Ever since the summer right after my second-grade year, I have been going to the summer programs at CYO (Catholic Youth Organization) Camp Rancho Framasa, which I now consider my home away from home. Camp Rancho Framasa will always hold a special place in my heart. CYO Camp is an amazing place, and the experiences I’ve had there have changed my life.
I have been attending family camps with my mom since I was four years old, but in second grade I received the opportunity to officially be a summer camper at a shorter session called Sassafras, which is three days long. I was pretty nervous, as it was my first time being away from home for that long. Despite that, I still had a blast, and I couldn’t wait for the next summer. Each summer meant new experiences, groups, counselors, and overall growing myself closer to God through people and nature.
The first year of camp that I really felt an encounter with God was my third summer, the summer after my fourth-grade year. My group did a prayer and reflection walk, and at each station, we were given either a prayer or something to reflect on. This experience allowed me to open up and see how God was really working in my life through nature. I remember being told to use all of my senses to recognize each thing in nature, and to remember that each thing is God’s creation and that I should be thankful for it. During this walk was when I really gained my appreciation and love for nature. The biggest thing that I remember was seeing each individual tree and seeing how different each one is. Today I use that memory to remember that we are all God’s creation and He made each one of us unique in His way and we are all perfect in His eyes.
Another encounter that I’ve had with God at camp was during Mother-Daughter Camp. We were given different pictures of Jesus to look at and to study, and from that experience, I was able to see the many forms in which Jesus shows up in our lives. There are two pictures that really stuck out to me. The first one was a picture of Jesus talking to children. This one stuck out to me because it showed that we should always remember to go out and teach the Gospel to everybody. The second one that really stuck out to me was a picture where Jesus was black. This picture really stood out because it showed me that in all reality we really don’t know what Jesus looks like until we see him. This picture really helped me open my eyes and realize that no matter what a person looks like we should always help them because it could be Jesus coming back. This also reminded me of a skit that is done almost every summer. A person is preparing for Jesus to visit, and in the midst of that a person who is hungry comes to them, but the person preparing does not feed them the food that is meant for Jesus. Then a person in need of shelter comes to them, but the person does not let them stay in the place that is meant for Jesus. Finally, Jesus arrives and says those people were actually him in disguise. The moral of that story is that we should always be ready for Jesus’ coming and help those in need.
In 2018, I made the decision to attend Adventure Camp, which included caving, and I was extremely nervous and wanted to back out. Luckily, my wonderful counselors encouraged me to do it. Although I often found myself struggling in the cave, I felt assured that God was with me and He was going to make sure I got out safely. Once we were all in a place where we could sit up straight, we all had our headlamps on, and we said something that we were scared of and turned the lights off. Once all of the lights were out we sat in the dark in silence and thought about one thing we looked forward to and turned our lights back on. After that, I really felt at peace, and I wasn’t scared, but then I remembered I had to get out of the cave. I had some difficulties getting out, but once I was out I saw the sun shining, and because it was so dark the trees had a different shade of green to them that made them look very pretty. I knew that it was God saying everything is okay now. I even have a scar that I can always look at and remember Adventure Camp 2018.
Each year at camp, groups have a bead time right after breakfast where we focus on one virtue throughout the week. This one time we learned about St. John Bosco because he is considered the camp’s patron saint due to his love for children. As a matter of fact, he is now my favorite saint! One of my favorite virtues that we discussed was fortitude, because it taught me that no matter what I am struggling with, there is always something better in life to look forward to. At the end of the week, on Thursday night, we had a bead ceremony in which we talked about what we accomplished during the week that used the virtue we focused on. Each year from the bead time and the bead ceremony, I always learn something new and end up growing more in my faith.
I know you may be thinking, “Are those the only things you got from going to camp?” The answer to that question is absolutely not! From the past seven years of camp, I have learned so much about myself, and I have gained so many new friendships that I still have today. A lot of counselors, including the co-directors, have often called me a “camp pro” because of how much of the camp history I know, and because of how often I have attended the many programs at Camp Rancho Framasa. I do, in fact, plan on being a camp counselor during my college years, and I have considered working full time at camp.
Another thing that I absolutely love about camp is something very unique there, the Camp Great Amen:
Amen! H-A-P-P-Y! Yay God! Amen, Amen, Amen, Amen, Amen. Sing it Over! Amen (Alleluia!) Amen (Praise the Lord!) Amen, Amen, Amen. Woo!CYO Camp Rancho Framasa Great Amen
As I said in the beginning, Camp Rancho Framasa will always hold a special place in my heart, and this summer was very difficult for me because I was not able to attend for my eighth consecutive summer. This summer I was supposed to be a junior counselor, but because of Covid-19, it was canceled. Even that experience, though, was not without value. From this, I have learned to appreciate all of my previous summers because I never know which one will be my last.
Attending summer camp for so many years has taught me to love and appreciate the many things in nature, and life in general, that God has given us. I am very grateful for CYO Camp Rancho Framasa and the many things it has taught me; I would highly recommend that you, too, find a local summer camp that helps you enrich your own faith!