A youth volunteer facilitates an arts and crafts activity for the day campers at St. Monica’s parish. Youth minister Beki Moynihan says Camp Monica is an opportunity to build community with its younger parishioners. Photo by Elizabeth Chelmecki

St. Monica's camp mixes faith and fun for children

By  Elizabeth Chelmecki, Youth Speak News
  • March 24, 2017

It’s early Monday morning during March break and St. Monica’s is bursting with youthful energy. Instead of sleeping in, children are signing in to spend their day at the parish’s March break camp.

The camp is run by Beki Moynihan, youth minister at St. Monica’s parish in north Toronto, with the help of 20 volunteer staff. Together, they host 25-35 campers, from ages four to 12, during March break.

This is the second year for the camp, which started as a way to build a larger and stronger community among the youth in the area.

“We noticed that there weren’t a lot of youth who were attending Mass at the parish regularly,” said Moynihan. “What we are trying to do is open our community to young families. We want to give the younger kids an opportunity where they can learn about their faith while having fun.”

A typical day consists of sports, crafts, activities, skits, music, dance and faith-building activities.

“One of the best parts about running the camp is seeing the kids come back to the parish for Mass or other activities after the camp is over,” said Moynihan. “They are always excited to come back and it really shows how the camp is helping to strengthen the community.”

Each year, the camp focuses on a different theme. This year, it was emphasizing the senses and how we are able to find God through our sight, taste, touch, smell and hearing.

A different sense was highlighted each day and campers explored how God exists and works through it. The theme was chosen after a significant amount of prayer and discussion.

“We were looking for something that would work across five days,” said Moynihan. “The senses were perfect because we could do a different sense each day that was connected to an overall larger theme.

“This year’s theme is really focused on how we can feel God through prayer and our senses. Different people experience God in different ways and we wanted to show that. For example, some people feel God through music, while some people feel God through silence.”

The camp is run with the help of volunteers, most of them in high school, who have helped with the camp at St. Monica and the parish’s EDGE ministry for middle school students.

“I want to help bring kids into our community,” said 15-year-old Christine Balaong, a leader at the camp. “One of the main reasons I chose to help out with the camp was because I wanted to share my faith with the kids and bring them closer to God through all of the activities we planned.”

Christine spends the day with the campers, acting as a role model while participating in activities with them.

“We love this camp” said Bruna and Maria Luiza Ventura, age 11, who are sisters and first-time campers. “We are having a lot of fun with the leaders and have made a lot of new friends”.

(Chelmecki, 17, is a Grade 12 student at Father John Redmond Catholic Secondary School in Toronto.)

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