This summer I was blessed to have the opportunity to serve as a counsellor at Camp Wojtyla, in Colorado America! Camp Wojtyla is an initiative for young people, inspired by the way that John Paul II (Karol Wojtyla) took groups of young people into the mountains, kayaking, climbing and camping in his native Poland to experience creation and to discover life and God more deeply. We spent 9 weeks in the Rocky Mountains living in a teepee on this Camp, running retreats for young people in the middle of nowhere! Asking my boss for 9 weeks from work was the first difficulty. Then there was the thought of traveling half-way around the world to a range of mountains with no one I had ever known. The first two weeks we spent being formed as Catholic leaders. The programme included a 2-day silent retreat, going deep
into the Word of God with the most incredible teaching of Salvation History, and learning how to evangelize. Then we took our faith to the mountains, literally, where we learned outdoor leadership and mountaineering skills.
For me the most amazing aspect of Camp was the community, spending two months of my life with 15 girls and 15 guys. The wonderful way we served each other as sisters and brothers in Christ, truly struck my heart. It is a far cry from what our world appears to proclaim: whenever people are working together they are expected to fall in love, but what I discovered is that we are all called to love one another, as Christ loves us. During our summer, we went into the local town one day a week so we could do our laundry and other things, but the rest of Camp we spent with no electricity, no internet, and no mobile phone signal! For me this was strange and harsh. However like the Israelites wondering through the desert, or Elijah going to the mountain, I had been called to a desert-like place, to be in the beauty of God’s creation and listen, to be in the presence of God. Each day besides a routine of community prayer and the celebration of Mass we had two hours of our own prayer. When reading the Gospels maybe you have noticed that before and after every public ministry Jesus goes to a private place to pray and to communicate with his Father, so his will is aligned with that of his Father, and to draw peace and strength from Him. This took me nearly two months to realize, but we
too are called to be public witnesses, and we too need that peace and strength that can only come from our Father, so to spend 30 minutes in silent prayer each day is as necessary as the air we breathe, otherwise we become dead, or simply a clashing cymbal. I would really encourage any young person to take up this opportunity and to experience what I discovered: that God’s love calls us further into Him then we could ever imagine.