Grant gives youth a greater view

The Archdiocese of Denver, through Camp St. Malo Religious Retreat and Conference Center, made an investment in Catholic camp programs for youth this year by awarding a grant of $100,000 to the John Paul II Adventure Institute.

The grant intends to assist economically disadvantaged youth participating “in the wonderful youth ministry programs overseen by the John Paul II Institute,” according to a statement from St. Malo’s.

“This help from the archdiocese is phenomenal,” Sandy Harem, executive director of the John Paul II Outdoor Lab and an original founder of the institute, told the Denver Catholic Register Oct. 30. “The grant will help us grow because there are some students not able to participate now because of funding.”

The Adventure Institute entails two ministries: the John Paul II Outdoor Lab, operated during the school year to serve student in Catholic schools; and Camp Wojtyla, a program for middle- and high-school students that runs during the summer. Both programs have their roots at Camp St. Malo in Allenspark: Camp Wojtyla in 2006 and the Outdoor Lab in 2008. The Adventure Institute launched in 2009 as an umbrella organization.

When fire destroyed the St. Malo conference center in November 2011, they were pressed to find a new site. Then after last September’s flooding triggered massive mudslides that devastated the property, they sought a permanent new home.

“After the fire, we moved the Outdoor Lab down the road,” Harem explained. “Then after the flood, we asked: ‘Lord, where do you want us to go?’ We started looking and found Camp Santa Maria in Bailey.”

The Outdoor Lab has operated from Camp Santa Maria since the last year. Camp Wojtyla moved to 1,200 acres of wilderness at Camp Cal-Wood in Jamestown.

The grant, awarded last spring, is being applied to three primary areas: attendee scholarships, staff development and staff salaries.

“Without the support of the archdiocese, Camp Wojtyla could not possibly offer the faith and adventure integration that we do. From daily Mass to confession nights, we depend on priests for all our sacramental needs,” explained Annie Powell, executive director of Camp Wojtyla. “To have the financial support of the Archdiocese of Denver … allows us to not only survive as a program … but to thrive and focus on the next steps the Lord is calling us to, like how we can grow and expand the program to serve even more children.”

Fees cover about 45 percent of the actual cost, and more than 25 percent of campers cannot afford the subsidized rate.

“A majority of the funds is being used for scholarships,” Harem said, adding that students attending the John Paul II Outdoor Lab pay based on a sliding scale, thus necessitating supplemental funding. Sources of funding include fees paid, donors through The Catholic Foundation of Northern Colorado, corporate sponsorships and grants.

The Outdoor Lab serves approximately 900 students in 25 Catholic schools. About 19 percent come from lower income households. Since the grant, the institute has been able to more than double that percentage.

“We’re able to reach students we couldn’t reach before,” Harem said.

And the message they strive to reach them with is to look for God in every part of their lives.

“We create encounters with Christ through his creation,” Harem explained. “We really want to inspire a new generation of Catholics to live a life reconciled with God, with themselves, with others, and with creation.”

The camps incorporate daily prayer, Mass, confession, eucharistic adoration, catechism, Scripture and papal encyclicals.

“Camp Wojtyla leads and challenges young people through adventures in the wilderness into a transformative relationship with Jesus Christ and his Church,” Powell said. “Through adventures such as rock climbing and white water rafting, we can teach us a lot about trusting God, how the Church works and how to be a man or woman in today’s difficult culture.”

After attending camp, students go back “on fire for the faith,” she added.

“They are changing the culture of their schools and serving as leaders,” Powell said. “It is my hope that we’re helping all of the youth programs through what we do. We are truly blessed to be a part of the Archdiocese of Denver and feel so grateful to operate within such a strong and faithful archdiocese.”

COMING UP: Q&A: USCCB clarifies intent behind bishops’ Eucharist document

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Last week, the U.S. bishop concluded their annual Spring meeting, during which much about the Church in the U.S was discussed. In particular, the bishops voted to draft a document on the meaning of Eucharistic life in the Church, which was approved by an overwhelming majority.

Since then, speculation about the nature of the document has run rampant, the chief of which is that it was drafted specifically to instigate a policy aimed directly at Catholic politicians and public figures whose outward political expressions and policy enactment do not align with Church teaching.

The USCCB has issued a brief Q&A clarifying the intent of the document, and they have emphasized that “the question of whether or not to deny any individual or groups Holy Communion was not on the ballot.”

“The Eucharist is the source and summit of Christian life,” the USCCB said. “The importance of nurturing an ever
deeper understanding of the beauty and mystery of the Eucharist in our lives is not a new topic for the bishops. The document being drafted is not meant to be disciplinary in nature, nor is it targeted at any one individual or class of persons. It will include a section on the Church’s teaching on the responsibility of every Catholic, including bishops, to live in accordance with the truth, goodness and beauty of the Eucharist we celebrate.”

Below are a few commonly asked questions about last week’s meeting and the document on the Eucharist.

Why are the bishops doing this now?

For some time now, a major concern of the bishops has been the declining belief and understanding of the Eucharist among the Catholic faithful. This was a deep enough concern that the theme of the bishops’ strategic plan for 2021-2024 is Created Anew by the Body and Blood of Christ: Source of Our Healing and Hope. This important document on the Eucharist will serve as a foundation for the multi-year Eucharistic Revival Project, a major national effort to reignite Eucharistic faith in our country. It was clear from the intensity and passion expressed in the individual interventions made by the bishops during last week’s meeting that each bishop deeply loves the Eucharist.

Did the bishops vote to ban politicians from receiving Holy Communion?

No, this was not up for vote or debate. The bishops made no decision about barring anyone from receiving Holy Communion. Each Catholic — regardless of whether they hold public office or not — is called to continual conversion, and the U.S. bishops have repeatedly emphasized the obligation of all Catholics to support human life and dignity and other fundamental principles of Catholic moral and social teaching.

Are the bishops going to issue a national policy on withholding Communion from politicians?

No. There will be no national policy on withholding Communion from politicians. The intent is to present a clear understanding of the Church’s teachings to bring heightened awareness among the faithful of how the Eucharist can transform our lives and bring us closer to our creator and the life he wants for us.

Did the Vatican tell the bishops not to move forward on drafting the document?

No. The Holy See did encourage the bishops to engage in dialogue and broad consultation. Last week’s meeting was the first part of that process. It is important to note that collaboration and consultation among the bishops will be key in the drafting of this document.


Featured photo by Eric Mok on Unsplash