life of faith and virtue.

“If we can work through that pain together, people can see the love of God and the love of the Church more clearly,” she said. 

                                                                                           “Very real”

Mrs. Swafford shares her message to people of all ages at school assemblies, retreats, rallies, and conferences across the country, addressing topics such as emotional virtue, dating and relationships, modesty of intentions, and interior confidence. 

Her presentations are packed with stories, humor and honesty. 

“I try to be real — VERY real — and meet people where they are at,” she said.

A friend and former classmate at Benedictine College in Atchison, Kan., described her as honest, authentic and true. 

“Sarah is not afraid to speak the truth and does it in such a relatable way,” stated Maureen Queen, administrative assistant for the diocesan Religious Education Office. “She challenges each of us to authentic holiness in every part of our lives.”

Mrs. Swafford has been a guest on EWTN’s “Life on the Rock” and “EWTN Live” programs and has been featured in the National Catholic Register. 

She is also a contributor to Chosen, Ascension Press’ confirmation program; and YDisciple’s True Beauty. 

She is a proud team member of ChastityProject.com and has spoken at Steubenville Conferences around the United States and in Canada.

She has also contributed videos for womenmadenew.com. 

She and her husband, Dr. Andrew Swafford, live in Atchison, Kansas, with their three small children. 

                                                                                           Pick up sticks? 

Mrs. Swafford plans on leaving the music to Mr. Angotti. 

She said she’s always wanted to be in a band but has no musical talent to speak of. 

At one youth event, the house band invited her to join in on the final song.

“I was rocking out on the drums and thought I would try to be cool and throw the drumstick into the crowd like a rock star, and I accidentally his some guy in the head.

“Smooth! Very smooth! The whole band will never let me live it down,” she said. 

She said it’s humbling and amazing to hear from people in person or by e-mail that her talk changed their life or helped them get out of a bad situation or addiction. 

One young woman told her that she had been contemplating suicide all summer. 

“But after my talk at a Steubenville Conference, she finally confided in her parents and sought help,” 

The young woman told Mrs. Swafford that she had stopped cutting herself since hearing the talk and that she finally felt hope for the first time in years.

“Praise God!” said Mrs. Swafford. “I thank God for allowing people to hear His voice and His truth through me.”

She emphasized that her message is for anyone and everyone. 

“Life is hard, and it’s easy to feel alone,” she said. “But you are not alone! We’re in this together!”

                                                                                        When and how

Registration for the Youth Conference will start at noon in the Cathedral Undercroft. 

JCYC will start at 1 p.m. and close with Mass at 6:30 p.m.

The Mass will satisfy the Sunday obligation. 

The $20-per-person admission includes dinner.

Walk-ins are welcome, but in order to make sure there’s enough food, people who plan to attend the event should contact their parish youth ministry coordinators or parish secretaries. 

By Sept. 9, each parish should notify the Office of Youth Ministry of the number of people who plan to attend.


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Most Rev. John R. Gaydos, Bishop of Jefferson City