Altar Boys Camp
February 4, 2021
Finally, the time for camp arrived, to the great joy of all, since the year 2020 presented so many complications with the Coronavirus, no one knew if we would be able to have camp or not. But, by the grace of God, we could make it happen at the end of the year. It was a great joy for all, the boys and the missionaries, and the sisters, because the catechetical camps which we usually have midway through the year, were all canceled. And so, this great apostolate of catechizing the kids was lacking.
The camps at the end of the year are different than those held in June, because in these days we always seek to provide greater recreation, as they are also festive days of Christmas. On the other hand, the “catechetical camps” are to reaffirm the knowledge of the catechism that they receive in their villages throughout the year, which at times is not a very good education. Hence, these days are given more to class time, with recreational breaks and prayer.
Due to the lack of infrastructure at the new parish, we decided to have one camp for boys from both parishes, and another camp for the girls from both villages. In the parish of Kangeme, which was established a little over a year ago, we do not actually have what is needed for the children to be safe and comfortable, especially a hall to sleep in. Furthermore, to have the camps in Ushetu has many advantages, among them that we also have the assistance of the sisters in order to tackle the duties incumbent, and the help of the dispensary in case there is a medical need, which often happens as some are sick with malaria or they come from home sick with stomach pains. At present, it is better to have these activities for both parishes together, but we hope that one day we can do them separately in each parish, especially so that the newer community may grow in “parish life”, and to facilitate that many more children may be able to participate, especially thinking of the more distant villages.
The boys camp took place in the days before Christmas, and the girls’ camp was between Christmas and New Years, each one being 5 days long. The activities were the same as always, namely: many games, sports, songs, and joy in everything. On top of all this, the most important moments of prayer, above all, the daily Holy Mass, adoration, and rosary, with some processions, and the common Christian prayers. There were some times of work, not many though, for cleaning and helping in the kitchen and service. And there was a small hike to Cross mountain, which is behind the mission, a half-hour walk.
They boys camp is also called the “altar boys camp” because we try to have the boys attend who assist at Mass and more frequently attend Church. There were 160 boys. On account of this, the camp teaches them a lot about the liturgy, including both theory and practice. There were many “practices” for the Mass, with teams and score keeping. They make a great effort to do everything well and with great solemnity. Fr. Victor and the novices took care of the camp and teaching them to do everything seriously. In this manner we were able to have 5 very solemn Masses, with incense and everything. The boys themselves took charge of the hymns and readings… a great job.
Contrasting the solemnity of the Liturgy, was the happiness and ecstatic joy of their games, songs and dance. Here one can understand exactly what St. John Bosco says: “Joy, study and piety: it is the greatest program for happiness and the greatest benefit for the soul.” (MB VII, 494) It is good to know that after the games the children participated better in the prayers and study; and after a Mass well participated in, the joy blossoming in their hearts was expressed in the games and jokes.
On the final day, we had a closing Mass, with all of the altar boys dressed, even those who participated from the pews. There was great festivity afterward, and as we had noted in another chronicle, we were able to give them many gifts and prizes. On one hand, the food at the feast was improved thanks to donations from many people who helped us obtain gifts for Christmas, but each team also were given gifts of candy, cookies, soda, etc. But even more noteworthy, thanks to a special donation, we were able to give them all tennis shoes… as soon as we announced it they jumped for joy and shouted, in such a manner that it really moved all of the priests. I believe this shows how grateful these boys are with such little things. We also received, providentially, a gift of Children’s illustrated bibles, very good and Catholic. They arrived just as we were giving out the prizes, and each boy could take his own.
Girls Camp 2020
The Girls’ camp followed after Christmas, and 410 girls attended. The sisters worked very hard during these days, as can be imagined. Cooking for an army is quite a task, and then there were the group games. They went on an outing to the mountain, also rotating by groups. The Church was full of girls, and in particular, these are the girls who dance and sing in the Masses in their villages. Also in the fogons at night and in competitions, it was impressive to see them dance and sing, this group of 400 girls all in unison and in rhythm.
The closing Mass was also very joyful, and the last fogón as well. For the Mass, they all dressed in their yellow and white dresses, the papal colors of the missionary children. They asked at the end of Mass if they could give thanks by singing, very loudly, a Christmas carol… “Angels we have heard on High”. It was very moving, since they sung with all their strength, dancing all together, raising their hands at the “gloria in excelsis Deo”.
To conclude this camp, there was also the fogón and a festive meal. Afterwards we gave out gifts as in the boys camp, with the only difference being that there were 410 pairs of shoes! They also had candy, cookies and soda… and Bibles for everyone. As there were so many gifts, we loaded them all in the sisters’ truck and made a triumphant entrance with the gifts- I wish you could have seen it. It is rare that I have seen a gathering so full of happiness.
One of the things that helped us in these camps, and which made it possible for so many children to participate, was that you helped us these days. I was able to contract two busses to bring the boys and girls from the farthest villages. Children came who had never been able to participate before, as they live 30km and 40km away. They did not come in the past simply because there was no way for them to travel, as walking this distance is impossible. But this time, it was a great grace to be able to bring them to Ushetu. Many of them, when they arrived at the mission, looked at everything as if they were in a city, and our chapel a cathedral. Many of them have never justify their villages before, and this was an opportunity to socialize and be with so many other children. It helped them to open up much more. They learned to pray, they learned new games and songs… and they stepped a little outside of their own limited environment of a village lost on a mountain.
A thousand thanks to you all, for the help, but also I give immense thanks to the priests, especially Fr. Victor and the novices; and to all the sisters, with the novice and aspirants, who worked so hard. Without all of you, it would have been impossible to have these grace-filled days for more than 560 children.
Steadfast in the breach!
Fr. Diego Cano, IVE