By: Kevin Bohli, Director of the Office of Youth Ministry
It’s that time of year again. Over 1,000 teens across the diocese are preparing for summer work camps.
While the name ‘work camp’ may bring to mind the gulags and prisons of communist Russia, these are not extended punishment experiences for young people. Rather, Work camps are week-long summer service projects for teenagers. Our teens and parishes work hard all year to fundraise, learn tool safety and prepare spiritually for the privilege to attend a work camp.
The goal of these camps is to put young people into relationships with adults while working together on a common service project. The adults share their love of Jesus Christ with the teens and together they witness to that love through serving the less-fortunate.
Organizations across the country offer work camps; some of these camps are run by Catholic organizations, while others are interdenominational. The Diocese of Arlington is one of the few dioceses in the country that has developed our own camp for our own parishes to attend. This WorkCamp (note the official, but not-so-creative name) was developed 20 years ago to help Arlington teens come together for a more intense Catholic experience while also learning that service begins right at home.
Due to the popularity of our annual WorkCamp and the inability for the camp to accommodate more than 500 teens in one week, the Office of Youth Ministry has created two separate weeks of WorkCamp for the summer of 2010. During the first week, June 26 – July 2, we will host over 350 teens in Winchester, Virginia, and during the second week, July 24-30, we will host over 250 teens in Dumfries, Virginia. The students and adults live together in a school that has been transformed into “home base” for the week.
While the dates and locations of these camps are different, they are identical programs in every other aspect. Participants will break into crews of five teens, one adult leader, and one volunteer contractor to repair the homes of the less-fortunate throughout the area. These crews will build wheelchair ramps, replace roofs, floors, and windows, repair drywall and fix leaky plumbing. The crews will also spend time each day building a relationship with the resident that they have the privilege to serve.
WorkCamp is not all work! A significant amount of time is spent in prayer, at Mass or participating in small group discussions to help participants process all they are experiencing. Each evening, various speakers, musicians and other performers will lead to a prayerful and memorable retreat experience. Bishop Loverde will be visiting and celebrating Mass at both weeks of WorkCamp and always demonstrates his servant’s heart by helping serve dinner to the teens.
While registration is over for this year’s diocesan WorkCamps, we are always looking for adults that can help behind the scenes. If you are interested in participating, please contact the Office of Youth Ministry.
Lastly, please keep all teens and adults in your prayers that their summer work camp experiences may be safe opportunities to grow closer to Christ and to one another.