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Jack Dempsey, left, a sixth-grader at St. Columbkille School and member of St. Columbkille Parish in Papillion, prepares for a game of dodgeball against Brett Venner, right, a junior at V.J. and Angela Skutt Catholic High School in Omaha, and other students at Camp Virtus et Veritas near McCool Junction, Neb.

Boys share faith, swimming, games at archdiocesan summer camp

Flawless.

That’s one way Toby Korensky, camp director, describes the second year of an archdiocesan camp of faith and fun for boys at Camp Kateri Tekakwitha near McCool Junction, Neb.

"We had a lot of people respond very positively," Korensky said. "Everybody felt it was an even better, deeper experience than last year."

Camp Virtus et Veritas offered campfires, swimming, mudslides, archery and an obstacle course, along with daily Mass, adoration of the Eucharist and Bible study for 52 boys entering sixth-grade through ninth-grade July 24-30.

The group also included youth leaders and 38 adults. About 40 percent of the boys were first-time campers, and the group drew from more parishes in its second year, Korensky said.

A high point was about 25 boys raising their hands when the group was asked if they might have a call to the priesthood, said Father Matthew Capadano, camp chaplain and a teacher and chaplain at Scotus Central Catholic Junior/Senior High School in Columbus.

"It kind of sends shivers down your spine," Father Capadano said. "God is doing something through these families and this camp."

"That was really moving," agreed John Smith of St. Stephen the Martyr Parish in Omaha. "And having Archbishop (George J.) Lucas come out on Thursday to say Mass was really fantastic."

Father Capadano and Jen Moser, who as coordinator of youth ministry for the archdiocese visited the camp twice, said vocations in general are discussed at the camp, including talks from fathers stressing marriage as a vocation.

Youths expressing interest in the priesthood is a sign they are open to hearing God’s will, Moser said, and a "positive sign that what we are doing is fostering a desire to follow God’s will in their lives."

Smith served as one of the "floater dads," setting up for and participating in events, a service he also provided last year. He said he returned to help provide the boys an opportunity to encounter God and Jesus, as well as have a good time.

Ryan Plambeck, who is entering seventh grade at St Columbkille School in Papillion, said he enjoyed the outdoor activities, the Masses and adoration, and he learned to "pray more often and spend more time with God."

It was not only Ryan’s first time at Camp Virtus et Veritas, but at any sleepaway camp.

"We went to church every day and adoration, we talked about the Bible and the Scripture," he said. "We had to do the obstacle course and got some advice from the counselors that really helped our team building – it was a really fun camp."

Ryan’s mother, Suzy Plambeck of St. Columbkille Parish, said he seemed more grownup when he returned from the camp.

"He came back and he seemed a little different, a little more open," she said.

Taylor Leffler, a seminarian at Kenrick-Glennon Seminary in St. Louis and a member of St. Mary Parish in West Point, said he heard great things about last year’s camp, and his experience this summer did not disappoint.

"I was very much taken by surprise," he said. "Pope Francis always says our God is a God of surprises, and that couldn’t be more true than this past week."

Leffler credited the leadership of Korensky and all of the parents, the beauty of the campgrounds and the way the boys entered into the experience – even the quality of the camp food.

"To bring (the boys) all together and watch how they enter in, and how the Lord meets their needs where they are, it’s so beautiful – just to watch them blossom throughout the week, and to listen to them share their graces of the week and how it was that the Lord was inspiring them."

Korensky said Camp Kateri Tekakwitha expects to build a new cabin or two this year, which would allow the archdiocese to bring in more campers.

Summarizing this year’s experience, Korensky said he would choose the words growth, peace and relationships.

"Getting away from everything and just talking … we could feel the connection being made."

Smith, whose seventh-grade son, Nathan, attends St. Stephen the Martyr School and also participated in the camp both years, agreed that relationships play an important role.

"The dads build a kind of bond," he said. "We strengthen each other’s faith just by being there."

As for the campers, Smith said he noticed some boys were pretty emotional, "almost teary-eyed," as they were leaving, something he didn’t see last year.

"We’re always looking at ways to improve (the camp) and ways for the kids to have an encounter with Jesus," he said.

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