We were just following our regular evening routine, the same four prayers we sing every night: “Now I lay me down to sleep,” Hail Mary, Our Father, and a prayer my husband wrote set to the tune of “On Eagle’s Wings." Because we needed them to settle down from all the excitement of the day, We added in a few more songs by request – psalms and songs from church, many that I know by heart from my years as a music minister. The children took turns selecting songs, and finally were calmed and quieted and ready for sleep.


After my husband and I left the cabin to sit outside and wait for the cabin sitter, the parents from the next cabin commented on what they had overheard. They told us that their kids wanted to be sung to too!


This is the effect of camp, families learning and growing from one another’s examples. While each family has its own normal way of living, we can learn from one another to start or renew traditions.


For a week, we live closer to our neighbors than usual, sometimes even sharing a cabin wall. We interact with the same 8 families, and the teens and program staff. Every high and low is shared.

We have the chance to see each other and really care for one another. We notice and respond when someone steps out of chapel, whether is it a child making an escape or an adult catching a breeze. When a teen is down or moody, someone talks with them. When a child falls, several are there to bandage them up. When a child or teen reads or plays at Mass, many come over to affirm those gifts. We recognize and encourage the teen staff for the example they set for our children. We talk at meals or the store about our lives and how we are really doing. These interactions with our neighbor, stripped to the essentials, are so restorative for us. They are what we need to strengthen us as an individual and as a family. They encourage us in living our faith, in living our lives.


When we go home, we have this encouraging spirit with us. As a family, we revisit the graces we learned from other families. We try to shout Amen at the table – but mostly it is a fake shout. We say the Mass responses loudly despite the surprised looks of our fellow parishioners back home. We (almost) make people skip around the room. We start slow clapping waiting for someone to come to the table.


Recently, I found the traditions of camp inspiring our home life when on a scout campout, my son asked if we were going to do the “high and low thing.” This family sharing is not normally part of our evenings at home, but being at another camp experience triggered this memory and need. He had ready answers for his highs and lows of the day (more than he often does at Family Camp!) and he was able to process the day, give thanks for all that was and relax into sleep.

These are just little traditions we take home from camp, but they tap into a larger experience and remind us of the closeness our neighbors that we experience at camp.


We are changed because of our experience at Camp and we bring this spirit into the world.

We come back because of how it helps us connect to God, and to our families. We enjoy the experience and who we become because of our experience.


Camp is an experience we live for a week, but it has an impact for a lifetime.



Last night the sky was amazingly beautiful here at Camp Koinonia. There was no moon in the sky and so the stars and the Milky Way were especially brilliant.


The parents were socializing at the Camp Store and the teens and young adults were star gazing. The teens were having some good conversations. I sat with a couple of the young adults, and we talked of life and purpose and faith. It was a night to inspire important conversations.

Opening Campfire.

This morning I am sitting by the edge of the field with a mist lingering over the lower part of the Camp. Everything is light, but still shadowed by the tree covered hills that obstruct the sun until it is a bit higher in the sky. The Camp is not yet fully awake, but I have heard a few doors opening and closing. Parents will be coming to the lodge for coffee soon and children will be heading to the hour of “polar bear swim” at the pool. This early morning calm is a perfect time to reflect on what this week is all about.



This year’s theme for Catholic Family Camp is Koinonia of the Saints; Koinonia meaning “community”. So, we have been pondering together what the Communion of Saints means to us.

The Communion of Saints teaches us to long for our eternal life with God. O Lord I want to be in their number when the saints go marching in. The Communion of Saints speaks to us about the love of God that is ours in time and for eternity. We have a life to live here and, even as we love and serve in this life, we long for the day when Jesus’ promises are fulfilled. O Lord, I want to be in their number when the saints go marching in.


The Koinonia of Saints encourages us with the example of the saints and with their unfailing help. We were introduced to two or three saints each day. Some ancient and some more recent. We are supported by the example and prayers of the saints who are famous and our loved ones who are saints and known only to us.


We talked about the Liturgy of Heaven in which the angels and saints praise and worship God eternally. Our liturgy, our Mass, joins in with their liturgy and we are united with the worship of the saints. This becomes real at every Mass when we “join our voices with theirs as we acclaim, Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God of Hosts.” The Mass creates and strengthens the Koinonia of Saints as Jesus is present to those in heaven and present to us in the Sacrament of his Body and Blood.

Families




The families gathered here this week are amazing. Within the Koinonia of Saints, a Koinonia of families has formed here in this valley. For parents to see their children openly expressing their faith must be a tremendous moment of pride and delight. One of the couples had an anniversary and renewed their wedding vows during Mass and their children looked on with wonder and joy. There are so many moments which strengthen relationships and build the families. It is a powerful week of God’s grace and love.


I came to Catholic Family Camp for the first time about twenty years ago. I came for a day to preside at Mass and I stayed for Square Dancing. I was hooked. I did the same the next year and then began coming for a full week every summer as a Chaplain.


The four new families here this week are hooked by the Spirit of this Camp. All the families have been supported and strengthened. Every year I am buoyed and affirmed in my life as a Priest. This place is a joy. As some say, the barrier between heaven and earth is especially thin here and miracles happen.


This morning has been a miracle for me. A time to commune with God, in this awesome setting, among the Koinonia of Saints, and in anticipation of another grace-filled day.

I hope this reflection either stirs up hopes that you and your family might join Catholic Family Camp next summer or has stirred up memories of your time among the Saints at Camp Koinonia.


May the Grace of God the Father and of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you and yours.



These are the responses of my four children when asked what they think of when I say “Family Camp.” And the list goes on and on. Our family has been attending camp annually for the past thirteen years. To say that it is a special place to us is a huge understatement!


Ray, my husband, grew up attending Camp Koinonia with his family. When we got engaged, his family made sure that family camp was something I knew about in hopes it would become an important part of my life too. They spoke of skits, camp capers, the pool, masses, morning prayer, family reconciliation, their favorite meals, and the many relationships that shaped and impacted their life as a family. I have to admit, I was bracing myself a bit. Would I be ready to embrace this experience the way they all hoped I would?



In 2009, when our oldest was two and her brother was almost one, we attended camp for the first time. As we met our teen staff, got settled in our cabin, met other families, and attended evening mass, it was quickly obvious that this was going to be a unique and life-changing experience. Throughout the week, I found so many moments to connect with my husband, bond with other mothers, watch my children being so loved and cared for, grow spiritually, and make unforgettable memories as a family. On the last day, during morning prayer and the family blessings, I was overcome with emotion. I realized I was scared to leave this place of love, acceptance, growth, and peace. As the tears rolled down my cheeks, Joe Rutigliano, our teen staff, said, “Oh, she’s crying….that means she’ll be back!” He was SO right!



Over the years, our involvement in camp has taken on various forms. Beyond attending Family Camp each year, we have felt called to donate money and time to Camp Koinonia. We have helped with various service projects. Over the past several years, Ray has helped with maintenance and I have helped with writing the children's program when able. Our kids have helped paint the camp store, campfire tables and benches, and several other projects. These are projects that have shaped and molded us as individuals and as a family. While we no longer live in New York and our physical distance to camp hinders our ability to help out in many ways, we will always consider Camp Koinonia an extension of “home” and do what we can to preserve it for future generations.


The countdown to our week at Family Camp 2022 has begun and we will be eagerly awaiting our turn to drive under the parachute, meet our teen staff, and dive into another unforgettable week of Family Camp love and growth. My fifteen year old describes camp as the place she feels most connected to God. That is the greatest gift of this holy ground….to her and to our family. It will forever be one of our favorite places!