BY GABRIELLE HARVEY
Five days. Five teachers. Fifty-five students. Five lessons learned. One family of faith. “One Heart, One Mind.” One Catholic Experience!
A group of Kellenberg Memorial High School students, myself included, put faith first this summer as an introduction to Our Holy Father’s call for a Year of Faith. This inaugural Catholic camp program was designed by the staff members of the ARK, the Apostolic Response at Kellenberg, to aid students in growing and learning about their faith over the summer. Two former students, Mary Brennan and Danielle Godley, also assisted, giving up a week of their summer to help out at “Jesus camp.” I got so much out of this camp, but there seemed to be one specific message I was left with each day.
“Be Not Afraid.” This quote, found over 300 times in the Bible, especially in Luke’s Gospel, is an ideal on how we must live out our faith: with courage, with no fear of what others might think. This theme continually resonated as I went through our first day activities. Everyone got to know one another by playing icebreaker games and focusing on a theme of community for the week. We watched a movie, “Courageous,” which showed the importance of police officers keeping faith in their jobs, and also maintaining a relationship with God within their family. They had to “be not afraid” and trust in Jesus! Mr. Basile, one of our teachers, spoke about how important it is to “find faith in a Godless world.” The first day concluded on a lighter note with lots of laughs and a fun game of dodge ball where I truly had to “be not afraid!”
“Let it be done to me according to Thy word:” Mary is the model of our faith lives. On the second day, we visited the Shrine of Our Lady of the Island in Eastport. There is a rosary walk and stations of the cross. Another teacher, Mr. Finn, spoke about how important it is to have Mary as a guide in our prayer life and that we should venerate her. This visit helped me realize that Mary is a mother to all of us and it is essential to have her in our lives. It also showed me how much Jesus loved us because of all the suffering He endured.. Mary said “Yes” to the Angel Gabriel, Jesus said “Yes” to the Cross, and I need to continue to say “Yes” to God’s presence in my life.
“Adore the Eucharist.” The third day focused on adoration of Jesus in the chapel. During this time of thanks and praise to Jesus, the ARK staff and students showed me that everyone has his or her “own cross,” or weakness, where we need God most in our lives. The “Footprints” prayer is a wonderful way to express how God helps us with our personal crosses because it reminds us that God is always there for us. We were each given candles with a different color, each color symbolizing what we must work on for our own faith. I had a red candle which means I must try to be more courageous with my faith. For the rest of the week, my goal was to be more courageous, more open minded, and less fearful of what was to become of my faith. Later that day, as planned by Mr. Krug, we learned the differences between the Catholic and Greek Orthodox Churches by visiting St. Paul’s Greek Orthodox Church in Garden City.
“WWJD? Embody Jesus by serving others.” On the fourth day, we visited St. Joseph’s in Huntington, a nursing home run by nuns of the Polish Benedictine community. We received a bracelet labeled “WWJD?” meaning “What Would Jesus Do?” As Jesus washed the feet of His apostles, we must do likewise by serving others. This was my favorite day of the Catholic Experience because the theme was service. We assisted the elderly simply by sharing tea and conversation with them. These women, ranging from ages 70 to 103, could not have been happier with their life at St. Joseph’s and the looks on their faces when we arrived taught me that performing small acts of kindness can mean the world to someone. WWJD? Serving, dancing and dialogue were all ways I grew in my Catholic experience.
“One Heart, One Mind.” On the fifth day, the feast day of SS. Peter and Paul, the Catholic camp program concluded with Mass celebrated by our chaplain, Marianist Father Thomas Cardone, at Chaminade’s retreat house, Meribah. We received a prayer book with reflections to improve our prayer life over the summer. But it was the sounds of the students that I left with. From Mr. Basile and Mr. Harnisch opening the Mass with Amazing Grace to Mr. O’Brien ending with the Salve Regina, the 55 of us truly put our trust in Christ through song. Like Peter and Paul, we are imperfect people, but we must put our trust in Christ to carry us. As I have learned at Kellenberg many times before, faith has a social dimension. A barbecue and pool party concluded the week with games of Corn Hole and Kan Jam, and even pool volleyball!
The Catholic Experience at Kellenberg Memorial proved to me that keeping the faith in my life is not just rewarding, but also fun. I will keep countless examples from throughout the week with me this summer. These themes will continue to resonate with me and prepare me for the Year of Faith about to begin. This camp showed that Kellenberg Memorial is a family of faith centered on the Gospel and living it out in all we do: prayer, service, meals and fun! I can’t wait for next year’s Catholic Experience!
GABRIELLE HARVEY will be a sophomore at Kellenberg Memorial High School, Uniondale, in September.