Matt Tarace returned to Camp Veritas for a second year because he felt at home the first time with campers and staff at Camp Lakota in Sullivan County. A parishioner of St. Mary’s in Washingtonville, he was one of 225 campers and 85 staffers present Aug. 14-20.
“So far, it’s really been an enlightening time because of all the people here,” the 13-year-old told CNY. “They worship the same God and bring knowledge you may not have learned before.
“I hope to really grow in my faith, have a lot of fun and make some new friends.”
Matt was at the lake for activities such as swimming, kayaking, paddle boarding and beach volleyball with other campers and staffers, including first-time counselor Paul Grasso, who once was a camper.
“Coming in, I was worried I wasn’t going to have the same experience I did as a camper,” said Grasso, 20, a parishioner of St. John the Evangelist in Goshen. “As a camper, you’re doing all the activities and you get to experience it. You’re still doing all the same things as a counselor, but you get to lead them now.
“I hope I can see something in my campers that I’ve never seen before. What I pray is that my campers open up to God, and they have a similar experience to what I had. I hope they come closer to the Lord, and I hope to lead these kids to the Lord.”
Camp Veritas offers a mix of faith and fun. A typical day begins with prayer, testimony and breakfast; continues in late morning and afternoon around lunch with activities such as laser tag, basketball, dodgeball, kickball and a climbing wall. Campers and staff enjoy a snack and free time before attending Mass. After Mass, there is dinner, adoration, free time and a rosary.
Each talk and Mass homily had a theme to it. Father John Wilson, parochial vicar of St. Kateri Tekakwitha, celebrated Mass one day and discussed the significance of Jesus’ death on the cross. He also spoke of Jesus’ suffering, not only physical pain he experienced, but rejection from being judged falsely, betrayed and abandoned.
“He wants to help us understand what a great gift His cross was for us,” said Father Wilson in his homily.
“There is one thing in the whole universe that’s most powerful than what Jesus suffered and that’s the love that was still in His heart as He was suffering.”
Elizabeth Young, co-founder of Camp Veritas along with her husband Ryan, said enrollment was up 35 percent at this year’s five camps compared to 2021, but was still just 60 percent of what it was before the Covid-19 pandemic.
Camp Lakota, for kids in grades 7 to 9, was the final session of the summer for Camp Veritas. Camps also were held in Ireland, Maryland, Florida and at Lake Champion in Sullivan County, where 330 campers in grades 10 to 12 and 95 staffers participated. Cardinal Dolan visited Aug. 12.
“We could not have asked for a better summer,” Mrs. Young said. “We’ve had blessing after blessing, and I dare say miracle after miracle from these camps. These children have been so enjoyable this year coming in ready for the graces that are poured on them here through Christ.”
Felicity Motyl and Grace Mirenda, first-year campers, are each 15-year-old parishioners of St. Joseph’s in Downingtown, Pa., who gave high praise for adoration.
“Adoration is such a special and peaceful time,” Grace said.
Felicity said she was planning to share her experience at Camp Veritas with family and friends when she returned home. “I’m going to tell them I loved it,” she said. “It was a great experience with Jesus and the Lord. All the people are great and the activities are super fun. I’ll tell them and see if they want to come. Hopefully they will.”
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