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Archives Family Camp: A first-time camper’s perspective

Sept. 14, 2022

By Amy Schirmer
For the North Country Catholic

Having lived, worshipped, and participated in the Diocese of Ogdensburg for 15 years, I am still experiencing “firsts” that both surprise and delight. Recently, I attended Family Guggenheim, sans family. I had anticipated a family member or two would join me, but with one thing and another, I wended my way through the small towns and high mountains of the Adirondacks alone. I had to work that Thursday, so arrived in a full parking area with the all too familiar anxiety of being the new kid at a new school who doesn’t speak the language…and forgot to wear clothing. None of this was true, but the “bad spirit” to which the Jesuits refer, was having a field day with my emotions, and the temptation to turn around was real.

But two can play at this game, and I was greeted almost immediately by the Blessed Mother, in the form of Christina Tartaglia and her warmest of smiles. Close on her heels were strapping young men who fetched and carried my things into my room and greeted me as though the whole camp had simply been waiting for me to arrive.

I am, by nature, an introvert, deliciously content with time alone: the attendant sounds of nature breaking through the hum of a few beloved family members or close friends in conversation. My youngest is 27 and almost 6’4”, so having to watch my step for fear of treading on children is a thing of my distant past. Thankfully, like riding a bike, the instinct returns as needed.

Movement and noise, both joyful and loud, were my first impressions. Mercifully name tags were worn for as long as they could be easily found, and I managed to collect a few names before they (the tags) were lost in the muddle that is the camp bedroom.

What shall I recount? So much happened, and yet there was plenty of time for families to play together. This year’s theme was Medieval, and Ladies and Sirs were remarkably relaxed as they learned about virtues, the Spiritual armor available to us all, the battle we enjoin by choosing Christ. I suppose, given the serious nature of the theme, the relaxed atmosphere could be attributed to the like-mindedness of those participating. These families are the hope of our diocese. They are supremely “normal” with momentary panic, little “tiffs” and the exhaustion that comes from full days of playing in the sun, good food, and late bedtimes.

But they were also supremely Catholic, and it brings tears to my eyes as I type. A procession with the Blessed Sacrament over rose petals that marked the pathway for the rest of the weekend; Adoration in the late evening, with blessed silence; confession with lines that bespoke the time taken by the confessor…only slowly diminishing in number, everyone patiently waiting to “whisper in the ear of Jesus.”

From one dad I heard, “You’ll go to sleep hot and wake up cold.” It was true! From another: “I feel as though I’m being asked to teach my daughter how to be a martyr. I don’t know how to do that.” This is also true. Young fathers, keenly aware of both the temporal and the eternal, wanting to do all they can to bring their families to the gates of Heaven.

God is good. All the time. Family Guggenheim provides a window on this fact. If you have the slightest inkling to experience the beauty of the Catholic faith being lived joyfully, I believe there are still openings for the October sessiona If I am wrong…sign up for next year.

Editor’s Note: For Family Camp information and registration, visit rcdony.org/family-life/fg

Amy Schirmer is a parishioner of St. Mary’s Cathedral Parish, Ogdensburg.

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