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Bishop Paul Sirba: Camp Survive was an opportunity to consult with young people

The energy was palpable. The welcome was hearty and sincere. The enthusiasm was contagious. Where else can you experience the fruits of the Holy Spirit in a forum with hundreds of young people, junior counselors, a prayer team, and some extraordinarily dedicated chaperones in a beautiful setting? Camp Survive is the place.

The Diocese of Duluth, under the leadership of Father Mike Schmitz and Heather Serena and their collaborators, have been hosting Camp Survive at Big Sandy Camp and Retreat Center for years. This work of the Lord continues to bear great fruit.

Bishop Paul Sirba
Bishop Paul Sirba
Fiat Voluntas Tua

I had the opportunity to go to camp this year with an added mission. In response to the invitation of Pope Francis and in preparation for the upcoming Synod of Bishops on Young People and discernment, I thought I would bring the questions posed in the synodal document and ask our young people, youth ministers, and local youth experts to see what they would say. What a wonderful opportunity for consultation!

How would you respond to questions like: How can we help the young people hear and respond to the call to become disciples of Christ in this world? Or: We can often underestimate the potential of youth — how do we change our mindset? What are the ways in which we can engage them and help them offer their gifts to building of the Kingdom and making the world a better place? What are the roadblocks? How can we as a Church walk with them? Listen to their voice? In John’s Gospel, when Jesus was asked by his disciples where he was staying, he replied, “Come and see.” That has not changed — Jesus still invites — he looks at you and invites you to go with Him. Pope Francis asks you — “Dear young people, have you noticed this look toward you? Have you heard this voice? Have you felt this urge to undertake this journey?” What is it you most need today from your Church? At a parish, diocesan, and universal level?

The responses to the questions will help me frame a response to be prepared for the Synod and our Holy Father. The Diocese of Duluth and our young people will make a difference in the discussion the universal Church will be having with Pope Francis in 2018. The gift of Camp Survive will continue to help our young people grow in their personal relationship with Jesus Christ and form the intentional disciples of the future. Or rather, form the intentional disciples of the present!

One of the many great takeaways for me was the power of Eucharistic Adoration. It was the most frequently mentioned response to the question: What did you most like about camp? Another very important lesson for me was the importance of the good example and witness of each successive generation on the one before. I mean, the sixth, seventh, and eighth graders greatly valued the example of the junior counselors, who esteemed the witness of college students, who learned from slightly older adults on up.

We have a trajectory which supports the faith of others and makes it credible. It also needs to be formed at an ever earlier age. Some young people are making decisions about whether to remain in the faith by the time they are entering junior high. Twelve-yearolds are asking why they didn’t hear about something when they were six. Also, few if any read newspapers.

The seeds of faith are being nurtured and sustained by Camp Survive, TOBIT, confirmation retreats and youth programs, religious education programs, and schools, but we must respond to the promptings of the Holy Spirit and the ever-changing needs of our young people. I do believe we are on the front end of the New Evangelization in the Diocese of Duluth.

Our words of wisdom to the Synod will help us and the universal Church fan into flame faith in Jesus Christ, who is the same, yesterday, today, and forever.

Bishop Paul Sirba is the ninth bishop of Duluth.