In mid-February, 350 seminarians and priests converged on St. Francis de Sales Seminary in Milwaukee. They came for brotherhood and basketball. And for some, they left better rested than they have been in years, even if they had dreams of the Cassidy Games dancing in their heads.
For the fourth year running, the seminary hosted the St. Francis de Sales Invitational. From as far away as Boston, New Orleans, and Florida, this year’s basketball tournament was the biggest one yet; thirteen teams competed for the honor of being crowned Champion.
While in town for the tournament, the seminarians stay in the former high school seminary wing of the Pastoral Center of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. Last year, there were just enough beds to accommodate everyone. This year, with more teams signed up than ever, the seminary scrambled to find 75 more beds.
Enter Camp Gray.
For several years, Camp Gray has had a tight relationship with the men at St. Francis de Sales. Several seminarians from the Diocese of Madison study at St. Francis de Sales, but the connection runs even deeper. When Covid shut down the world in 2020, and Summer Camp at Camp Gray was canceled, a silver lining shined bright. A gaggle of seminarians from St. Francis de Sales joined us that summer – their plans for a summer formation program had been turned upside down, so they came to Camp Gray instead.
For two months, the seminarians lived at Camp. Each day, in addition to praying together and receiving formation, they served Camp Gray by tackling manual labor projects. In fact, the beautiful grotto that can be found in the back of the Outdoor Chapel was built by the men of St. Francis de Sales Seminary in 2020.
In a recent conversation with Fr. John Baumgardner, the Vice Rector of the Seminary, he told us that the Camp Gray summer became one of the most blessed and memorable seminary experiences for those men. He continued, “St. John Paul II said, ‘Life with Christ is a great adventure.’ Praise God for how this is not just simply said, but truly experienced at Camp Gray.”
With increased capacity at Camp Gray in recent years, there are currently 258 beds on our 225 acres – not including the beds in the homes of our full-time employees. Per capita, there’s 1.14 mattresses per acre! That’s a whole mess of mattresses!
We’ve had funny requests over the years, but getting a call in January asking to borrow 75 of our pillowy soft, arctic cool mattresses was unique. Of course, we happily obliged, and a few days later, a half dozen seminarians and a moving truck arrived from Milwaukee. They loaded up the requisite 75 mattresses, and trucked them east. A few days after the tournament, they made the trip back to Camp Gray, returning each mattress to its proper home.
Congrats to Our Lady of Guadalupe Seminary from Nebraska for winning the fourth annual St. Francis de Sales Invitational Championship. While they worked hard to win the tournament, no doubt they were well-rested from having slept on the absolute cloud of a mattress that fills each of our beds. And for that, we say, you’re welcome!
Thanks to the great men of St. Francis de Sales Seminary for your continued friendship and support of Camp Gray!