Teens grow in their faith at 31st annual C.A.M.P.S.
Story and photos by Carolee McGrath
PITTSFIELD – Approximately 200 teenagers from across Massachusetts spent the week together praying, reflecting, and having a blast at C.A.M.P.S. held at Lakeside Camp and Conference Center here.
Held Aug. 4 through 9, this was the 31st year for the Catholic-based camp. C.A.M.P.S. is an acronym for Christ As My Personal Savior.
“It was my first away camp, so there were a lot of emotions in that,” Mollyrose McCarthy told iobserve. “But when I first got here, there was a giant fiesta going on. I think everyone should do this,” she said. McCarthy will be a sophomore at Westfield High School this year.
“Everyone loves each other, even if you don’t know each other,” she said. “At Wednesday’s confession, lots of people were crying. It was an emotional night. I broke down after confession. People came up and started hugging me and we all just love each other.”
McCarthy came to camp with other youth from Our Lady of Blessed Sacrament Parish in Westfield. Her friend, Jacob Dionne, was one of those youth from the parish who also attended.
“This is my third year at the camp,” Dionne told iobserve. “I was part of the pilot group at my parish. I’ve been coming ever since,” he said. Dionne will begin his junior year this year at Pioneer Valley Performing Arts Charter School in South Hadley.
Dionne said he was moved by the speakers who shared their testimony with the campers, including Joe Castillo. Castillo, a sand artist, drew Jesus on live television during season 7 of NBC’s “America’s Got Talent.”
“This week we had so many amazing speakers, both staff speakers as well as speakers from outside,” said Dionne, “amazing people who have talked about how God and Jesus came into their life and changed them.”
Father George Morin, pastor of Holy Redeemer Parish in West Newbury, Mass., founded C.A.M.P.S. 30 years ago with one of his parishioners.
“Way back in 1984, Maureen Mulcahy and I started C.A.M.P.S. together,” said Father Morin. Referencing the C.A.M.P.S. acronym, Christ As My Personal Savior, Father Morin said, “That is our goal and mission, to help the high school students who come here to come to a personal relationship with Christ.”
Father Morin said the teens have the opportunity to go to reconciliation, attend Mass, and have prayer time with their groups every morning and evening.
“A personal relationship with Jesus is to come to know him as more than someone up in the clouds,” he said. “It’s making the Gospel real.”
He also told iobserve that he and the C.A.M.P.S. organizers also schedule many games and activities to make sure that the teens have fun as well. Participants were also able to swim and do other water sports at the camp, which is located on Richmond Pond.
“I think we have 188 teenagers (here),” said Father Morin. “If you multiply that by 31 years, it’s very hopeful. We’ve had several people over the years find their marriage partner here. In fact, we have three campers whose parents were here when they were in high school. That speaks well of what we’re doing,” he said.
Local meteorologist and Our Lady of Blessed Sacrament parishioner Nick Morganelli attended the first C.A.M.P.S. and has been volunteering with his wife and four children for the last several years.
Many of the campers, like Morganelli, return to the Berkshire County camp as counselors. Nineteen-year-old Bethany DiRocco, also from Our Lady of Blessed Sacrament Parish, attended the camp two years ago.
“I came here because, after my first year, I told myself I will make every effort possible to come back. It’s such a supporting community,” said DiRocco, who is currently studying chemistry at Holyoke Community College. “I have loved it since I got here,” she said. “It changes me every year because I ask God to teach me more about myself. I would like everyone to come here if possible.”
For more on this story, tune into an upcoming edition of “Real to Reel,” the Diocese of Springfield’s television newsmagazine that airs Saturday evenings at 7 on WWLP-22NEWS.