By: Not Chris “Topher” Aderhold
It is almost time for Camp Gray Summer Staff Training 2014 to begin…which can only mean one thing – Summer Camp is just around the corner! Let me assure you that staff training and all the sessions of summer camp are going to be unbelievably amazing and life-changing this year. Now for those of you who are about to bounce off into cyberspace for something more interesting and exciting than another “Topher thinks Camp Gray is awesome and predicts that something at Camp Gray will be awesome but of course Topher thinks that because it’s kind of his job so I’ll just believe him and go see if I got any new facebook messages in the time it took me to read this extremely long and poorly punctuated sentence” blog post – I think you might want to keep reading.
This is not Topher writing. I am not even a paid employee of Camp Gray or the Diocese of Madison. I have submitted this blog entry to share with all of you the reasons why I know that this summer is going to be amazing and life-changing.
I am writing to all of you who are preparing for your first ever Camp Gray summer experience. Whether a staff member or a camper, you may not be entirely sure what you are getting yourself into. I hope to enlighten you and get you excited! Or perhaps you are returning for your 2nd…or 11th summer at Camp. I hope to remind you of all the reasons why these summers have truly been a blessing to you. Perhaps you lead a humble life of serving behind the scenes at Camp Gray. Reading this may remind you that you are truly doing the work of God and bringing others closer to Christ. Lastly, maybe you are an ex-Camp Gray camper or staffer and you yearn for the days of running as fast as you can, covered in the ashy remnants of campfire, determined to steal the other team’s flag (which is oddly shaped, and aerodynamically similar to, a small dodgeball), only to be tagged at the last minute and sent to jail where you must walk (not run!) back to your side of the field, while holding hands in a line of approximately 23 other people who met the same fate as you. Then this blog post is most definitely for you, because, just like I do, you may find it helpful to remember all the ways that Camp Gray truly helped you grow. And in remembering those ways, you may also realize that Camp Gray is about a lot more than playing fun games.
Camp Gray is about learning life lessons, creating relationships, and growing in the faith. It’s about learning to be the person God created you to be – and then being that person back at home and school. It’s about learning things that will make you more likely to succeed in college and future jobs. At Camp Gray you (regardless of your age) receive an education in holiness which will help you in your future vocation as parents, husbands and wives, priests or religious.
Perhaps it is time that I introduce myself. I am Theresa Wilks….but you probably remember me as Mo-T. I worked at camp for 8 years. At the end of summer 2012 I moved on (as we all must someday) and I entered the Sisters of St. Francis of the Martyr St. George in Alton, IL. I would like to share with you a little bit about my experiences at Camp Gray and how they have helped me in my time at the convent. And of course, in typical CG style, I would like to do this in a list of the Top 5 Lessons I learned at Camp Gray that have helped me in the Convent.
Kudos (or Quaker Granola Bar) to all of you for reading the world’s longest introduction. Without further ado, here is that list:
The Top 5 Lessons I Learned at Camp Gray that have Helped me in the Convent
1. Servant Leadership It would be hard to find someone who has been to Camp Gray but has not heard the phrase “servant leadership” or who has talked about the verse, Luke 22:26. I’ll pause here so that those of you who are now saying the verse out loud won’t get behind. And for all of you first timers out there – it’s a gem so I better write it out for you. “Rather, let the greatest among be as the youngest, the leader as the servant.” Being a servant leader is extremely important at Camp Gray, because imitating Christ is extremely important – and He is the one who showed us, through His words and His actions, what it means to be a leader. Living with people who are striving to be servant leaders, and challenging me to as well, certainly made an impact on me. I don’t claim that I’m perfect; I still have plenty of room to grow in this area. Servant leadership is also extremely important here in the convent where we try to anticipate each others’ needs and find ways to serve our sisters so that we can become Christ to them.
2. Living in Community There’s an old adage at Camp Gray, “Come to Camp Gray for a day, and leave a part of the family.” It’s basically the fancy way of saying you have joined our community and we are happy to have you! See, even though I’m not there anymore, I can talk like that because I’m part of the family. This is part of living in community. At Camp Gray you live in community – maybe in a cabin group, or out in Explorer Village, working in the kitchen, or living in a staff cabin – so you naturally are going to have to learn to get along with people who are different than you. This is a skill that, just like any other skill, takes practice. Learning to love those who we may not like is necessary in growing closer to Christ and contributing to a good community. Now that I am living in community for the rest of my life, I can see how Camp Gray was preparing me for the life I am living now.
3. Assuming the Best This one is also closely connected to living in community. If you’ve ever been part of a “cabin contract” then you know what this means. If you have not, then you probably will this summer, but let me just give you a sneak peek. This basically means that if somebody does something annoying, weird, unexpected, different, or even “mean”, rather than getting annoyed or reacting strongly, we are going to “assume the best”. We are going to give that person the benefit of the doubt and think, “Oh, maybe she didn’t mean that the way I took it.” or “Maybe he’s just a little homesick.” or “Maybe she doesn’t know that annoys me, but if I ask her to stop nicely she will understand.” This skill also takes a lot of practice because it means we might have to change the way we think! Living in community with close to 50 people here at the convent is hard! It’s better for everyone if we stay positive and assume they have good intentions! That is what we strive for here and it is what all Camp Gray staff and campers strive for in their cabin groups!
4. The word “Efficacious” If you have been to summer camp in the past couple years, you have probably learned the word efficacious. If not, perhaps you have learned it at home, Church, or school. It basically means, “it has a real, legitimate effect.” Or, if you speak slang, it means “legit.” We say that the Sacraments are efficacious, prayer is efficacious, and God’s Word is efficacious. These things are not just elaborate metaphors or nice thoughts; they actually have an effect on our souls and the world. In my time at Camp Gray I have seen the power of prayer and the Sacraments transform individuals and groups of people. I have taught children and staff that they are efficacious. And now, here at the convent, I have the opportunity to practice what I have preached. I have the opportunity to trust that God will take care of me if I follow His will. And I have the chance to practice faith in the efficacious power of prayer and the Sacraments to unite me to all my friends at Camp Gray.
5. Being holy is fun! The Camp Gray staff are striving for holiness, and spending even a short amount of time with them will prove that they are not boring, and their lives are truly filled with fun, excitement, and joy. The convent is the same way! The people here are a lot of fun. In fact, many of my experiences here have reminded me of times at Camp Gray. A while back, I had the chance to visit with a Camp Gray family here. One of the daughters in that family, a fourth grader, remarked that there are a lot of similarities between the convent and camp. She compared counselors to the superiors here and the director to Mother Superior. She noticed a similar love for Jesus, and she picked up on the fact that at both places we are asked to try to “participate, not anticipate.” In other words, we try to live in the moment and not worry about what our next task (or activity!) will be. And we have fun while we do it!
I am truly grateful for the time that I had at Camp and the lessons I learned that I continue to use every day of my life. Regardless of what God calls you to in the future, the lessons you learn at Camp Gray will help you.
These lessons, or values, are timeless. And that is how I can know, without even being there, that this summer will be epic. Camp Gray is not epic because of the fun (because there are plenty of other places you could go have fun). It is epic because it prepares campers and staff members to enthusiastically respond to the call to holiness, and participate in the mission of the Church through their witness to the world around them.
I will be praying for all of you this summer to have a healthy dose of faith, friends, and fun!
An update from Sister M Dot Veritas:
She’s making videos… Click here to watch the video she made about her convent!
Thanks for your support of the Camp Gray Blog!
The Camp Gray Blog Team is taking a blogging sabbatical this summer so we can focus all of our energy on Summer Camp! We have roughly 1,300 campers this summer – we’re incredibly excited to see them and to spend time with them! Keep in touch with Camp Gray this summer (and all year-round!) on our facebook, twitter, youtube, and instagram pages! We’ll be back to posting exciting stories on September 9th. Have a phenomenal summer!
Mailing address for Sr. M. Veritas:
Sister M Dot (formerly Mo Dash T) Veritas
St. Francis Convent
1 Franciscan Way
P.O. Box 9020
Alton, IL 62002-9020