I have attended Family Camp since I was just 5 months old, and it truly is my favorite place in the world. Growing up at Camp, I was blessed to have the teen staff as my role models. I knew that when I got older, I wanted to be just like them. I am so grateful I had Family Camp to aid me in becoming the person I am today.

Growing up in public school, I wasn’t educated on my faith, other than religion classes at my church. I didn’t talk about my Catholic faith with friends at school, so camp was a fantastic outlet for learning about Catholicism. The summer I was 13, a passion developed for learning about the Catholic Church and its teachings, so I began to ask the older staff lots and lots of questions. My first year of the high school morning group was truly a turning point in my life. We had very in-depth conversations about several different topics that we were all so interested in that we had to continue into lunch time. I spent one day at camp in conversation with the program staff about all my questions, which lasted from morning group at 10:00 all through free time until mass at 4:00. I never would have developed such a burning passion for my faith if it had not been for these discussions that took place on holy ground.

I have always felt extremely close to God at camp, whether it be due to the removal from the internet or being immersed in nature- I feel a great comfort at camp. As I progressed through high school, my friends from camp were my support system when I was going through challenging times. The friendships I have built at camp are sacred and I truly cherish them. During COVID a group of teens I attended camp with prayed a rosary on Facetime together every Sunday night, and that experience was exactly what I needed to get through the long period of time we went without going to church and receiving the Eucharist.

The teen staff are always working on becoming better people and pushing each other to grow. I’ve brought 4 friends from home who have all staffed and their opinions are synonymous that camp is an amazing place. The motto at camp is “Where love grows” which could not ring truer, but for my own experience, camp is where my faith flourished. I recently gave a testimony at the Rochester Diocese’s Hands of Christ ceremony and owed my faith formation to Camp Koinonia. Going to camp from a young age and building a strong foundation with my family, accompanied by teen staffing for the past 4 years has built me into the young woman I am today. I look forward to camp every year and I am so grateful that God blessed me with this holy place.



I never knew what a “Synod” was or what it entails before this year. However, after a pandemic that swept through the world, I knew deep reflection and prayer could “draw forth prophecies and visions, and allow hope to be nourished,” just as Pope Francis had indicated. Journeying Together, the theme of the Synod, offers us the chance to examine our faith, the challenges we face with our faith, and how our faith assists in the practice of authenticity. With God at the center, the spiritual experience of Journeying Together guided me to reflect on the fruitful, spirit-inspired, and faith-filled experience that camp fosters so genuinely.

Journeying together, the Pope tells us, “Is an easy concept to put into words, but not so easy to put into practice.” But what makes journeying together so difficult? Journeying Together, I believe, requires faith. It requires putting God at the center of everything. In Lent, Christians often reflect on the ways that Jesus was tested in his faith. Though tempted, Jesus held God at the center and gave us a model of how to live in faith. Throughout my life, I have been tested multiple times in my faith. It was through God’s graceful healing that grounded me in my faith and reminded me that, yes, God is at the center of everything. Once grounded in faith, I was then able to begin embracing who I truly am and embark on the journey of authenticity.

Pope Francis encourages a “free and authentic” communication in this Synod. But what is authenticity? Authenticity is defined by Brené Brown as, “the practice of letting go of who we think we are supposed to be and embracing who we are.” But how do I differentiate who I think I am supposed to be and who I am? Where does my spirituality fit into this definition? Is it possible to live completely spiritually authentic, if so, how do I get there? I have no answers to these questions, but it is something that I have reflected greatly on. So far, I believe the journey to authenticity can be guided by faith. Authenticity, like faith, is a lifelong journey and will have ups and downs. Journeying together will ensure that we are not alone on this journey.

How, then, do we create a bridge from an individual spiritual experience to the collective spiritual experience (Journeying Together)? This is where I think of Family Camp. Camp is an authentic collective spiritual experience. There is not a time where I am unafraid to explore my authenticity in a communal setting, because I know that Christ is at the center. Camp gracefully becomes the reminder of how Journeying Together can make the journey of faith and authenticity easier.

Journeying together requires faith. Faith can be challenged and an individual relationship with God can become questioned. However, once grounded in faith, it will become possible to authentically Journey Together.



I wonder if you are where I am. Not physically. On the inside. Stuck. Heavy. Numb.


Emotionally.


Spiritually.


I am rereading Luke 24:13-35 about the journey to Emmaus. And an unexpected companion.


The setting is a crushed band of Apostles enduring the ongoing Roman occupation. The followers of Jesus saw their Messiah betrayed, abandoned by followers, desecrated and crucified. The forces of Rome with complicit tyrants continued to extract their toll from the People of God in treasure and blood. A Messiah was foretold, revealed, praised, and now gone.


After everything, no change.


Stuck. Heavy. Numb.


And then the journey away from Jerusalem began.


Jerusalem lay behind them, hopes dashed and disciples disbanded. Journeying toward Emmaus has the familiar theme of the long walk home, a journey of brokenness, defeat, and humiliation.


So many of us have walked toward Emmaus over these two years. Sadness, alienation, loneliness, even bitterness, have been companions on this journey.


It has been a season of loss.


Family Camp is still months away. Winter claws at our windows and doors. We close them tight. Did we close ourselves off, too? How long have you and your family been walking toward Emmaus?


And have you met anyone along the way?


The world looks very different than when we made our first trip to Camp Koinonia as a family in 2006. We are no longer a full table or a full pew of our own! Our family will return to camp, but with only our youngest as a teen staff. We are now storekeepers and mentors to younger families. Has Camp been an oasis for your family on the road to Emmaus?


But sometimes we have to sit in the place of mourning, where we don't know what is coming. We hope and keep walking down the road, waiting for a fellow traveler to join us. One who will break open Scripture, bread, and our hearts.


We mourn and we then rejoice. We, too, will return to Jesusalem, running to share the Good News. In weeks to come, we will again sing “Resurrexit Sicut Dixit” - He is Risen as He Said.

On the Road to Emmaus


13 Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles[a] from Jerusalem. 14 They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. 15 As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; 16 but they were kept from recognizing him.


17 He asked them, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?”


They stood still, their faces downcast. 18 One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, “Are you the only one visiting Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?”

19 “What things?” he asked.


“About Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. 20 The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; 21 but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place. 22 In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning 23 but didn’t find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. 24 Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but they did not see Jesus.”


25 He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.


28 As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus continued on as if he were going farther. 29 But they urged him strongly, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them.


30 When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. 32 They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”


33 They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together 34 and saying, “It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.” 35 Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread.