When evaluating youth summer camps, reviewing the opportunities for faith formation in addition to the recreational activities provided is key, experts say.
Many summer camps and programs at Catholic colleges throughout the country balance traditional recreational activities and enrichment with prayer and faith formation.
The summer program at Wyoming Catholic College in Lander, Wyoming, for example, offers daily Mass, Adoration, and Liturgy of the Hours in addition to fly-fishing, horseback riding, and a three-night backpacking trip. Programs at other schools include daily Mass and reflection.
Such a balance enables participants to continue practicing and growing in their faith during summer months when they are away from their traditional religious education.
“We’re called to grow in our faith all-year round, not just during the school year,” said Kelli Kinnear, director of ministry and service at Chaminade-Julienne High School in Dayton, Ohio. “These [camps] are opportunities for students to grow deeper in their faith.”
In looking for an appropriate summer experience, it’s important that the activities offered fit the student’s particular interests.
“I would suggest they find a camp where there are going to be activities they would like to do,” said Nolan Reynolds, campus minister at Holy Trinity High School in Hicksville, New York. “You want to enjoy it.”
Learning more about how the camp staff witnesses the faith is also part of evaluating camp programs, counselors say. Try to determine where their hearts are and if they incorporate Catholic faith into their everyday lives. Camps should have leaders who live the faith by example. That has a positive effect on young people.
“I think that students or teens who are going to Mass need to take their faith and apply it to other areas of their lives,” Reynolds said. “Kids don’t see adults incorporating faith into their everyday lives. That camp could serve as an ‘aha’ moment to kids who are really open to faith.”
An added benefit is provided if the camp offers leadership formation students can bring back to their own schools, Kinnear said.
Finally, summer camps that include faith components as part of their core programs can serve as catalysts for young people to begin talking about faith in public and opening up about their faith formation.
“They need to see that it’s not a crazy thing to live out their faith in this world,” Reynolds said. “Nor is it impossible. Even the most faithful ones are so afraid of what their peers would think of them. It’s a great opportunity for them to see the Church alive and universal.”
Here is a sampling of some summer camps from across the United States.
Grand Rapids, Michigan
What: Aquinas College Jazz Camp is designed for musicians entering eighth grade to those finishing high school, but it can be adjusted for college students seeking college credit or adult musicians looking to advance their skills.
When: June 18-23, 2017
Cost: The fee for day campers is $275, which includes all materials, classes, lunches, and a camp T-shirt. The fee for overnight campers is $475 total, which includes all of the above in addition to room and board.
Belmont Abbey College
Belmont, North Carolina
What: Schola is a high school summer program that affords students an opportunity to grow in friendship, devotion, wisdom, and wonder through leisure. Participants are invited to slow down, to spend a summer week cultivating the goodness of their souls by reading and discussing classic works of philosophy and literature with friends, having meaningful conversations about the fundamental questions of life, enjoying daily recreational and social activities, viewing films, contemplating beautiful works of art, and spending time in prayer and worship with the monastic community of Belmont Abbey. Students who have completed two years of high school by summer 2017 are invited to apply to this program.
When: July 16-23, 2017
Cost: The program fee of $575 includes meals, books, tuition, room and board, and activity fees.
What: This day camp for children ages 5-11 offers indoor and outdoor recreational activities, including sports games, water activities, crafts, movies, and academic activities. Optional off-campus field trips are also available.
When: 11 one-week sessions from May 30-Aug. 11, 2017; 7:30 a.m.-6 p.m.
Cost: $200 for five days, with discounts for additional children
Buffalo, New York
What: Science Camp targets middle school students to increase their interest in science. Five broadly defined science topics are explored in a camp-like atmosphere filled with hands-on activities. The 2017 topics will be cells, aero-lab, transport phenomena, energy, and forensics.
When: Aug. 7-11, 2017; 9 a.m.-3 p.m.
The Catholic University OF America
What: Light the World! is a chance for high school students to investigate, research, and learn how faith and culture interact with everyday activities. Students witness faithful excellence in action in business, science, politics, sports, and the arts. They visit places such as the Capitol, NASA Goddard, and Nationals Park and hear from people who have achieved success in those realms talk about how faith intersects with those activities.
When: Two separate one-week sessions: June 25-July 1; July 9-15, 2017
Cost: $350; sponsorships are available.
Front Royal, Virginia
What: Experience what hundreds of others have called “the best week ever” during the Experience Christendom Summer Program. Students entering their senior year of high school in fall 2017 are invited to register for the college’s summer program. Current high school sophomores are also asked to register to be placed on a waiting list. Each of six sessions will have 48 students. Courses include Scripture study/theology, philosophy, literature, and history. Extracurricular activities include swing dancing, canoe trip, hiking, talent show, debate, bowling, bonfires, and more. There are opportunities for spiritual growth with daily Mass, Rosary, Adoration, and confessions available.
When: Six one-week sessions in 2017, starting June 11-17 and concluding July 23-29.
Cost: A $500 fee includes tuition, room and board, books, and activity fees. Financial assistance is available.
College of the Holy Cross
What: The Chamber Music Institute is an intensive immersion program for talented, high school- and college-aged violinists, violists, cellists, and pianists, focused on the art of chamber music as well as individual musical development.
When: June 25-July 1, 2017
Cost: Chosen participants will be offered a full scholarship, including room and board. At the time of acceptance to the program, a nonrefundable registration fee of $250 is required to guarantee participation in the program.
Franciscan University of Steubenville
What: The Steubenville Conferences are retreat-based events that provide youth with the opportunity for an encounter with Christ. They focus on the necessity and beauty of the sacraments, especially Reconciliation and the Eucharist.
When: Main campus in 2017: June 16-18, 23-25; July 9-7, 14-16, 21-23. There are also 20 regional conferences across North America. Registration is only open to groups of youth with adult chaperones.
St. Louis, Missouri
What: Camp FRESH at Fontbonne University welcomes children entering fourth through seventh grades on an interactive, hands-on journey toward better health through activities emphasizing culinary experiences, nutrition, health and wellness, physical exercise, and creativity. Campers will experience games and sports from around the world. Each weeklong day camp features a different continent, from Antarctica to South America, with stops along the way to learn about the unique lifestyles of kids around the globe.
When: Five-day sessions in 2017 begin June 5, 12, 19, 26; July 10, 17, 24
Cost: $175 per week, with $10/week discount if paid by May 1.
What: The three-week College Preparatory Program offers students an experience rooted in academic achievement, personal growth, and cultural exploration. Students learn test-taking techniques to prepare for the SATs and work closely with instructors to craft a compelling personal statement for college applications. Outside of class, students have the opportunity to enjoy the full Georgetown experience through social activities, weekend excursions, and campus events.
When: June 18-July 7, 2017
Cost: $6,199 includes tuition, housing, and 19 meals per week.
John Carroll University
University Heights, Ohio
What: The John Carroll Young Writers Workshop for students in grades 8-12 is a rigorous program that provides an introduction to the art and craft of poetry, short fiction, and creative nonfiction. In morning and afternoon sessions, students have the opportunity to study with acclaimed writers and engage in writing-intensive exercises. Students will participate in sessions in which they will read and discuss each other’s work with an eye toward revision. They will also read and discuss the work of established authors, investigating the strategies they use to craft their poetry and prose. Finally, students will have an individual conference with Professor Philip Metres and other teachers to discuss their writing.
When: July 17-21, 2017; 9 a.m.-5:30 p.m.
Cost: $350 as of June 1; $300 if paid by April 1. A $100 nonrefundable deposit is required by June 1 to reserve your student’s spot in the program. Upon receipt of deposit and completion of the application process, the remaining fee will be due by July 18.
Loyola Marymount University
Los Angeles, California
What: A two-week residential program for rising high school sophomores, juniors, and seniors designed to challenge students’ critical and creative ways of thinking while igniting their passion and purpose. In 2017 LMU will offer multiple noncredit courses in seven academic areas of interest, including leadership, political science, screenwriting, English literature, acting, environmental science, and entrepreneurship.
When: June 25-July 8; July 16-29
Cost: Cost for the full two-week program is $3,750. This includes tuition, room and board, extracurricular activities, class field trips, and all books and materials. There is a nonrefundable $50 application fee.
What: The Investigative Summer Science Program provides experience in science studies for high school sophomores, juniors, and seniors. Highlights include field trips and guest speakers, laboratory approach, broadening scientific interests, strengthening pre-college science education, and exposure to a variety of professional science careers through interaction with science professionals, revealing how various disciplines are connected through the study of science.
When: June 19-30, 2017
Cost: $200 program fee. Room and board for two weeks and two hours of college credit upon successful completion of the program are provided.
Saint John’s School of Theology and Seminary
What: The Youth and Theology Ministry bring together high school youth, their adult mentors, and students at the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University to build a community of disciples working together to build the reign of God. The Summer Institute engages high school youth in college-level theological study, service, justice, prayer, and vocational discernment as they explore their faith and integrate it into their everyday experiences.
When: June 11-24, 2017
Thomas More College
Crestview Hills, Kentucky
What: Open to high school freshman, sophomores, and juniors interested in exploring the STEM disciplines (science, technology, engineering, and math), the STEM Summer Institute provides hands-on experience in the field, at the Ohio River, at the Biology Field Station, at an observatory, and in the classrooms and science labs at Thomas More. Participants interact with college students and professors, while spending the week learning STEM and conducting research.
When: July 9-14, 2017
Cost: $500; financial aid available
Thomas More College of Liberal Arts
Merrimack, New Hampshire
What: The Great Books program includes reading, seminars, prayer and noon Holy Mass, recreational activities, and trips to Boston and Maine.
When: July 16-29, 2017
University of Dallas
What: The music academy for students in grades 8-12 enables string, piano, and vocal students to immerse themselves in the language of music, expanding their musical abilities and developing their artistic potential.
When: June 12-17, 2017
Cost: $350 per student. A residential option for five days/four nights is available for an additional $260 per student.
University of Notre Dame
Notre Dame, Indiana
What: Summer scholars spend two weeks in intense study of one of several subject areas, including astronomy, archaeology, film production, life sciences, literature, and other disciplines.
When: June 24-July 8, 2017
Cost: $3,400; some areas of study require additional lab fees.
La Crosse, Wisconsin
What: Franciscan CORE Social Justice Institute is a five-day summer residential program for students in grades 10-12 that offers education, reflection, and experience on Catholic social teaching themes and principles using St. Francis of Assisi as a model. Each day includes prayer, intentional learning, interaction with leaders in the field, direct service, and time to process experiences. Viterbo’s residence halls will be home for the week, and all meals will be furnished. Space is limited to 30 participants.
When: June 11-16, 2017
Wyoming Catholic College
What: Two-week camps are designed for young college-bound Catholics who seek an introduction to traditional liberal arts education and want to experience what it’s like to be a WCC student. A few hours each day will be spent in college-level classes. Taught by WCC professors, students will study philosophy, theology, Latin, and literature. Participants will be sent a short selection of readings to complete prior to arrival. Students will immerse themselves in a rich spiritual life with daily Mass, Adoration, and the Liturgy of the Hours. Activities include fly-fishing, horseback riding, and a three-night backpacking trip (gear, training, and food provided).
When: June 24-July 8; July 9-23, 2017
Cost: The $995 cost covers all lodging, food, equipment, recreation fees, and excursions. A $100 nonrefundable deposit reserves your spot. Travel costs to Wyoming are not included.