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Archives Staying connected to faith while missing camp

Sept. 16, 2020

By Darcy Fargo

Now back in school and adjusting to their new educational environments, youth from around the diocese and around the state had to adjust to another change this summer: not having Camp Guggenheim open to help them grow in faith and develop friendships.

“I was kind of sad about (Camp Guggenheim) closing,” said Edward “Eddie” Miller, 13, of Waddington. “I guess it gave me time to do other things, but I missed seeing the friends that I had met there.”

Miller, who was scheduled to attend Camp Guggenheim for the third time this year, said he tried to stay connected to his faith this summer by attending Mass, first via the internet and later in person.

“Not being able to attend in person, it was a big difference,” he said. “We couldn’t take Communion, and we didn’t really see anyone but Msgr. (Robert Aucoin).”

He also said he stayed in contact with his camp friends via social media.

“We had a Snapchat group chat,” Miller said.

Miller said he looks forward to when camp opens again.

“I’m hoping to go back,” he said.

Victoria “Tori” Hogan, 18, of Silver Spring, Maryland, had been attending camp since 2013. Now a college student, this was going to be her last year as a camper at Camp Guggenheim.

Hogan, who has family connections in the North Country, said she was devastated when she learned camp would not open for the summer.

“It was the hardest I had cried in a long time,” she said. “This was going to be my last year as a camper.”

Hogan said she has remained strongly connected to her faith with the support of her Guggenheim friends, who have also helped her through a tough time in her life.

“This past summer, my dad was diagnosed with mesothelioma,” she said. “That’s kept me praying a lot and kept me connected to my faith. It’s been hard with everything that’s been going on. My family hard a prayer circle while my dad was in surgery yesterday. A bunch of my friends from Guggenheim had prayer circles up there, too.”
Hogan noted her father, John Hogan, was a counselor at Guggenheim in his youth, as well.

Now a student at Montgomery College in Maryland, said she’s taken lessons from Guggenheim with her as she moves through these hard times and into a new chapter in her life.

“One of the things that I was told when I was a camper kind of changed my perspective on everything and has helped me a lot lately,” she said. “I was told ‘it’s the same Jesus whether you’re at Guggenheim and literally screaming for Jesus or when you’re at your home church.’ After having these amazing experiences at camp, it always felt different when I went home. Having that perspective has been really helpful this year. Even without camp, Jesus is the same.”

Keiler MacNeal, 16, of Amsterdam, New York, said if camp had opened this year, it would’ve been his fifth year at Guggenheim.

“I was pretty devastated when I found there wouldn’t be camp this year,” he said. “It sounds cheesy, but I love everything about camp, but I really love how centered on faith it is. That’s the main part of it for me.”

Missing camp and being unable to attend Mass made staying connected to his faith quite difficult, MacNeal said.
“It was a challenge,” he said. “I had gone to Mass basically every Sunday for the past three years, and then I wasn’t able to go for two to three months. That’s a big part of my life.”

MacNeal said he tried to focus on his prayer life to get through the challenging period.

“I made sure I prayed,” he said. “I like to read three chapters of the Bible every night. That really helped. And I prayed the Rosary a lot.”

Elizabeth “Liz” Peo, 19, of Ogdensburg was a camper at Camp Guggenheim for seven years. This year, she was hired to be a camp counselor for the first time.

“I was pretty disappointed,” she said. “I was really looking forward to going to camp, helping the campers and bonding with the counselors I had as a camper. Then I got a call from Conner (Cummings), the camp director, and he told me we were going to try to do as much as we could to transfer the camp experience to an online format. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to participate in the online activities as much as I would’ve liked, since I had two jobs this summer, but it was nice being involved in developing the ideas.”

Peo said the staff stayed in contact through social media and online platforms, which helped her stay connected to the camp experience. She also used her camp experience to help her stay connected to her faith.

“I used my wrist rosaries I got from camp,” she said. “I have one that I’ve had since my first year as a camper. I had some strings, so I taught other people to make them. I used my wrist rosaries a lot. I also watched a lot of online Masses, and I wrote a lot. I’ve always liked communicating through writing. I did a lot of that at camp. I’ve tried to keep with it. I’ve also tried to get outside a lot – it was sort of an effort to try to feel like I was at camp.”

Peo, a sophomore nursing major at LeMoyne College in Syracuse, said she hopes she have her first-year counselor experience next year.

“If it’s happening next year, hopefully I can be a staff member,” she said. “If not, I’ll probably do something in nursing. Then, the year after that, hopefully I’ll be a (Registered Nurse). Maybe I’ll be the nurse at camp.”

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