The small wooden chapel at Lourdes Camp on Skaneateles Lake is a dark and peaceful place perfect for quiet contemplation.
Until, that is, it is filled to capacity with sun-tanned children with wet hair, tie-dyed shirts and lots of new summer friends. Then it becomes a chapel filled with happiness, noise and life.
That was something Bishop Robert Cunningham learned on his first visit to the camp to celebrate Mass there on July 21. This was the first time any bishop had visited the camp, and he used the opportunity to encourage the children to become what God wants them to be.
“How do we know what our gifts are? How do we know what He wants us to do? Pray. Ask for His help and his guidance as we try to make decisions in our lives,” Bishop Cunningham told those gathered.
Lourdes Camp is a Catholic summer camp for children of all faiths between the ages of seven and 14. Children can stay overnight in the cabins or come just for a day of canoeing, swimming, soccer, lacrosse or any of the other games and crafts that fill the day.
Mike Preston, the camp’s director, said the camp had 253 children and was currently at capacity. He’s been at the camp for 30 of its 68 years, and he said he loves seeing how the kids who were once so worried about spending their first night grow in confidence to one day become camp counselors. That was the case with Rachel Dodge of Camillus, who provided the first reading at the Mass. She said she was a camper for eight summers and has been a counselor for the past three summers.
Twin brothers Zachary and Patrick Stanistreet of Camillus were two of the altar servers helping Bishop Cunningham, and although this was their second year at the camp, it was the first year they were sleeping over. Zachary said he was a little bit nervous at first, but it got much easier, especially once they had the chance to practice some archery during the day. His brother Patrick nodded. “So far it’s been really good,” he said. “We got to use the strongest bows they had today!”
Elizabeth White of Marcellus sat on the see-saw with her friend Colette Regis. While Elizabeth said she preferred the canoeing, Colette said it was the swimming that she really enjoyed. It was the first year both of them were staying over too, though they said there was more talking and laughing than sleeping going on in the cabins that first night.
Along with summertime fun, the camp also provides the children with religious instruction and opportunities to attend Mass. Bishop Cunningham told them that they are never too young to do something great.
“Don’t forget to think about what God has created you for, what you’re supposed to be doing, how you’re supposed to be acting and how you’re supposed to be that good seed that fell on fertile ground,” Bishop Cunningham said. “I know that the seed that God plants in your heart is a good seed, but you have to do what you can to nurture that seed, to bring it along, to make it grow.”