Surrounded by nature, more than 200 campers, staff and guests gathered on the shore of Camp Christopher’s Lake Marian for a special Mass on July 10. The liturgy was celebrated by Bishop Nelson Perez. Deacon Will Yoho of Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish in Cuyahoga Falls, who also serves as Camp Christopher’s spiritual director, assisted.
“What a church to celebrate Mass in,” the bishop said, pointing to the sky, trees and lake. “This is like a cathedral. It’s beautiful.”
He urged the campers to take in the scenery and enjoy it. “You can see God in nature,” he told them.
As he walked among the campers during the homily, Bishop Perez acknowledged the contributions of Tess Flannery, camp director and associate director of the Summit County office, Catholic Charities, Diocese of Cleveland. He also noted that Patrick Gareau, president and CEO, Catholic Charities, Diocese of Cleveland, and Deacon Yoho are both military veterans. The deacon is a colonel and Gareau was a captain in the Army. He thanked them for their service to both the Church and their country.
The bishop then asked campers what is memorable about their summer camp experience. One youngster recalled slicing his knee. Another said it was zip lining. “You couldn’t get me to do that,” the bishop quipped. Other campers mentioned horseback riding, camp games, canoeing, swimming, fishing, archery, the mummy’s cave, making friends and more.
“I think of myself as young,” Bishop Perez told the campers. He referenced Pope Francis’ recent apostolic exhortation, “Christus Vivit,” which translates as “Christ is Alive.” The document was published in April. It was written after last year’s gathering of young people and Church leaders in Rome as a compilation of what the pope heard during that experience.
“Christ is alive. Christ lives. Think about that; reflect on it when you go to bed tonight,” he told the campers.
He also asked them to think about their camp experience. “Remember this wonderful week and say thank you to your friends, family and others who made it possible. For 95 years the Church has been here,” he said, referring to the establishment of Camp Christopher in 1924.
“What and whom are you praying for tonight?” he asked the campers, as he wove their petitions into the Universal Prayer. Prayer requests included family members – siblings, parents, grandparents, cousins, etc. – pets and camp staff. The bishop also prayed for peace in the world and help for the refugees and migrants who aren’t able to enjoy the beauty and experience that the campers have at Camp Christopher. “And the kittens living under the rec hall,” he added, after hearing from a camper.
A group of camp counselors played guitars and led the music during Mass. Some campers and staff served as lectors and altar servers.
After Mass, all gathered for a group photo with the bishop before dispersing for dinner. It was one of the popular cookout nights, so campers feasted on hot dogs, baked beans, chips and watermelon. The bishop stayed to mingle and chat with campers and staff members.
Flannery, who has been with Camp Christopher for 30 years, said there are about 250 overnight campers each summer session and about 170 day campers. Attendees come from across the eight-county diocese. There also is a respite camp for adults with disabilities. Children with disabilities also enjoy Camp Christopher, with some mainstreamed into the camp programs – depending on their abilities.
Camp Christopher also offers environmental education programs, family camp, special programs for senior citizens and more. Click HERE for more information or call 330-376-2267.