A Benedictine monastery and a seminary college is an important place for high school boys to visit. A positive experience at such an impressionable age, even if only for the weekend, lends the opportunity to strengthen a young person’s faith and help cultivate and sustain their relationship with God. I know this because I have seen it happen year after year. That is the reason I have willingly subjected myself to weeks of planning and a tiring weekend of energetic campers and activities.
This past weekend was the 19th year for Conception Seminary’s Companion Camp. But, this year was a bit different. For years we have welcomed 6th, 7th, and 8th grade boys for a weekend camp focused on faith, fun, and fellowship. We have also invited high school boys to come and help out as part of the camp staff and serve as role models for the campers. Throughout the years, the attendance varied between 30 to 80 campers. In recent years, however, many dioceses have begun their own summer camps, which often conflicted with the scheduled dates for Companion Camp. Seminarians who were normally free to come and assist with our weekend camp were sometimes not available because of camp duties in their home diocese.
The Director of Admissions for Conception Seminary College typically assumes the responsibility for Companion Camp. Brother Luke, having professed monastic vows on August 15, 2015, was assigned to this role as his first year in the Admission’s Office. When the future of Companion Camp came into question, Brother Luke did not want to see the event simply disappear. For the past two years, he, too, witnessed the excitement of our high school staff for whom camp had become their annual summer tradition. Brother Luke’s idea was to have this year’s camp specifically for the high school staff who have been so dedicated to attending camp and helping out—some participating for as many as 6 or 7 years.
The high school boys arrived Friday afternoon and stayed through Sunday lunch. The weekend was filled with many of the familiar activities of previous camps— individual and group challenges, board games, ice breakers, and their favorites: dodgeball and an epic water balloon battle.
The smaller group of eleven high schoolers and a few monks, allowed for more flexibility with the schedule and the activities. Father Brendan, the President-Rector of Conception Seminary College, met a couple times with the group to teach them lectio divina. They joined the monks for prayer regularly and, on Saturday evening, there was a Holy Hour and the Sacrament of Reconciliation was available. We wanted them to deepen their relationship with Christ. That would be the best gift we could possibly give them for the weekend.
Two seminarians who are working on campus this summer were able to share their vocation stories and answer the questions that the high schoolers had about seminary life. Some of the young men said they have considered the priesthood and they are trying to discover God’s will in their lives. It was especially important for them to interact with the seminarians and monks, meeting and hearing the stories of men who are striving to respond to God’s call daily.
We hope to welcome more young people to campus to experience the peaceful environment, prayer with the monastic community, and fellowship with one another. Next summer, Father Brendan intends to host a weeklong conference, One Bread, One Cup, at Conception Abbey and Seminary College. High school students and college age men and women will be welcomed to enter into the rich tradition of Benedictine prayer and spirituality. We are very excited about extending such an invitation to our former-campers.