In his own words… Friar Matthew Foley, OFM Conv.:
For the past six years, I have brought students from Archbishop Curley High School to a week-long Catholic Service camp called Encounter the Gospel of Life based out of the University of Maryland- College Park. The idea of the camp is to serve the poor and marginalized in our own backyard.
Like our first year, the 2017 group was huge, including 36 current students, 4 alums, 3 teachers and a parent. We were also fortunate to be joined by Br. Nick Romeo, helping out his Alma Mater, in the hopes of bringing some of his students from St. Francis High School in Athol Springs, NY.
Using a “direct-relational” model of service, participants work directly with and get to know the people they serve. In turn, we believe that we will be served by the individuals that we came to serve, as we encounter Christ in those we serve and hopefully others can encounter Christ in us. This year 300 youth, young adult and adult participants served at nursing homes, with the poor, camps for children and for adults with physical and mental disabilities. There were also two sites that worked on and advocated for pro-life and immigration issues.
Each day begins with Mass and then small groups head to their service sites. This year I worked at the Arc of Howard County, right down the street from the Shrine of St. Anthony! There the young people worked with adults with Downs Syndrome and other mental disabilities. We played games, music, and did art projects. Moving from Social Outreach to Social Justice, later in the week we shared our experiences of working with the disabled by writing to members of Congress, to let them know about how some changes in health care would affect those whom we served, those who also ministered to us!
Returning to the university at the end of the day, we gather to reflect theologically on the connection between service and faith. In the evenings, we also had programing that included keynote speakers, activities on Catholic Social Teaching, Eucharistic adoration, and reconciliation. (Special thanks to the many friar priests in Washington, Ellicott City, and Baltimore who over the years have assisted in hearing confessions!)
Kenny Clapp, a rising sophomore at Curley described his experiences of working with inner city children at a day camp to teach them peacemaking skills. “I thought that I would be coming here to help the kids I worked with, considering they were homeless and coming from a bad area and seemed like the typical model for a person in need. But in reality, it was the kids that helped me. They were so joyful and happy and positive that they made me realize how blessed I was in my own life.”
Please email or call if you’d like more information about the camp, or if you’re looking for a summer service experience for the high school aged youth at your ministerial site. The dates for next year’s camp are July 8-14, 2018. The website is http://www.eglweb.org.