Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of December 11, 2006
Camp Encounter suspends operations, halts school program
Financially strapped camp hopes to reboot in 2008
By BILL GLEN
Fr. Mike Mireau
Mireau hopes to hire an executive director before next fall who can focus on building up the camp's funding base.
"Hopefully, that will allow us a more stable set-up as we move into 2008. If we can do that, we can get our school programs running again in 2008," he said.
Camp Encounter's school programs are its "bread and butter." They keep the full-time staff employed all year. Because the programs are on hold until at least next fall, the board had to let the staff go.
"We are tentatively keeping the programs going for the fall in the hopes of having the personnel there in time. Hopefully, we will have raised enough money by then."
Mireau emphasized that going ahead all hinges on increased donations.
Raising fees is an option Mireau dreads pursuing. It would place the camp in a disadvantaged position competing with heavily subsidized camps in the area. It could also mean that a child might not be able to come because it is too expensive.
Every school that Mireau has contacted advising them of the current hiatus has been hurt by the news.
Eugenia Chisotti, religion department head at St. Francis Xavier High School, said, "We go out to Camp Encounter frequently and after Father Mike called I was disappointed. Then I have to turn around and tell the kids - and now they are very disappointed.
"You wonder why they are frustrated with their faith when they can't even go out there on retreat?"
Chisotti wants a logical answer to give her students why the Catholic community is willing to let the camp fall to the ground. She wants to know who is not supporting the camp - and why.
"The schools have always come to bat for the students, and I don't mean with the school budget. I'm talking about parents and teachers donating money out of their own pockets because we know this is such an important issue," she said.
"Parents pay for others' kids to go to the camp. The word is out on how fantastic the program was."
Chisotti fears closing the camp will have a negative impact on religious programs in the Edmonton Archdiocese.
"These kids come back refreshed and rejuvenated. Their faith is enlivened. It has made a difference in the classroom."
Mireau agrees. "It's a real shame because Camp Encounter offers something they are not going to get in school.
"Particularly in school religion programs, the kids might get doctrine and some head knowledge, but they are not going to get that experience of God to carry them forward that they have been able to get with the camp."
Donations can be made to Camp Encounter, RR #1, Site 21, Box 4, Gunn, AB, T0E 1A0. Information about the camp can be found at www.campencounter.com.
Our mission: To serve our readers by bringing the Gospel to bear on current issues in the Church and in secular culture through accurate news coverage and reflective commentary.