Vittoria Madeira is already planning a return in a new role to Catholic Kidz Camp at St. Columba’s in Hopewell Junction.
“I can be a helper,” the rising fourth-grader told CNY on being a volunteer next year at the camp for children entering kindergarten through incoming fourth- graders. “My mom said I could sign up. I would love to help kids learn about this place so they can make memories like I did.”
St. Columba’s offered a summer camp for children in past years, but this was the parish’s first Catholic Kidz Camp, July 12-16. It featured the theme of “Our Father” and started with a 20-minute assembly each day in the church and a 30-minute classroom lesson in St. Denis-St. Columba Regional School. Arts and crafts, music and recreational activities in St. Denis-St. Columba followed the lesson.
“I really love seeing all my friends and I love arts and crafts,” Vittoria said. “I just love God, and I’m so interested in God and Jesus.”
Sister Marie Pappas, C.R., director of religious education at St. Columba’s, and Sister Cherree Power, C.R., who will serve as director of religious education at St. Kateri Tekakwitha in LaGrangeville in the upcoming school year, served as camp directors.
“I’m so confident this is one of the most successful things we’ve launched that has caused this much excitement,” Sister Marie said.
“St. Columba has the most amazing community of people. It’s so easy to work with them. They’re eager, they trust us and that kind of element of people who live their faith, who care about each other, communicate with each other on a daily basis, it’s so easy for us to trust each other and work with each other.”
All 80 participants and 47 volunteers are St. Columba parishioners. Twenty-five volunteers are youth leaders in grades five through 12, serving as assistant teachers, recreation helpers, craft helpers, music leaders and snack helpers. There are 22 adult volunteers who serve as catechists, assistant teachers, recreation leader, craft leaders, music leader and on-site nurse.
Sean Fleming, a 20-year-old student at Dutchess Community College, has been a camp volunteer at St. Columba’s for five years and was the recreation leader in 2021.
“I just like helping kids out,” he said. “I really like seeing smiles on their faces. I love helping people. I also help in homeless shelters and Midnight Runs.
“Being a leader is a very special opportunity. I’m just thankful I got this opportunity to help out. I really want the kids to learn something about God.”
Amy DeGroff, 13, was volunteering for the first time and said she plans to return next year. She said helping children build a better relationship with God has benefited her as well.
“I feel I have a better relationship with Him because we’re here every day helping kids with crafts and helping them want to learn more about God,” she said.
Following activities in the school, participants and volunteers ended the day outside under a tent for prayer and Eucharistic adoration led by Father Michael McLoughlin, pastor of St. Columba’s. On the camp’s final day, Mass was celebrated in St. Columba’s Church.
“I’m thrilled to see the kids. The volunteers are fantastic. It’s just been a great week,” Father McLoughlin said.