By Jay Nies
Expect sparks this summer during Camp Maccabee for high school-age Catholic young men.
The event, to be held in two separate sessions July 16-21 and July 23-28 in St. Robert, will be filled with adventure, challenge and competition in the middle of God’s creation.
“Be prepared to have fun while getting muddy, soaked and tired,” said Father Bill Peckman, pastor of St. Clement parish in St. Clement, and who helps organize the camp each year. “And anything you need to charge? Plan on leaving it at home. You won’t be needing it.”
This year’s theme will be “Iron Sharpens Iron,” from Proverbs 27:17 — “As iron sharpens iron, so one man does to another.”
“Our goal is to bring out the best in each other,” said Fr. Peckman. “We’re wanting to help the young men become disciples and heroes.”
As in years past, participants will take part in an exciting array of outdoor activities while learning lessons on becoming strong Catholic leaders and helping others to do likewise.
Fathers are invited to help out with the camp in order to be part of what will likely be a transformative experience for their sons.
“It’s the real deal,” said Ryan Kent, a member of St. Clement parish.
He helped out with last year’s camp while his son Landon was participating.
Of course, there’s plenty of time for canoeing, fishing, hiking and all sorts of other outdoor activities, he said.
But the participants are also enriched with the sacraments and thought-provoking reflections.
“They’re hearing messages every day about virtues and responsibility and discipleship,” said Mr. Kent. “They’re building camaraderie with priests and deacons and other adults and among themselves.”
Helping prepare meals behind the scenes, Mr. Kent got an up-close look at how the young men were learning how to mentor and bond with each other.
“I got to become part of what the boys were experiencing,” he said. “I got to take advantage of what they were learning and apply it to my own life, as well.”
By the time the camp was over, the young men weren’t just talking about the adventures they’d taken part in throughout the week; they were discussing Catholic values they were being challenged to live up to as they move into adulthood.
“As a father, I was beyond impressed,” said Mr. Kent.
Weapon and shield
A group of young men at last year’s camp said the activities that were the most fun were also the ones where they learned the most.
Paintball, rafting and the legendary mud run helped them learn about relying on other people and “having each other’s back.”
“That helps us grow in our awareness of others, which helps us grow in our faith,” said Carter Hemeyer, a freshman from Hermann.
They said they were having a great time and were happy to find themselves taking on matters of spirituality.
“When I go home, I’m going to be more of a man of God,” said Gabriel Dalton, a senior from Rolla.
That means setting aside popular culture’s concept of masculinity in favor of “trusting, loving and living for God,” he said.
Ryan Veasman, a junior from Brinktown, said he and his fellow Maccabee campers were being trained to be “a first line of defense” for authentic faith and truth.
“There is truly spiritual warfare going on, all the time,” he noted. “Throughout our lives, we have to be taught how to listen to God, to go with the angel rather than the demon, because both of them are working as hard as they possibly can to lift us up or take us down.”
He believes the sword is a perfect emblem for Camp Maccabee.
“They keep telling us that we need to be a weapon and a shield of God, that we need to fight for those who cannot fight for themselves,” he stated.
“No matter what we’re called to be, we need to stand between those who would harm and those who would be harmed,” he said.
Mindful that many of their friends and classmates may turn away from the faith by the time they’re adults, these Maccabee ambassadors said they intend to stay actively Catholic.
“It’s what keeps me going every day,” said Alex Porschen, who is from Camdenton. “And it keeps me from listening to the outside world, because the Church helps me know what’s good and what’s bad.”
The young men thought people might notice a difference in them when they get home.
“Maybe in the way we walk, maybe in the way we approach life and the obstacles we’re given,” said Easton Webb, a sophomore from Sedalia.
“I think we’ll be standing up a lot more for what we know is right,” he said. “When we started talking about that, I made up my mind that I wasn’t going to let anyone hurt anybody I love.”
“I’ll think we’ll feel and act more mature coming out of the camp,” said Alex. “And I think we’ll be taking things more seriously that affect our spiritual lives.
“We can’t just keep it to ourselves,” he added. “We have to share it with everyone else.”
Gabriel, who has taken up blacksmithing, could really relate when Father David Veit, pastor of St. Patrick parish in Rolla, talked about tempering a sword.
“I’ve always viewed Camp Maccabee as a ‘heat treat,’” Gabriel said.
Whenever he makes a knife, he gives it a “heat treat” by fire, which makes it weak and brittle at first, but it eventually becomes stronger.
“That’s where the tempering comes in,” he said. “You can bend, you can stretch, but you’re always going to go back straight and hold one heck of an edge and be a tool for God.”The young men asked for prayers for strength to remain solid in their faith, and for openness to keep learning about and practicing God’s virtues in His Church.
“We need to carry the light of Christ and show the face of Christ in everything we do,” said Ryan.
Men of faith
Gabriel’s father, Joe Dalton, said he’s always impressed when one of his sons gets home from Camp Maccabee.
“It’s about training them to be strong, manly men of faith,” he said.
It also gives them a chance to stop and take a serious look at what God might be calling them to be.
Gabriel’s mother, Jane Dalton, noted that the young men get to spend time with and relate to husbands and fathers, priests and deacons.
“They get to hear firsthand some of the experiences that led (the priests) to the vocation of Priesthood,” she said.
She believes faith and fun fit together very well at Camp Maccabee.
And through it all, “they seem to come away with a sense of what being a Catholic man looks like,” she said.
Camp Maccabee draws participants from throughout this and neighboring dioceses.
Its name comes from the Maccabeus clan, an Old-Testament family that led a revolt against the Greek Seleucid Empire, which was seeking to destroy the Jewish faith and culture.
Like the Maccabeus family, the camp’s organizers seek to build strong men who will courageously fight for what is right and stand as virtuous Catholic men.
“Our job as Catholic men is to be as different from the rest of society as light is from darkness,” said Fr. Peckman. “We’re supposed to stand out. We’re supposed to be different.”
The cost for the camp is $150 per person per session, but the goal is to make sure no one is turned away because of cost.
For information, contact Fr. Peckman at (573) 338-0061 or e-mail .moc.1510972199liamg1510972199@56pw1510972199rrf1510972199
Go to www.campmaccabee.com to see videos from last year’s camp, learn more, sign up or donate.