By: Jeff Hoeben
Nearly 60 years ago, Monsignor Francis Gray pastor of St. Joseph’s Parish in Baraboo dreamed of a place where, in his words, “…youths would be free and away from the temptations of the streets; where they could enjoy nature and become acquainted with it firsthand. . . a place where they could commune, under supervision, with their Creator and away from paths so frequently leading to delinquency.” His dream did become a reality and today we owe much to him for his vision and for laying the foundation of this invaluable ministry. Monsignor never was able to see his vision come to fruition. He died in July of 1957, a year before the first session of camp was held.
Much like his great uncle Monsignor Francis Gray, Francis(Frank) Gray, had a dream. Two weeks ago, Frank Gray fulfilled one of his boyhood dreams. The day finally came that he was able to travel from his family’s cattle farm in Longford County, Ireland to the holy ground of Camp Gray, named for his Great uncle.
Frank’s visit to the States included a stop in Chicago and some time in New York. It should come as no surprise however, that the highlight of his time in America was the night he spent at Camp Gray! During his stay, San Miguel, a Catholic school group from the inner-city of Chicago was here taking in all things pertaining to leadership and team building. This provided a wonderful look at camp in action. Camp Gray’s famous pizza and salad bar was on the menu for dinner, followed by a “rip roaring, foot stompin’ don’t get to close or you’ll singe your eyebrows campfire.” The evening was capped off with everyone’s favorite camp treat, s’mores. S’mores may seem commonplace to some of you, however for the guys from Ireland and many of the San Miguel students, the delectable s’mores devoured that night were the first ever. There is something captivating about the campfire and s’more experience. It is something that camp can provide in way that is difficult to replicate anywhere else.
The camp experience in its truest form is about new and unique experiences. It could not have been more fitting that the youth from San Miguel were here doing exactly what Monsignor Gray hoped this place would be used for. Indeed, these students come here to find time “free and away from the temptations of the streets” For them, it is a time to explore creation and live life for a few days in a completely new environment. Frank was very pleased to see the work that Missionaries of the Servant Leadership team were carrying out.
In 2013 Camp Gray will turn 60. Our link to the past will not be forgotten. Frank’s visit strengthend the ties to our founder. Thanks to Frank, we now have a piece of stone from Monsignor’s boyhood home in Ireland as a great connection to our past. No doubt, Camp continues to carry on each and every day the vision of our founder. We thank Frank for his tie to the past and all of you that have been a part of Camp Gray’s rich history. I look forward to sharing many more firsts with you.