At the end of the summer, here in Eastleigh, along with Fr. Luca and Fr. Marco, I accompanied a group of high school students to the parish’s summer camp. Since it was difficult to reserve a place at a campsite in the middle of the woods, we opted for a hybrid solution: we pitched our tents in the field of one of our churches in the countryside, living the life of a camper, with a fire burning every night, but also being able to use the parish facilities for cooking and eating.
The week was full of activities. The day began with breakfast, morning prayer and a brief introduction by Fr. Luca to set the stage for the day. We had prepared a daily prayer booklet with meaningful excerpts from Pope Francis’ speeches to help us address topics such as freedom, happiness and authentic love. The first theme was also the title of the vacation: “Saying Yes”. In the afternoon, together with the students we did outdoor activities in the woods. After the daily mass, and before dinner, we would meet in two groups for a moment of sharing called “sieve”, where everyone could share what they had experienced during the day and describe the “golden nuggets” they had found.
One day, some of us had gotten into a double-hulled canoe. One of the girls said, “It was really nice to go canoeing with friends. At first, when I realized I could only paddle on one side, it was hard. On my own, I couldn’t make the canoe go straight. In order to move forward, we had to communicate with each other – and I think that applies to our companionship as well.” A simple and fun event became a concrete lesson for this girl’s life. The summer camp allowed me to get to know the kids better, to see them grow and mature more than in many of the activities we do during the school year. The purpose of those days was clear: to communicate to the students that the Christian life encompasses every aspect of the human experience: from prayer to eating, from talking with friends to having fun. I realized that faith begins with a desire to live a full life. The summer camp was an opportunity to get fully involved with and committed to the community’s proposal, a chance to learn how to walk together.
Returning to the main theme of the days, the first step towards a full life is the ability to say “yes”. We witnessed the phenomenon of freedom in these kids, from the small “yes” said when starting the day, to the bigger “yes” to participate in the activities that revealed who they really are, fears and weaknesses included. I hope to see each of them again during the new school year, to continue the journey we started together.
Pictured is a street in Romsey (UK).