Sixteen high school students from the Catholic Diocese of Dodge City attended the 4th annual Summer Service Camp hosted by Newman University in June. The weeklong camp is held to give students from schools in the Dodge City Diocese an opportunity to serve others while growing in faith and experiencing fellowship.
The campers were provided lodging on the Newman campus at the New Hall student residence, which also served as headquarters for the duration of the camp. Fr. Ted Stoecklein of Spearville, Kan., served as the Chaplain for the Dodge City Diocese group.
The camp was launched four years ago to help serve as a connection between Newman University and the Diocese of Dodge City. According to Fr. Michael Linnebur, the service camp’s spiritual advisor and chaplain at Newman University, “The camp gives young people from the western rural areas of Kansas a chance to serve in the city of Wichita.”
Throughout the week the campers, who coined the motto “Ready to serve,” offered their services at various agencies and organizations in Wichita, including The Lord’s Diner (which serves free meals to the homeless), Catholic Charities, Adult Day Services, and St. Anthony’s Family Shelter. The daily agenda began with breakfast, followed by spiritual time. The group then broke into small teams for the day of service, which included cleaning, sorting and serving food, painting, and other chores.
Each team had a team leader from Newman guiding them through the week. The team leaders ensured each team got the chance to experience all of the service opportunities. “We really wanted to connect with young people and show them the many different ways we can serve others,” said Linnebur.
Although the mission of the camp was to serve, the goal was to allow for ample measure of stewardship and spiritual growth as well.
“It was very important to us for the campers to continue their spiritual formation while serving,” said Julie Schmeidler, camp co-director and a 2011 Newman University graduate. Schmeidler added that the week wasn’t all work. After each day of service the campers had activities for fun and fellowship, such as water balloon battles and a competitive scavenger hunt put on by the Newman Admissions Department.
Angelica Ayers, a camp team leader and a 2012 Newman University graduate, said the high school campers experienced much about serving others, spiritual growth in God, stewardship, and being men and women of God. Maybe just as important, she added, the young participants learned about themselves and grew from it. “They learned about themselves and grew more comfortable with working and serving as a team,” Ayers said.
Camper Blakelee Cooper from Hoisington, who has attended the camp each year, agreed.
“Camp changed my life,” Cooper said. “When I’m there I am on a spiritual high the entire week. I feel a burning passion inside me, that I never feel anywhere else. Every year I learned something about myself and truly felt and learned the meaning of life. I reunited my relationship with God and with myself while serving others along the way. Who wouldn’t want to go back?”
The student participants and adult chaperones in the service camp are listed below by hometown.
Great Bend, Kan. (Prince of Peace parish):
Cheryl Alexander- Chaperone
Pam Vainer- Chaperone
Hoisington, Kan. (St. John the Evangelist parish):
Pam Willis- Chaperone
Spearville, Kan. (St. John the Baptist parish):
L’Jean Dixon- Chaperone