Our Lady of Victory Camp brings faith of youth to life

Archbishop Richard Smith drops in to visit some campers during a soggy day at Our Lady of Victory Camp.

ARCHDIOCESAN COMMUNICATIONS PHOTO | CHRISTOPHER JUGO

Archbishop Richard Smith drops in to visit some campers during a soggy day at Our Lady of Victory Camp.

August 29, 2016

Our Lady of Victory Camp offers campers and counsellors alike a week-long infusion of faith.

The program at the camp on the west side of Gull Lake is based on youth catechism with daily Mass, Reconciliation, Eucharistic Adoration and the rosary.

That's a full load of Catholicism, especially compared with secular summer camps that emphasize horseback riding, sports and swimming.

But the children and youth who attend OLVC say their favourite activities are adoration and other times spent in the chapel.

"I can express myself, and that brings me closer to God," said Christina Marcinek. At 16, she is now a counsellor, having spent several years as a camper.

Adoration is a precious time for her as it "gives me time for self-reflection," Marcinek said.

The camp was an anchor for her when she was 15 and in need of "a spiritual boost."

Her time as an OLVC counsellor satisfies Marcinek 's other hungers - "I love kids, and I love volunteering."

A farmer gave the 80-acre camp that today contains 13 buildings to the Church in 1946. The cost to attend the week-long camp is $295.

The Aug. 7 to 12 week hosted 90 campers aged 12 and 13, and the theme was Spy Week. Fabio the Fantastic (one of the counsellors) played pranks and tried to sabotage the program. The goal for the campers was to discover who that rascally Fabio was.

One of his tricks happened one afternoon when the campers gathered for their lasagna meal only to discover that Fabio had stolen all their forks so they had to eat their slippery dinner with a spoon.

Lisa MacQuarrie, co-ordinator of youth evangelization for the Edmonton Archdiocese, said by using their skills and talents, campers learn how to work as a team and discover how they can use their God-given gifts to live out their faith.

Another game, a scavenger hunt, enables the campers to learn how to work co-operatively.

Helping with chores, such as peeling potatoes, is expected of every camper at OLVC.

WCR PHOTO | LASHA MORNINGSTAR

Helping with chores, such as peeling potatoes, is expected of every camper at OLVC.

One of the main thrusts of the program is to get the kids outside to see nature, said MacQuarrie.

So archery, Frisbee, swimming and waterfront fun are woven into the daily schedule. Thunder, lightning and weather warnings shut down planned outdoor activities when the WCR and staff from the archdiocesan Pastoral and Administration Offices visited OLVC.

BUILDING CHARACTER

Character building also happens on talent night. Campers are given a chance to step out in front of the crowd and perform.

Sometimes it is the shy child who knocks the socks off their fellow campers, and campers are left saying "Who knew?" said MacQuarrie.

Others might not be so great, but the campers "are kind," said MacQuarrie, and still applaud and cheer.

In this supportive atmosphere, the kids are free to be open and compassionate.

While there are fun and games and time for God, campers are expected to help with chores such as washing dishes and peeling potatoes for the evening meal.

The faith-based program for the 12-year-olds focused on social justice and living simply. For the 13-year-olds, the topic was chastity and respecting yourself and others.

Team leader Gregoire Moquin helps campers prepare to pray their daily rosary.

ARCHDIOCESAN COMMUNICATIONS PHOTO | CHRISTOPHER JUGO

Team leader Gregoire Moquin helps campers prepare to pray their daily rosary.

This was the first time at camp for Rowan Stratichuk, 12, and he was fulsome in his praise.

"This is awesome, really, really fine. I'm definitely coming next year. People here are nice, respectful and everyone can be different in their own way," Rowan said.

JESUS IS 'RIGHT THERE'

This is the third year at OLVC for 12-year-old Claire Offenberger.

"I love the atmosphere. I feel I am amongst friends and it encourages me in my faith," she said.

During adoration, Claire feels closer to God - "that he is right there with us."

She is "happy and blessed" to be among others who feel the same way.

Noah Brodeur, 16, has been coming to camp for 16 years. He can make that claim because his parents were OLVC volunteers when he was a pre-schooler.

Now a counsellor, Brodeur said, "I love it here. People are so in love with God." He too loves participating in adoration. "It gives you one-to-one time with God."