Life Teen Camp
Week 13 | June 23rd - 28th
Host: Katie Dunne Knoefel
Though born in the Midwest, Katie was raised in the South, calling several small towns just outside of Charlotte, North Carolina, home. Katie started working at YMCA camps in 2001 and has been in love with camping ministry ever since. She first felt called to youth ministry while involved in Life Teen at her home parish in Charlotte. Inspired by the examples of her mom and youth minister, Erin, she decided to pursue a degree in Youth Ministry from Pfeiffer University in Misenheimer, North Carolina. After graduating in 2007, she was blessed to go back to her home parish of St. Matt’s for seven years before accepting the role of DRE at St. John Neumann parish in Charlotte where she currently serves. She enjoys nothing more than loving teens and serving Christ!
What is Hidden Lake?
Camp Hidden Lake is a Catholic summer camp located in scenic Dahlonega, Georgia. It’s a place where parish youth groups from all over the country come together to experience summer camp at its best. Campers are given the opportunity to dive deeply into their Catholic faith and strengthen their relationship with Christ while having unforgettable experiences.
When you hear the word “journey,” what is the first thing you think of? Do you start singing Don’t Stop Believin’ in your head? (You did… didn’t you?) Do you picture a hobbit… who is following a bunch of dwarves… who are following a wizard? Do you think about traveling to the center of the earth? (Where I hear it is hotter than even Georgia. Just sayin’.) Maybe you recall memories of a personal experience… a trip… an adventure…I have about a thousand images and memories that come to mind when I think about a journey and they all have a few things in common:
A starting point: It’s hard to embark on a journey without a place to embark from.
A destination: While journeys can take all sorts of unexpected turns and detours, without an ultimate destination in mind, our journeys simply become aimless wandering.
A great story in between: I can’t speak for others, but I’ve never set out on a journey hoping for boring. I want excitement! I want adventure! I want stories to tell my grandkids and memories to last a lifetime. I want to be able to use words like… awesome… epic… legendary… amazing… unforgettable… inspirational. I want greatness!
This week I hope to share with you some of my journeys throughout the years and I look forward to hearing about some of yours. But what’s even more incredible is the journey that we are on together. A journey of life and faith that, for this brief moment in history, we get to share with each other.
A journey in which baptism is our starting point, Heaven our destination, and the greatest story of all time just waiting to be lived out by you. Yes… you. And me. And everyone else crazy enough to accept God’s invitation. Are you crazy enough? I hope so… ‘cause here we go.
My dad is a brilliant packer. It runs in the family I guess, because his siblings are great at it too. I’m not sure if Papa made them practice or if they just naturally have an eye for it. Regardless, you give my dad enough luggage to fit into two cars and he’ll fit it all in the back of one in less than an hour. It’s like a giant game of Tetris.
It has always impressed and inspired me, so I try to follow his example whenever I pack. Whether it’s a trailer full of teenager’s gear for a mission trip or just my own suitcase. Sometimes I do pretty well (at which point I promptly take a picture and send it to my dad); other times, however… not so much.
I failed spectacularly when packing for my honeymoon last month. I packed way too much. By the time we got home, my $40 rolling duffel had torn in four different places. And by the looks of it, we got back just before my suitcase started erupting like Kilauea.
The truth is, I only used about a third of what I had packed. It wasn’t necessarily that what I had packed was bad; it just wasn’t what I needed for this particular trip. I find that to be the case in my own faith journey too.
Like most youth ministers (and many other humans) I try to pack way too much into my daily schedule. The challenge for each of us on this journey is to pack well—to fill our days with the things and the people that help us along the journey instead of distracting us from our destination.
When I got home from our honeymoon and unpacked, I realized that I didn’t even remember some of what I had packed. My suitcase was crammed so full that I never even made it to the bottom to see what was there, and clearly it didn’t matter. All those clothes were just taking up space—space that I found myself needing and wanting in order to bring back gifts for all of our family.
I can’t tell you how many times I have missed opportunities to bless other people because my day was too full with other things that were just taking up space. Or how many times I missed out on others wanting to bless me because my heart was too full of my own sin for their to be any room for someone else’s gift of love.
There are times along our journey that we need to stop and evaluate, like St. Paul did. We have to see what mess we are dragging along with us and to let it go. For the mess and the sin, there is a simple (yet undeniably difficult) remedy. Reconciliation. I’m terrified every time I go, and yet, every single time I walk away forgiven and free—without fail.
But sin isn’t all that we need to unpack. Like I said before, “It wasn’t necessarily that what I had packed was bad, it just wasn’t what I needed for this particular trip.” Sometimes we simply need to stop and ask ourselves if the things that fill up our day are worth the space they are taking up. If the answer is yes, great. Keep on keepin’ on. But if the answer is no, are we willing to clear some space to make room for the incredible things God has in store for us?
When I was a kid I used to get homesick a lot. I think my poor parents picked me up from sleepovers in the middle of the night until I was about 14. (And maybe in my first week of college too, but sshhhh… that’s just between you and me.)
I’m not entirely sure what I was afraid of. I was always in safe places with responsible adults my parents had thoroughly vetted. But there was just something in knowing my parents and older sister weren’t with me that made me anxious and unsettled. I know them. I trust them. When they were with me, I felt safe. They didn’t even need to say anything or reassure me that everything was ok. Just being WITH me was enough.
I think that the desire to be with others instead of spending our lives alone is innate in all of us to an extent. And in response to that desire, God not only gives us people to share our lives with (like our families), but even more incredibly He gives us Himself.
The name Emmanuel is a name we often hear around Christmas. It literally means, “God with us.”
Just like I longed to be with my family, just like a baby longs to be with its mother, each of us longs to be with the One who created us—to know that we are not alone. And God does not disappoint.
He is with us. Through the gift of his body and blood in the Eucharist, He is quite literally with us in each and every Mass. Body. Blood. Soul. Divinity. With us.
When we are scared… with us. When we are lonely… with us. When we are anxious… with us. When we are broken… with us. When we doubt… with us. When we are ready to give up… with us.
Always… with us. And for a homesick kid, that’s all I really need.
Give food to the hungry… check. Delivered bags of food to 25 families in Cuthbert, GA.
Give drink to the thirsty… check. Raised money to build wells in Africa.
Shelter the homeless… check. Volunteered at Urban Ministries in Charlotte, NC.
Clothe the naked… check. Participated in a shoe distribution with Samaritan’s Feet.
Visit the sick… check. Helped care for my Nana.
Bury the dead… check. Raised money for Indigent Burial through Catholic Charities.
Visit the imprisoned…
The closest I have ever come to living out that last Corporal Work of Mercy that we find in Matthew 25 was this past week when I was on a mission trip and learned about a group of people who work in prison ministry offering prayers and support to detainees and their families at the Stewart County Detention Center in Lumpkin, GA.
El Refugio is a hospitality house that allows families to do exactly what Jesus asks us to do in Matthew 25… visit the imprisoned. Maybe the thought of that commission from Christ gives you the chills, like it does for me. Maybe God isn’t calling me to do prison ministry like Fr. Francois and his team. But He is calling me to do something.
The truth is that the Corporal Works of Mercy are not, in fact, a check list. They are, like everything else, a part of the journey. God doesn’t just call us to be someone. He calls us to do something. He calls us to open our eyes to see the little ways we can serve others each day. And then to do it.
God’s love is generous. His presence among us is radical. How we share that love and presence with the world is our response.
I love maps. I’m not really sure why. I just think they look cool. I also love flying (in an airplane, just to be clear). I’m a window seat fan, because I love to look out at the landscape. I find rivers, in particular, absolutely breathtaking from an aerial point of view.
Although I get my National Geographic in the mail each month, I’m no geography expert. In fact, in high school I took a pop quiz in which I had to label the continents. I blanked on the seventh one, so I finally just labeled Greenland and turned it in. Turns out I forgot Europe. Oops.
Anyway, I know very little about maps, but I love looking at them. I think I love seeing all the possibilities. I love seeing the bigger picture of how something works together. There is a sense of clarity that one can feel after looking at a map and finally understanding how all the roads and everything else fit together.
When I’m in the car trying to navigate unfamiliar roads, or when a detour gets thrown into my regular pattern, I tend to get overwhelmed. From the road, I have a limited view. I can only see a small portion of the larger path that I am on. Being able to look at a map and see from point A to B helps me to continue on.
Similarly, I’m always thankful to have a guide when going whitewater rafting since I have no idea what is coming around the next bend of the river. Having someone who knows the bigger picture puts me at ease.
Maps and guides make perfect sense for navigating roads and rivers, yet I have the hardest time trusting God to guide me on spiritual journey. God has given us all the tools we need to navigate this journey, we just need to use them. Scripture, the Church, prayer, and the Holy Spirit. Google maps ain’t got nothing on that dream team.