Back in 2009, I was accepted to enter seminary in the fall. I spent the summer working for Religion News Writers Association. At the beginning of the summer I met a priest of our diocese, Fr. Bill Peckman who invited me to come help with this new camp he was starting for high school boys. So I agreed to help out, and after I lost my glasses in the river on a float trip, as they say, the rest is history. I’ve been involved with the camp on and off ever since (Rome made it somewhat difficult). When I lived in Rome, many would ask me, what’s one thing you are really excited about or proud of in your diocese? My answer always was, “Camp Maccabee.”

So what’s the deal with Camp Maccabee? What makes it so great? Why have I been promoting it in parishes around the diocese, on Facebook and on Twitter? Why should you bother to send your son? Allow me to explain.

What is it? What does it entail?

Camp Maccabee is a week-long (Sunday-Friday) camp for young Catholic men entering high school (9th-12th grade). The camp consists of a variety of outdoor activities such as camping, hiking, fishing, warrior/ninja dash obstacle course, low ropes course etc. These fun outdoor activities are pared with daily Mass, Adoration, Liturgy of the Hours, Confession, a series of talks about the virtues and Catholic masculine spirituality (they very every year), and discussion groups.

Not only are the outdoor activities fun, but also they are meant to help teach the men how to sacrifice for one another through teamwork, as well as how to grow as a leader. The talks are then meant to help the men take the lessons they’ve learned through the activities and apply them to the other areas of their life so that they can grow in maturity and faith.

Why is it needed?

When I was in high school I was very active in my local parish’s youth group. I cannot tell you how many times I would show up to an event and the number of girls way out numbered the number of guys, sometimes even to the extreme where I was the only guy present. I still see it today when I do youth ministry as a priest. Camp Maccabee seeks to reverse this trend. To say to young men, it’s ok to be a guy and have faith. The camp helps these young men to grow in their Catholic faith and masculine identity at the same time. Not only does the camp say, “it’s ok to be a guy and have faith,” but it also provides the young men with the tools to be able to grow.

Furthermore, in my work in a Catholic high school, as well as looking at society in general, I think it is fairly obvious that many young men today are very wrapped up in themselves, it’s always about me, me, me. This attitude is often also coupled with an attitude that nothing is ever their fault, they are always the victims. Lastly, there is the issue of how they treat women, treating them as objects of their pleasure, not respecting their beauty and dignity, and in doing so, not respecting themselves either.

Camp Maccabee seeks to reverse some of those trends. To provide a healthy, Catholic and virtuous understanding of what it means to man in today’s world. We teach about what it means to embody a self-sacrificial kind of love that is focused on the other and not just oneself. Instead of victims looking to blame others and escape problems, we teach them how to be leaders who will take charge and help others to grow.  Lastly, through things like Theology of the Body, we teach them how to love and respect woman in a deeper and more Christian manner.

Does it work?

Do I think that 5 days can completely solve all of the difficulties and problems your son in facing? Absolutely not. Camp Maccabee is not some sort of magical quick fix, where you drop your son off on Sunday and then poof, you get someone completely new on Friday.

Do I think it works? Of course. I believe that the lessons these young men learn on Camp Maccabee plant seeds, seeds that grow and develop over time. Over the years I have seen young men who have come back year after year, the difference between them as someone entering their freshman year and senior year, is palpable. While some of that may be generic maturing, I like to believe that Camp Maccabee has helped in that process.

As the camp has developed over the years, we now have many young men come back and help as junior staff or counselors when they are in college. That’s how you know it’s working. These men come back to share the gifts and lessons they first learned as campers, which they now want to share with the next wave of young men. They are also able to testify how the camp has helped them with their college experiences.

Should I send my son?

If you agree with anything I’ve said so far, then yes! Of course you should send your son. If you have a desire for your son to grow and mature as a young Catholic man, then I see no greater opportunity in our area.

As parents when you had your son baptized, you promised to help raise your son in the faith and to help him grow in his relationship with Jesus Christ, sending your son on Camp Maccabee is a concrete expression of how you can live that promise you made to God on the day of their baptism.

That being said, the camp is strenuous, there are lots of difficult outdoor activities, and so your son will be pushed. If you think this might be too overwhelming at this point, perhaps it’s best to wait a year. If you think, that’s great, I want them to push themselves so they can grow, then send them our way.

Here’s a short video from Fr. Bill, the founder of the camp reflecting on this very issue:

 

How do I sign up?

All of the camp application or registration forms are found on CampMaccabee.com. From there be sure to click on the “Sign up” tab.

There you will see instructions for mailing in your forms. If you live in one of the parishes where I serve as a priest, you can hand them to me directly and I’ll make sure they are submitted.

There are two weeks to choose from:

  • July 16-21 @ St. Robert Bellarmine, St. Robert, MO
  • July 23-28 @ St. Robert Bellarmine, St. Robert, MO

How else can I help?

So perhaps you don’t have any sons? Or your children are too young still or already past high school age? Yet you are still stirred with a desire to help the camp. I can think of two ways in particular:

  1. Pray: This camp has only been able to survive, sustain itself and grow through the efficacious power of prayer. Pray for all the young men who are on the fence about going, that they may be moved to take the courageous step of signing up. Pray for those young men who will be attending, that God will use the camp to help them grow in ways they cannot even imagine. Pray for the parents of these young men, that they may have the courage to help support their sons as they grow in their faith. Lastly, pray for us, the staff, that we may be vessels of God’s grace for those young men starving to hear God speak to their heart.
  2. Donate: Over the past 8 years the camp has grown considerably, expanding to two weeks as well as expanding the activities and number of campers. Like everything else in the world, these things cost money to happen. We only charge the campers $150 to go on the trip, and even offer scholarships to those who can’t afford to go. Yet the reality is that all of these activities and the food (they are teenage boys after all) cost much more. Perhaps if you can’t donate money, you can get in touch with Fr. Bill Peckman to find out what other specific needs there may be. In the past we’ve had people donate whole hogs or cattle, (lots of pork and beef for the kids), a smoker and much more. If you are interested in helping out in this way, please visit CampMaccabee.com. Know that your support makes a tremendous impact on the lives of so many young men and will continue to impact the Church as they grow into adulthood.

Conclusion:

So when you wonder why I run around the diocese praising Camp Maccabee, now you know a little bit more about why I believe so much in this project. I don’t even believe this post covers all of my thoughts on the subject, so there might be more coming in the days and weeks to come. In the mean time if you have any questions for me, feel free to leave a comment below.

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