By RENEE WEBB
TWIN LAKES – It’s not uncommon for swimming, crafts and songs by the campfire to be part of the summer camp experience, but campers who took part in Camp CAYOCA also had a chance to take part in activities that impacted their souls.
Kara Kardell, assistant director of youth and young adult ministry for the diocese, said the staff has worked hard to find a nice balance between traditional camp recreational activities, catechetical workshops as well as liturgical activities.
“The kids leave and want to come back each year because they were fed, whether that is through community and fellowship, physical activity or prayer and spirituality,” she said. “We incorporate many opportunities for each camper to enjoy their time with us at Camp CAYOCA.”
Fred Shellabarger, director of evangelization and discipleship, called the balance of activities from recreation to spiritual at the camp a unique opportunity for youth and stressed, “like all things Catholic – we strive for the both/and.”
This summer 165 youth attended CAYOCA, the CAtholic YOuth CAmp sponsored by the Diocese of Sioux City that was held earlier this month at Twin Lakes. There were 115 campers in third through sixth grade who attended the first session and 50 campers in seventh through twelfth grade that went to the second session.
CAYOCA, noted Kardell, has a sense of nostalgia in the diocese as it has been around for more than 30 years. Parents, she added, want to send their children to camp because they attended it years earlier.
This year’s camp experience for the first session brought back the tradition of parents attending the closing Mass with the campers, noted Shellabarger. The liturgy was celebrated by Father Mark Stoll.
“It was beautiful to see all the kids together with their parents at the close of the camp,” he said. “I know for many, that had always been something they look forward to.”
Stephanie Garcia, a young adult from Storm Lake, was a volunteer for the camp. She was able to witness the positive impact of CAYOCA.
“Camp CAYOCA was a great experience for the children to be able to experience, interact and open up about their faith,” she said. “Throughout the week we were able to share with the kids our own experiences. It was definitely visible that the kids really enjoyed their time there.”
Barb Sitzmann, who is the DRE at St. Michael Church in Kingsley, served as the nurse for the first session of camp. She pointed out that this is her 15th consecutive year of volunteering at camp.
“I have attended camp since both my own boys were young enough to attend,” she noted, adding the casual atmosphere gives youth a new perspective on their faith. “Adoration is always a positive experience at camp.”
Shellabarger expressed thanks for the commitment and witness of faith the many volunteers demonstrated throughout the camp.
“There really could not be a Camp CAYOCA without them,” he said.
According to Kardell, the theme of the first session was “Master Builder,” a play on the Lego movie that was used to tie into each workshop.
“Our presenters began the workshops with a Minute to Win It game with Legos and then spoke of how God is our master builder in that he created the world, each of us and the kingdom,” said Kardell.
The theme of the second session was “Walking with God,” focused on equipping campers with tools to better know God and how to walk with him on a daily basis.
“We had workshops that talked about the rosary, lectio divina and the ARRR (acknowledge, relate, receive and respond) method of prayer,” Kardell said. “Each of the workshops gave the campers ways that help them walk with God whether it is through prayer or Scripture.”
Campers participate in various liturgical activities, she noted, such as confession, adoration and Mass. They also have the chance to play roles in the liturgy such as gift bearers, lecturing, serving and singing.
“The campers said they loved adoration and enjoyed the worship music done during adoration,” Kardell said. “Our teens are really craving that close, intimate relationship with the Lord, and the way we incorporated those opportunities into camp were really appreciated this year.”
One of the favorite parts of the camp for Shellabarger was that he, Kardell and Alex Estrella were able to lead the campers in a time of praise and worship during adoration. Many commented they wished it was longer.
“To get to be a part of that, helping others to encounter Christ and see that desire for more was both humbling and an honor,” Shellabarger said.
The campers, Kardell added, also had a great time with the camp activities offered such as boating, rock climbing, mini-golf, campfire and bonding with volunteers.
“Camp CAYOCA gives the youth of our diocese the opportunity to meet others in the diocese who are also seeking a closer relationship with God,” Kardell said.