When Sister Mary Core’s youth group began hatching a plan to stay overnight at Camp Loud Thunder along the Mississippi River in Illinois, she knew who to call for help. Sister Stefanie MacDonald loved to camp; she had taken her nephews every chance she got. But now that her nephews were grown – and her own students were just preschoolers – Sr. Stefanie missed cooking and sleeping outdoors.
So when Sr. Mary asked her to help out, Sr. Stefanie said yes. Together with 9 youth group members – and a few parents and siblings – they created a delicious, fun, Benedictine and memorable experience.
Eat, Pray … Laugh!
The day began with a caravan to the park, about half an hour down river from the monastery. After tent set-up, a hike, a few games and supper – hobo dinner with sliced veggies and meat sealed in foil pouches and cooked right in the fire – everyone gathered around the fire for Mass.
As the sun was setting and fire was crackling, Father Jim DeBischop broke pieces from his large single host for everyone. They sang “This Little Light” – Oh Lord, prepare me to be a sanctuary, pure and holy, tried and true – along with the birds and woodland creatures.
“To have Mass with such an intimate group out in the woods like that was very special,” Sr. Mary says. “Being together after the sun goes down – praying, sharing, being present to each other – all Benedictine values – shows the kids how to step back from the busyness and noise of our life. Listening to the crickets and other night sounds is just phenomenal.”
Even the shrieks and laughter heard for what seemed like miles during a vigorous game of Hide and Spook didn’t break the peace.
“In the big picture, maybe taking kids camping isn’t critical,” Sr. Stefanie says. “But spending time in nature might help them see that the important things in life are really very simple.”
Sunday Prayer Walk
After a quiet night – the kids were too worn out to talk much after getting into their tents – morning dawned with a fresh, glittering beauty often missed in the bustle of daily life.
“We are called to beauty,” Sr. Mary says. “As Emerson said, ‘Beauty is God’s handwriting.’ We all need to spend time out of our busy lives to relax and soak it up.”
After a big, hot breakfast around the fire, the group walked – in prayerful silence – down to the lake.
“So often we’re either talking or distracted by the busyness of our lives,” Sr. Mary says. “I wanted the kids to be fully present to the experience of walking in nature, of reflecting on the weekend. I wanted them to use all their senses – not just their mouths – to take in all that is gift from God. Silence is a Benedictine practice. The kids got a taste of what we’re all about.”
Afterwards, they gathered at a picnic table to share about the walk itself, and the weekend in general.
“It was a good way to end the weekend,” Sr. Stefanie says. “They all loved it. It was nourishing in so many ways.”
Next up for the summer? The Vision Youth Group’s 2nd annual mission trip to Project Renewal. Stay tuned!
If you think you may be called to serve others and seek God with us, email Sr. Stefanie at firstname.lastname@example.org. Let’s talk! 🙂