One group of campers and leaders works together to complete a task as part of a daily challenge in an Adventure Olympics event, part of the teamwork aspect of Extreme Faith Camp. (Photo by Mindy Hamilton)

Jenny Snarski
Catholic Herald staff

After attending or leading Extreme Faith Camp for almost an entire decade – including running virtual sessions under 2020’s COVID-19 lockdown – Chris Hurtubise said, “This year was absolutely my favorite year yet.”

Hurtubise, whose position as youth minister for St. Joseph’s in Amery brought him to Wisconsin before he moved into his diocesan roles – first as associate director of Catholic Formation, and currently as director of the Office of Evangelization and Missionary Discipleship – said that even though it was the camps’ biggest year yet, his sentiments have little to do with that.

“Given the year we just came out of,” Hurtubise stated, “being able to be together and have a relatively normal week filled with all of the graces, fellowship and healthy human interaction was just an extraordinary gift.”

In 2019, Extreme Faith Camp was held for a week both on the western and eastern sides of the diocese. After not being able to have any in-person youth events for almost an entire year, three weeks of camp were offered.

The theme for 2021 was “Run to the Father,” which focused on the story of the prodigal son.
Hurtubise commented, “The Masses, the adoration, the confession night, the talks, the small groups, the adventures, the games, the meals – every aspect of camp took on a new richness and a new significance.”

“Among the leaders, there was a deep sense of gratitude, and among everyone there seemed to be a deep sense of simple joy,” he said.

Including youth leaders and adults (some attending more than one week), a total of 195 people participated in Extreme Faith Camp at Crescent Lake in Rhinelander and 185 camped at the CrossWoods site in Mason. Campers and leaders were ministered to in turns by two deacons, Dcn. Tim Mika of Ashland and Dcn. Jim Arndt of Merrill, and four priests: Frs. John Anderson, Joe Stefancin, David Neuschwander and Adam Laski. Fr. Laski also served as chaplain for the prayer team.

Fr. Laski described being prayer team chaplain as “a real joy.” He explained that as EFC is geared toward middle-school participants, prayer team is the first role high school leaders are asked to take on as they move up.

“It is an invitation to get to know Jesus through service,” he said, “But also particularly through practicing prayer and letting that be the focal point … they are meant to be the spiritual heart of the camp.”

Commenting that young high-schoolers aren’t always thought of as mature, focused and others-centered, Fr. Laski affirmed the students readily and generously respond to the invitation to go deeper in prayer.

“It is the lab portion of camp,” Fr. Laski said, where the Holy Spirit takes the lead and works his action.

As chaplain, his role is to introduce prayer team members to the Holy Spirit’s action and to help them experience various forms of prayer – petition, intercession, thanksgiving, praying with Scripture and the Psalms, etc. – and to help them discover what works for them.

Fr. Laski said each evening, the prayer team shares graces experienced throughout the day. He encourages them to ask themselves and then share reflections on the following:

“Where was Jesus present today? Where did you see him working? Where did he wow you, woo you, draw you in, impress you – whatever he’s doing, how did you notice it, and what was he doing?”

After a break from the more intensive prayer routine, the team did the ropes course on Thursday. Fr. Laski thought that would be their highlight of the day, but he was pleasantly surprised when most commented on their experiences during Wednesday’s all-night adoration. He followed up those comments by inviting and encouraging youths to take advantage of the opportunity for Eucharistic adoration many have in their home parishes.

He acknowledged it can be easy to think that prayer is a waste of time, but he stated, “There’s never any wasted time with God. There is nothing that we give to him that he doesn’t receive with great joy… Even giving him a little, there are blessings that come with that.”