This is the second article in a five-part series featuring Catholic summer activities for youths.
Imagine taking part in archery, hiking, fishing, whitewater rafting and crafts all while building your relationship with Christ.
These are just some of the adventures that await participants of Camp Wojtyla.
Located on 1,200 acres of wilderness in the heart of the Rocky Mountains, Camp Wojtyla provides participants with a unique mix of adventure and faith formation.
“We have kids whose parents raised them so well,” said Annie Powell, program director. “But faith has to become their own. It’s important to have that head to heart connection.”
Camp Wojtyla was launched by FOCUS (Fellowship of Catholic University Students) in 2006 under the direction of Annie and Scott Powell, both of whom have served as FOCUS missionaries. Today the Powells run it as a separate nonprofit. It is named after Blessed John Paul II, who loved to minister to youths in a nature setting.
Middle school participants spend six days at Camp Wojtyla, while high school campers spend eight days there. Some 35 college students staff the camp for two months as leaders.
The leaders are unpaid, meaning their participation is done completely out of love for God and the campers. That’s always evident to Powell.
“Kids will come down for breakfast and see these joyous, energetic college students,” she said. “They quickly realize that they (the staff) care about me as a camper.”
A typical day at camp consists of breakfast followed by an outdoor adventure like rock climbing or archery. The one daily team challenge is geared to promote unity and encourage kids to overcome personal challenges such as getting up a rock face.
“We want them to extract meaning from all experiences,” said Powell. “It can come from just a silly game or conversation. But there’s reflection after every adventure.”
Daily Mass, adoration and confession gives participants regular opportunities to stabilize their faith.
“They’ll understand that God is a part of everything,” said Powell. “That’s what our program intentionally teaches.”
One of the highlights of Camp Wojtyla occurs at night. Following a moment of solidarity during the Stations of the Cross, participants and leaders attend a candlelight Mass that overlooks a meadow.
A bonfire celebration concludes the week.
Testimonials on the Camp Wojtyla website give witness to the power of the experience.
“The last day at the team celebrations, I had tears in my eyes seeing the results of the week and could see how the Holy Spirit was at work,” said Sylvia Harmon, parent of a recent middle school camper. “He is still talking all about it and learned so many things about his faith, relationships, God and who he is as a young man.”
Powell explained that much of the mission’s power comes from the wilderness, therefore, participants are not allowed to have a cell phone or car during camp.
“Every morning, I woke up to God’s beautiful creation and that was enough to remind me how much he truly loves us,” said camper Cassie Savrda. “Camp Wojtyla was incredible and I will never forget it.”
For more information on registration or becoming a camp counselor, check out www.camp-w.com. Limited spots are open in select camps. Waitlist registration is available for all camps.
“We want kids to see the Catholic life to the full and when they see imposters, they realize that the life in the Church is life to the fullest,” said Powell.
Next story in this series focuses on Colorado Challenge Summer Camp, whose goal is to help girls discover who God created them for, and how to love and live life to the full.