Holy Family Ministries’ summer camp in P.E.I. Photo by Kenny Vail

Island ministry focuses on family

By  Beth Brown, Youth Speak News
  • April 23, 2014

Holy Family Ministries is bringing faith back to the family — at summer camp.

The P.E.I.-based ministry helps families experience Christ together by providing marriage preparation courses, mother-daughter and father-son retreats, and primarily, hosting Catholic family camps.

The summer retreats, running Thursday through Sunday multiple times in a season, are hosted at Kolbe Retreat Centre in Bayside, overlooking Malpeque Bay, a famous oyster locale. The campground was built specifically for Holy Family Ministries. Founded in 2010, it stands on former farmland with a classic P.E.I. red dirt lane leading to a rustic lodge, surrounded by brightly coloured bunk houses. There is a playground, lots of field space with sporting potential and a wooded trail for the Stations of the Cross.

Mary Theresa Pitre, 15, of Lake Verde, P.E.I., has been to many family camps and says they are different than other retreats. She said with teen retreats “you do learn a lot but it’s harder to take it back and implement in your everyday life because you were the only one there, the only one who experienced it.” With family camp everyone can take back what they learned and figure it out together.

“What’s really important is your family,” said Pitre. “It’s important to take time with just them.”

The camps have daily Mass and morning sessions for adults and children. Under some direction, the older teens polish off their leadership skills by teaching the children, orchestrating arts and crafts and playing games.

“It’s like everyday life for me,” said Pitre, the oldest of seven.

She especially likes the evening teen session where they watch a movie, listen to a speaker and have a discussion — all based around the camp theme. After retreat, she often sees her new friends at other Catholic events around the Maritimes.

Brady Grant and his wife Jodi are on the board of directors for Holy Family Ministries. He said seeing new families’ reaction to the camp experience helps him know they are doing good work.

One of the camp’s mandates is relaxation, or rather, family time. Afternoons are free for socializing, rest, exercise or canoe rides. Forty kids and their parents playing soccer — with Camp Kolbe’s Holy Family statue as their cheerleader — is a regular sight. In the evenings they have group rosary and a bonfire.

“My kids love hanging out with the other kids,” said Grant. “They’re not oddballs for being Catholic and hanging out with their family. It’s just pure fun for them.”

Jessica and David Sheppard took their two small children to camp for the first time last summer.

“It’s a spiritual space, in a fun way. It’s very rural and beautiful,” said Jessica. The young couple run a youth group in their island parish and men’s and women’s Bible studies and teach catechism, so “to sit back and let people lead was different,” albeit refreshing.

Kolbe Retreat Centre was built with families in mind, so the Sheppards were very impressed with the facilities and retreat organization.

“You have a sense of the people’s hearts that are working within Camp Kolbe. The hand of the Lord is very clear and bright,” Jessica said.

The camps “bring people together and build a stronger community within our Church,” said Jessica, and this community is vital to the future. “The key to the next generation is to build leaders.”

As the family is our foundational community, she said building leaders starts there.

Pope John Paul II said in his encyclical Familiaris Consortio, “the little domestic Church, like the greater Church, needs to be constantly and intensely evangelized.” Holy Family Ministries teaches to evangelize at home, each and every day. Upcoming retreat dates can be found at www.hfmpei.com.

(Brown, 23, is a fourth-year journalism student at the University of King’s College in Halifax, N.S.)

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