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Some things just aren’t worth arguing about. It’s usually because one of two factors is in play: either someone holding an opinion is intransigent, or the opinion that is held is self-evident. Even in this era of diversity, there are still a few things about which almost everyone can agree. Statements like, “Chocolate is good,” and “Gas is too expensive,” won’t be greeted with much clamor. On the other hand, someone who proclaims that “Teenagers are a joy” might well be disputed.
I’d like to do just that, however, and declare in tones loud and clear that I think teens are, in fact, a joy. I know I’m flying in the face of most parental experience and exasperation. And I don’t mean to deny the challenges that teenagers present just by being themselves. In fact, it seems that adolescents come in pretty much two varieties: the ones who tell you everything including what you really didn’t want to know, and those who tell you nothing even when you threaten to open their mouths with a crowbar.
But the teenage years are rich and fertile ground. They provide, if you will, a captive audience of awkwardly transitional individuals caught between the rock of childhood innocence and the hard place of adult experience. Teens need their parents more than they think, certainly more than any of them will admit. And yet, they need to assert their own identities apart from who we are, and more, who we want them to be.
That is where friends come in. Good friends have always been hard to find. But when kids aren’t even sure who they are themselves, it’s even harder for them to figure out who is worthy of their trust. Common interests only go so far in helping to form relationships. After all, people can share destructive behaviors as well as constructive ones. A truly good friendship is one that helps us become good people.
A common friend is often a good basis for expanding one’s circle of friends. That is even more true if the friendship people share with one another is one with Jesus Christ. This year, C.A.M.P.S. (that’s Christ As My Personal Savior) Ministry, will celebrate 25 years of helping kids find Jesus and then one another. C.A.M.P.S. has had a profoundly positive effect on the lives of teenagers in this archdiocese, my own included. Like many church affiliated programs, it gives kids an authentic encounter with Christ. But what is unique about C.A.M.P.S. is the lasting Christian friendships that kids form during those five days of summer, and the energy that everyone involved so willingly invests in helping teens to maintain those relationships.
All year long, C.A.M.P.S. kids look for ways to meet each other. Sometimes it’s a barbecue or birthday party. Often, it’s a parish youth group activity, an evening of eucharistic adoration, or a concert of contemporary Catholic music. They ask each other to school dances. They visit each other’s jobs. They meet at parishes all over the archdiocese, traveling to towns many of them have hardly ever heard of to do so. They seek each other out, and help each other out. They go to any length to reconnect, but are always looking for ways to invite other kids into the circle. And when they come home from spending time together, they are affirmed in faith and happy to be who they are.
C.A.M.P. S. gives kids what they need most of all: a strong connection to other kids who are proud to be Catholic, and who encourage one another to live their faith fully. It’s no surprise that C.A.M.P.S. has resulted in more than a few marriages. After all, marriage is one of the highest forms of Christian friendship. It’s also not surprising that after 25 years, C.A.M.P.S. is still making such a wonderful difference in the lives of kids who just want to belong to a group of good friends.
For more information on C.A.M.P.S. and SnowCamps, check out www.campsministry.com.
Jaymie Stuart Wolfe is a wife and mother of eight children, and a disciple of the spirituality of St. Francis de Sales. She is an author, speaker, musician and serves as Faith Formation Coordinator at St. Maria Goretti Parish in Lynnfield.