Liza Hughes reports from a Summer Camp for youth in Armagh & Clogher
This summer for the first time the diocesan youth groups, Armagh Diocesan Youth Commission (ADYC) and Clogher don Óige (CdÓ) joined together to launch a new summer camp for 12-14 year olds in Greenhill YMCA in Newcastle, Co. Down.
This was the first time either group had reached out to this age group and with not knowing how the week was going to pan out, the leaders had a lot to be nervous about. It was nice to learn it was not just us leaders who were feeling nervous. Davóg McCaffrey had thoughts running through his head like “who will I be sharing with?” “Do I have enough stuff packed?” while poor Amy Hynes was scared about missing the bus! But nobody had time to feel nervous for long as it was straight into action.
The three main themes of the summer camp were ‘fun, faith and friendship’. Some of the activities provided at Greenhill were a low and high ropes challenge, zip-lining, archery, adventure walk, a treasure hunt, laser tag, canoeing and lots of games in between. Amy Hynes’ favourite was the high rope challenge. “It was scary at the start but I gave it a go and I loved it.” Ronan Mc Caffrey couldn’t choose a favourite! “The activities were fantastic, some of them challenged me but with the leaders’ support and my friends cheering me on I did them all and really loved them all.” Ann Scanlon loved the new experience. “I have never done any of the activities before so it was a great experience. A few of the activities were challenging but everybody overcame their fear,” she said.
The Assumption of Our Lady fell in the middle of the week which is where the Assume Summer Camp got its name. Not surprisingly faith was to take a very important role in the week. What was surprising for the young people was the different ways we could express our faith and how much fun they could have doing it. The faith-based activities included daily Mass, a reconciliation prayer service with confession with a priest, a workshop on Mary and a Q&A session with a young priest. Davóg said he took a lot from this. “It was a really unique chance to have a Q&A session with Fr Ryan McAleer. I found him very interesting and inspiring.” There was daily Mass but not Mass as the young people may have experienced before, not one single Mass was held in a church. A favourite among the group was ‘Mass in the Grass’ as they called it where the group celebrated Mass with Fr Martin O’Reilly in a field. Cody Campbell loved it saying “it was very relaxing sitting in the field and being surrounded by nature”. The workshop on Mary also gave the young people a chance to learn a little more about Mary and why she is so important to our faith. Emma Mullin really enjoyed this. “It was really good to listen about Mary and my faith has grown a lot,” she said.
The final theme was friendship and it could be felt all throughout the week. Facebooks, mobile numbers and BBM pins were all exchanged on the final night by the campfire when roasting smores. The goodbyes started to flow as did the tears. Eight young people were asked to give an account of their week and one clear line from every one of them was the wonderful friends they had made and how much they did not want to leave them.
Amy Logan said she had a ball! “The summer camp was one the best weeks of my life, I will never forget the amazing activities we took part in, the friends I made and the things I learned about my faith,” she said. Erin McElduff is going home with lot more than fond memories. “What I will take away from this week are the two new best friends I have made,” she said.
The one thing Cody Campbell learned is “expressing your faith is not just praying, reading the Bible or going to Mass. Faith means to rejoice and be happy – to live life to the fullest”.