Earlier this summer, I had the privilege of helping out with the Diocese of Superior’s Extreme Faith Camp. Extreme Faith Camp is a weeklong summer camp full of fun and fellowship, as middle school-aged campers and their high school leaders grow deeper together in their relationship with Christ. I was blessed to be able to experience camp as a high school student, and it helped form me into the man I am today. This camp positively impacts our diocese long after campers and leaders return home at the end of the week. However, this raises a question: Why is EFC so effective at evangelizing and catechizing youths? What sets it apart from other Catholic youth programs?
I believe that the answer lies in an accurate understanding of the human person. The camp leadership is able to form such a great environment for growth because they see their campers holistically. They lead campers to Christ by focusing on four key areas: body (outdoor activities); mind (talks and small-group discussion); heart (fostering Christ-centered friendships); and soul (prayer and the sacraments).
As one might expect at a summer camp in the Northwoods, plenty of time throughout the week is dedicated to rock climbing, kayaking, running games, and other outdoor activities. This intense physical activity pushes the campers to excel physically, while at the same time drawing them together in community.
Every day an adult leader gives a short talk, clearly presenting some of the truths of the faith to the campers before having them separate into small groups for additional discussion. These presentations and conversations, while certainly approachable, never fall into the trap of being trite or oversimplified. Instead, they challenge the campers to consider the rationality of the faith, perhaps more than they ever have before.
One of the best aspects of EFC is the close community that is formed. Youths are brought together from across the diocese in a rare opportunity to form friendships with peers who are striving after Christ. Some of my closest friendships were started at camp, and I know I’m not alone in that. The brothers and sisters you meet at EFC help call you toward a deeper relationship with the Lord.
Finally, and most importantly, EFC is not a summer camp with “faith” tacked on as an afterthought. The camp leadership consists of people who are actively pursuing deep relationships with Christ, and our Catholic faith is central to camp’s organization and execution. Mass is offered daily, and opportunities for confession abound. Instead of directly leading campers, first-year high school leaders are members of the Prayer Team, which spends the week interceding for the camp and growing closer to God through prayer and community. Many in the leadership team commit to a holy hour in order to allow for overnight Eucharistic adoration. I am convinced that without this emphasis on prayer and the sacraments, Extreme Faith Camp would be less fruitful.
By cultivating and strengthening the bodies, minds, hearts, and souls of youths, EFC is having a positive impact on our diocese that I pray will continue for many more years to come. For those of you with children in middle or high school, I strongly encourage you to give them the opportunity of experiencing all that Extreme Faith Camp has to offer.
Aidan Jones is a Catholic writer, filmmaker, and musician living in Northern Wisconsin. For more of his work, visit aidancharlesjones.com