When I was in high school, one of the highlights of every summer was going away to C.A.M.P.S., a weeklong Catholic retreat where I’d get to escape from it all, see all my friends and just immerse myself in a spiritual community unlike any I’ve ever encountered elsewhere.
Between the speakers, the music, the competitions or the conversations people struck up over dinner, C.A.M.P.S. was an unbelievably powerful experience and a major influence on my life. Even to this day, some of my closest friends are people whom I first met at C.A.M.P.S.
Many of those people were also from Amesbury, and I have to admit that almost everything I knew about Amesbury before being hired by The Daily News last summer came from my periodic visits from Reading, usually to grab some ice cream from Hodgies.
The reason why I bring all of this up is because I know there are many Amesbury residents who can relate to my experience. C.A.M.P.S. has had a strong presence in Amesbury for many years — dozens of local youth go every summer — and this past weekend over 350 campers and staff members from over the years gathered at the Holy Family Parish Hall in Amesbury to celebrate the ministry’s upcoming 30th anniversary.
At its core, C.A.M.P.S., which stands for Christ As My Personal Savior, is a ministry dedicated to bringing high school youth closer to Jesus while fostering a Christian community that allows that personal relationship to flourish. It was first started in the summer of 1984 by youth minister Maureen Mulcahy and Father George Morin, now the pastor of Holy Redeemer Church in Merrimac and West Newbury, and has been held annually every year since.
C.A.M.P.S. takes place in mid-August shortly before the school year begins, currently at the Mah-Kee-Nac campground in Lenox, and the daily schedule typically includes community-building events, music, competitive team events and prayer.
Every year usually brings a wrinkle or two, however, like last year when there was a full-scale re-enactment of “The Hunger Games,” in which tributes from each team battled to the “death” with plastic swords, Nerf guns and eggs until only one remained. The winner, incidentally, was an Amesbury High School senior named Christian Zielinski.
Then, a couple of years ago, Michael Skupin from “Survivor” came and led a huge “Survivor”-style competition complete with obstacles and nasty food challenges. There have even been a couple of occasions over the years where the entire camp has been woken up at 4 a.m. on the last day for an impromptu water balloon war.
Sunday’s celebration was a chance for anyone who has ever gone to share in all of that, and also a chance to reconnect with old friends and reflect on some of their own unique experiences.
Mulcahy said that more than 11,000 people have gone to C.A.M.P.S. over the years, and that she hopes this coming summer will be the biggest week yet. The week will run from Monday, Aug. 12 through Saturday, Aug. 17, and high school aged youth entering grade 9 through recent high school graduates are eligible to attend.
The following meetings are scheduled this week and are open to the public:
School Committee Personnel Subcommittee meeting, 4:30 p.m., Amesbury High School Superintendent’s Office.
City Council meeting, 7 p.m., City Hall Auditorium.
AHS School Council meeting, 6:30 p.m., AHS Principal’s Conference Room.
Mac Cerullo covers Amesbury for The Daily News. He can be reached at 978-462-6666, ext. 3238 or by email at email@example.com. Follow Mac on Twitter at @MacCerullo.