Last Updated: Tuesday - 01/04/2011
August 20, 2001
God present at OLVC
Catholic camp inspires kids with week full of faith and fun
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER
BENTLEY — Faith is the structure that holds together Our Lady of Victory Camp. From dawn to dusk, from rising to retiring, everyone has a chance to feel the presence of God in prayer, Mass, songs, games, meals, campfire or simply hanging out.
Campers would not trade OLVC for cool counsellors in other camps because they have them and more.
"I really appreciate the staff of this camp," said Father Paul Moret, OLVC's spiritual director. "They are very responsible and good Christian examples."
While camps have become synonymous with fun and games, OLVC has become a way of meeting God and learning more about the Catholic faith for kids and adults as well.
A small chapel and a rosary garden are two landmarks of this Catholic camp. It occupies the land that was a generous donation of nearby farmer Andre Francois Guillemaud (1894-1974), his wife Anne Brennan (1899-1966) and their eight children.
Confession in the camp on Tuesday evenings is one featured activity. "It is only part of the God experience you can get from this camp," said Janie Warawa, who has been a camp director since 1994.
The camp is open for six weeks. The first week is devoted to the training of counsellors both old and new. Each week after that, different age groups are welcomed to the camp beginning with the nine-year-old group and ending with 13-year-old campers on the final week.
"God is present here," said Warawa. "I know that God is present everywhere but growing up I very much felt the presence of God in this camp."
What she said was confirmed by campers, counsellors and team members.
"It's the Jesus factor," as Stephen Good, a team member from Camrose puts it.
"With Mass every day and Reconciliation during the week, it's almost like we're on a retreat," said Good, 18, who started coming to OLVC when he was 10.
The camp has such an impact on the kids that many of them look forward to becoming counsellors someday.
Brad McCullum, who is now a counsellor, loves the peacefulness in the camp. "Everybody is okay with everybody and there is no fighting or anything," he said.
He started coming when he was 10 and he testifies that one can experience God in this camp, though it is so difficult to put such an experience in words. "You got to try it to know it," said the 15-year-old McCullum from Drayton Valley.
Lindsay Desmarais, 15, of Sherwood Park recalled that her first experience in the camp was enlightening. She learned more about God. Now a counsellor, she plans to continue coming every summer as long as she can.
"It's an experience of a lifetime," said Daniel Blanchette, 17, of Girouxville. He is a first-time counsellor.
"I was skeptical when I first came and I did not know what to think of it," admitted Blanchette, who learned about the camp from a friend who comes every year. Everything changed for him when he met other young people who believe strongly in God.
To call the children to the next activity the camp uses a bell. When the bell rings, the Lord is calling.
Kids come running, excited about what will happen next. It's game time. As soon as they are gathered, Peter van Kampen, a team member, explained the rules of the game. They played Romans and Christians. The Roman groups were supposed to chase the Christians and take them as prisoners but they were up for rescue.
Van Kampen gave some input to the campers about the history of the early Church. Excited as the kids were, as soon as van Kampen identified the Roman groups and Christian groups, they roared and started the fun game.
One girl was not participating in the game because she sprained her ankle on the second day of camp. Brittaney Fraser, 11, decided not to go home but to stay.
"It's a good experience and I think I can really get closer to God," she said. Aside from the Mass every day, Reconciliation, campfire, arts and crafts, and games, Brittaney appreciates that before supper time everyone gathers in a huge circle to recollect and thank God for what happened during the day.
Warawa's involvement with the camp dates back to when she was a camper. Even after a car accident that confined her to a motorized chair in 1999, she still comes to camp every summer and oversees its operations for two weeks.
"When I was a youngster, people did this job for me and for other campers," Warawa said. She believes in reciprocating the service by doing her share now. "It's wonderful to be able to do service for them and provide what I was provided when I was a camper myself," she said.
Another aspect that attracts people to this camp is that parents are welcome. They come as volunteers and help prepare meals for the campers.
Laura Brodbin from Edmonton's Good Shepherd Parish has been coming for six years as a volunteer cook. Spending time at OLVC with her kids has become part of her summer. She has made many good friends through the camp.
Indeed, friendship grows and develops in this camp. "When I look back, the group of friends that I have now, most of them I met in this camp," shared Warawa.
It started to get dark but the kids' energy was not yet ready to park. What everyone was waiting for was yet to come.
At 10:30 p.m. praise songs filled the air. Everyone gathered around the bonfire and joined in the singing. Upbeat Christian songs coupled with dancing and clapping put everyone to a spin.
After 30 minutes of praise songs, the mood shifted to a more mellow and inspirational tune.
"Give it to Jesus," sang the campers as they thanked and praised God for the wonderful day they had had.
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