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24 Aug 2008

“‘Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah.  For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father.’”  (Matt. 16:17)                In the name …

A week ago Friday my family left me behind all by myself for Scranton.  They attended the Track and Field Meet and a meeting of the National United Youth Association so I had the house all to myself for most of that Friday and all day Saturday.  Then they returned. They pulled into the driveway around 5PM last Sunday, and immediately started throwing luggage out of the car and onto the lawn.  It was like a hurricane struck.  Kristin, Amanda and Anna O’Connell from Manchester, NH had already packed bags for Camp.  In about 15 minutes the van was unloaded of one set of luggage, and then filled with a second.  My two days of peace and quiet were transformed into noise and pandemonium in two minutes, and we were heading off to the woods and wilderness of Goshen.  Up there ahead of us were 85 other campers waiting, including Emily Sanderson, Amy Hubbard, Erin Tudryn, and Jeromy, Bridget and Jordan Lashway.   

I had the chance to offer my session Monday morning.  As usual it was captivating.  How many questions were there from the kids you ask, not one.  That evening, however, the Massachusetts State Police showed-up in the person of our very own Sgt. Brian Foley and a second officer.  They came bearing illegal drugs.  All of a sudden the kids couldn’t stay quiet, so much so that Sgt. Foley had to end-up limiting their questions because they had gone over their scheduled time.  Walking out to the car with Sgt. Foley I mentioned the kids’ enthusiasm to him, then I found out that these two big, burly State Cops weren’t worried about our schedule, they were worried about getting out of the woods before the thunder and lightning storm.  And on top of that as the detective mentioned to me that Sgt. Foley made sure that the other guy was carrying the metal suitcase filled with drugs as lightning lit the sky.  Then they drove off leaving us behind in the storm-tossed woods.  Well, I really shouldn’t say “us” because I came home later that night because of a Tuesday morning funeral here.

When I came back to the camp at lunch time on Tuesday, I had with me a one-day camper, Tristen Orloski.  He had such a good time that he’s planning to go for the whole week next year.  On Wednesday I got up early as I always do to take my shower.  I’m in the bathroom when I hear all of this rustling through the garbage bins outside of the building.  Bears from the DAR State Forest like to come by looking for food.  I finish with my shower and I peek out the door to see if the coast is clear.  I don’t see no bear.  The camp dog, Morgan, is having a snack.  This dog is specially trained to work with children and especially abused or handicapped children.  He’s trained to like everyone.  He hates me.  Won’t come near me, and now he’s scared the be-Jesus out of me.  I call the dog Darfur because it looks so malnourished, by the end of the week I heard some of the other camp staff calling her the same thing.  Maybe that’s part of the reason why the dog hates me.

Later that day we went bowling in Northampton.  Mary Tudryn and her son Braedon show up too. Her daughter Erin is a first time camper. I thought she would have spent the whole time with mom and brother. They barely got a “Hello.” I never saw Erin at Camp. She was always off doing something with someone. Most all of the kids are most always like that: they have a great time up in those woods.  A family from Westfield is moving out to California. They’re planning on coming back the 3000 miles to be with us next year.  Something good must be happening up at Retreat.  On Wednesday afternoon, our last free time of the week, I tried a new high-ropes activity.  You have to climb up this rope and touch a wire that is about telephone wire high.  I struggled but I made it up, and part of the incentive was that I overheard this blond Camp-staffer from England who was holding my tether say that “Fr. Calvo has good upper-body strength.”  I felt so macho.  Then this little thing of a girl, Justina, climbs the same rope in about half the time without breaking a sweat. So much for my moment of glory.

That night, our last night at Retreat, our last session was on the sacrament of Matrimony, and I have the whole thing videotaped too.  Our own Emily Sanderson was the bride in a mock-ceremony to my own cousin Adam Osowski.  We’re now mock-related.  Following that session we had cabin skits, again I have the videotape.  My daughter Kristin comes out with a soccer ball beneath her shirt playing a pregnant woman.  I think I lost 20 years of my life.  The Camp staff came to watch.  The older boys’ cabin when explaining Holy Communion had one boy turn around and tell the audience, “This was the best meal I’ve had at Camp Howe.”  The staff laughed the hardest.  Again, on videotape, I have my boss, Fr. Sen. Joe playing Mr. Bean explains the seven sacraments.  That was something to behold. 

Through all of this the Camp staff watches and participates.  They see the clergy and even the bishop interacting with the kids.  They see Fr. Sen. Mr. Bean, they see the kids playing piñata with me as I hang from the high ropes, they see that we can laugh at each other in the skits, and they see also that the kids are learning about the sacraments, the kids are worshipping, the kids are great together, fun but not mean or destructive.  The staff has told a number of us how impressed they are by the way we come together as church.  When we were at Convo, a new parish has come to our denomination in Toledo, and the chaperones from that parish, after watching our group for a week, commented on how amazed they were about the way the clergy and teenagers interacted.  It wasn’t always formal and separated.  They were impressed by our sense of community as church, especially that our bishops would laugh rather than be offended by the commercials the kids produced and then put on You Tube. 

In today’s Gospel, Jesus asks His disciples who He is.  Only Peter responds that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God.  To which Jesus says that this knowledge does not come from Peter’s thoughts alone, but that it was touched by God’s own revelation.  Sometimes God works with us to help us be church.  I look at the rustic offerings of Camp Howe.  I see an altar set up in a dusty and rather dark rec hall.  I see dirt-covered kids who think changing their clothes means turning a filthy shirt inside-out.  I know we sleep on plastic mattresses that are washed with bleach after each gathering.  And yet through our time together something more than what we see or do is at work.  God is revealing Himself to these children and even to the adults and chaperones.  Sometimes it takes an impartial observer like Camp staff to point it out to us, but God is at work in what we do as church, and for that I feel grateful and humble, and I pray that we may also be able to see and appreciate the hand of God in who we are and what we do always as church, for this special revelation I pray in Jesus’ name.  Amen.  (+)


Fr. Randy Calvo


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