Joe is currently studying in Rome as a seminarian for the Diocese of Madison. He will be ordained to the diaconate in October, and to the priesthood in June 2016.
Joe is currently studying in Rome as a seminarian for the Diocese of Madison. He will be ordained to the diaconate in October, and to the priesthood in June 2016.

This article appears in the annual Camp Gray Gazette. The Gazette will be landing in your mailbox soon. Just like when you’re at Camp Gray, when you open the Camp Gray Gazette, you’ll experience faith, friends, and fun!

 

By: Joseph Baker

When I was hired as a counselor, I had never been to Camp Gray. I didn’t even grow up going to summer camp, so when I first arrived in June of 2009, I really didn’t know what to expect. One thing I quickly discovered is that from Sunday afternoon through Friday morning, there’s no place quite like it. During the summer months, Camp Gray is abuzz and filled with many sights, sounds, and, in a particular way, smells –the victorious stench of fishers returning from Lake Jake, the aroma of campfire infused clothes, or a whiff of freshly baked brownies. To this end, I also learned that many adventures at camp aren’t included in one’s job description.

In 2009, Joe served as a counselor on Camp’s Summer Staff.
In 2009, Joe served as a counselor on Camp’s Summer Staff.

While camp welcomes, or at least is accustomed to many smells, sometimes the forest of Camp Gray is filled with more than just wisdom. Sometimes a pungent odor fills the air and a crew must be assembled and sent out to capture an encroaching skunk; a truly perilous venture. And even though Tom – the sage maintenance man – was not there to guide us, after some hissing and tail raising (by man and beast alike), the mission was eventually accomplished without incident.

Looking back, besides feline wrangling, camp led me to do many things I wouldn’t have otherwise done. This stems from a favorite and often repeated mantra that “camp is for the kids.” While I don’t know if there is anything more exhausting than a week at Camp or a summer as a counselor, I also don’t know if there is anything more rewarding. It’s precisely because Camp fosters this selfless attitude among the staff that, when combined with the Christian faith, remarkable people are formed… just look at the number of vocations to marriage, religious life, and the priesthood in recent years.

A blessed meeting - Joe shakes hands with our Holy Father, Pope Francis, in Oct. of 2014!
A blessed meeting – Joe shakes hands with our Holy Father, Pope Francis, in Oct. of 2014!

From its inception under Msgr. Gray, Camp was meant to show kids that faith and fun are not mutually exclusive – at Camp Gray, kids are allowed to be themselves, to discover their faith, and to have fun. As Pope Francis reminds us, we’re not supposed to be a bunch of sourpusses. Indeed, this is why I think Camp Gray is so great but also so challenging.

So, you might ask, what did I find at Camp Gray? I found the place where skunk trapping is combined with a prayer to St. Francis (hoping that you’ve been a good steward of the earth); where laughs are had and lasting friendships are formed. I found a group of people that not only share in one another’s joys, but also in one another’s sufferings; a group of people that unselfishly does their best to instill the true happiness of being Christians. In short, I found the reason I love being Catholic.

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