The History of Workcamp at St. Peter’s

A lot of parishioners may not know that we have an archive of our old bulletins, stretching back to the early 1980s.  Looking through those recently, I came across an article from April 24, 1994.  This article announced a new youth ministry program. That upcoming summer,  “There are seven teens and three adults who will represent St. Peter’s at a week-long Workcamp in Muskegon, Michigan from July 10-16. Along with 400 people from all over the country, they will be insulating, painting, and repairing homes of poor residents in the area.”

2014 marks the 20th anniversary of that first Workcamp trip at St. Peter’s. On July 24 of this year, 18 youth and 4 adults will embark on the parish’s 21st Workcamp trip. Workcamp has become an institution at our parish, and I thought I would use this space to explain more about it, and help the people of St. Peter’s to understand why it is so important.

But first, a short quiz on the history of Workcamp (answers at the end of the article):

  1. How many different states has Workcamp traveled to?
  2. How many of those states can you name?
  3. What state has Workcamp traveled to the most times?
  4. Only once has Workcamp returned to the same location a second time. Can you name it?
  5. What is the largest group St. Peter’s has ever taken to Workcamp?
  6. How many young people and adults (combined) have gone to Workcamp through the years with St. Peter’s?
  7. What individual has been on the most trips, and how many?
  8. What is the furthest distance St. Peter’s has ever traveled to Workcamp?
  9. What is the shortest distance we have ever traveled?

So, what exactly is Workcamp, and who runs it?  The first Workcamp was in 1977 near Estes Park, CO in response to terrible flooding in that community. Group Publishing (which publishes youth ministry materials) is located in the Loveland community, and brought together a handful of churches to help those who were affected by the disaster.  Eventually, a new branch of their company emerged called Group Mission Trips, which this summer (37 years later) will have 42 different Workcamps around the country, with 300-400 participants at each camp.  (For more information on Group Mission Trips history, go to www.groupmissiontrips.com, and click on “About”)

There are three prime elements to Workcamp: 1) Service, 2) Worship, and 3) Fellowship.  When we arrive at camp each year, the first night we are all broken off into ‘work crews’ for the week, and each work crew is assigned a home and some projects. Your work crew normally consists of 5-6 people that you have never met before, and are all from different churches around the country. You spend the week together repairing a home and sharing about yourself and your faith. Projects are guided by ‘site coaches’ who check in on groups and advise and supervise the progress. For many participants, their experience with their crew, and with their resident (the person for whom they are working that week) are deeply meaningful and impactful experiences.

Worship at Workcamp takes place in a variety of ways. Every morning before work, and every evening after dinner the entire camp gathers to worship together, using prayer, song and reflection.  Some evening programs are deeply powerful, and create an opportunity for the youth to encounter Christ, and share themselves with him in ways they never have before. I can personally attest to a number of young people I have gone to Workcamp with who cite those experiences as one of the main reasons they have a relationship with Christ, and why their faith means so much to them. There are also opportunities during the day to gather and discuss our faith with our crews (usually over lunch), and with just our youth group from St. Peter’s (usually after evening program). Workcamp is a multi-denominational event, which focuses on the elements of Christianity that different denominations share.  Our time together in the evening as a youth group is a wonderful opportunity for us to talk about our experiences and the programming in a distinctly Catholic way, that helps to grow our campers sense of identity as Catholics.

Fellowship at Workcamp takes place all the time. Within 24 hours, you see kids who had never met before hanging out together, laughing, serving, being open with each other, and sharing their faith.  In so many different ways, Workcamp is one of the greatest times of evangelization I have ever witnessed. It truly is a time where people are preaching the Gospel through their actions.

This year’s Workcamp trip departs St. Peter’s on July 24 for Kittery, Maine (we will be breaking the record for the longest trip!) where we will serve from July 27-August 2.  If you have any other questions or want more information please visit www.stpetersworkcamp.org, or call or email Ed Overell any time.  Please remember this year’s campers, and all those they will be serving, in your prayers.

Answers:

  1. 12 different states plus Canada.
  2. Michigan, South Dakota, Kentucky, Wyoming, Montana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Tennessee, Illinois, Colorado, Missouri, and Manitoba.
  3. Michigan (four times)
  4. Muskegon, Michigan (1994 & 96)
  5. 36 in 2009 (Darby, PA)
  6. 439
  7. Brandon “Bubba” Carrier went on 11 trips as both a participant and an adult leader from 2001-2011.
  8. 1,170 miles to Darby, PA (2009)
  9. 380 miles to Kenosha, WI (2002)

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