This article originally appeared in the Catholic Missourian published the week of June 27-July 3.

By Geoffrey A. Brooke Jr.

Teenage boys living in 2010 face unprecedented challenges when it comes to growing into strong Catholic men.

In 2009, the Diocese of Jefferson City launched a program to help teens make that transition into Catholic adulthood.

This year, Camp Maccabee will be held July 25-29 in Starkenburg. The camp is open to any Catholic male who will be entering ninth through 12th grade in the fall.

Registration is open until July 10. Anyone interested can contact the Diocesan Youth Ministry Office or speak with their parish priest.

“It’s one of the best decisions I’ve made in my life,” said Forrest Brown of St. Patrick parish in Rolla, about deciding to attend Camp Maccabee last year.

He said his favorite part of the camp was one of the talks given on the four Cardinal Virtues.

“It really inspired me to become a better person,” he said.

Those four Cardinal Virtues — justice, prudence, temperance and fortitude — form the core foundation of Camp Maccabbee. Each evening, there is a talk and discussion focusing on one of the virtues. Other talks focus on issues such as dating and developing a strong prayer life.

“I had a lot to think about, about what they had said, and how it related to me, and how I could use that out in the world,” said Cameron Degraff of St. Frances Cabrini parish in Paris, about all of the talks that he heard while attending Camp Maccabee.

Campers and staff gather to pray the Liturgy of the Hours, the prayer of the Catholic Church, in both the morning and evening. Daily Mass is also a part of the day, in addition to opportunities for adoration, the Rosary and confession — all offered at various points throughout the camp.

However, Camp Maccabee is a camp and not a retreat. The days consist of various outdoor activities. One day the campers travel to the Johnson Shut-ins as well as going hiking at Elephant Rocks State Park.

Perhaps the unanimous favorite activity among the campers in 2009 was the daylong float trip. When interviewed, several of the campers said it was the highlight.

“It brought us a lot closer together,” said Daniel Galarza of Immaculate Conception parish in St. James.

The outdoor activities combined with the evening discussions allowed the students to develop friendships with young men from around the diocese. Despite living far apart, they have been able to keep in touch through Facebook as evidenced by a group created just for the camp.

“We knew each other like we’d known each other for a couple years,” said Mr. Galarza.

These lasting friendships allow for the messages and lessons learned at Camp Maccabee to stay with the young men long after the camp is over. At the completion of the 2009 Camp Maccabee, Garret Trammel of St. Joseph parish in Canton said he was “definitely coming back next year.”

Mr. Galarza didn’t want to leave. “I just wish we could be here longer,” he said.

Mr. Trammel described his experience at the camp as “just having a blast and incorporating God in all of it.”

The camp is staffed by Father Bill Peckman, pastor of St. Clement parish in Bowling Green; Father David Veit, newly appointed pastor of Immaculate Conception parish in Macon and Sacred Heart mission in Bevier; and Father Joe Corel, director of youth ministry and vocations director for the diocese. Joining them are a team of adults, college students and seminarians.

DVDs with more information and personal testimonies have been sent to parishes in the diocese for those seeking to learn more about Camp Maccabee.

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