Mission Possible: Weekend Adventure Camp for Teen Boys Blends Outdoor Fun and Deep Spirituality

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by Sam Alzheimer, Vianney Vocations

What gets young people engaged in the Church?  Is it a connection with other young Catholics?  Is it a deeper understanding of the faith? What exactly should we do at youth events? Fun stuff? Intensive Bible study?  Pizza? Eucharistic adoration?

These are questions youth ministers have asked themselves for decades. Most believe there has to be a balance of playful camaraderie and rich spiritual content for young people to encounter Christ and find their place in the Church.

To strike that balance, the diocese created Mission Possible, a weekend summer camp for teen boys. It involves heavy doses of outdoor fun with serious prayer, led by our seminarians and Fr. Matthew Long, the youngest priest in our diocese.

Patrick X, a 16-year-old who attended Mission Possible last year with his two brothers, summed up his experience succinctly: “Dude, camp was awesome!”

The draw for teen boys is obvious. One entire afternoon is spent on a high-elements rope course, including a 40-ft tall zip line that sends boys hurtling through the woods. Then there’s the giant “earth ball” used for rough-and-tumble, soccer-style tournaments. A 10,000 sq. foot wooden maze has teams of boys scrambling to find the pieces to solve a giant puzzle. Add in an oversized slip-n-slide and water balloon launchers that can send a balloon the length of a football field, and you’ve got the perfect ingredients for a weekend of all-boy fun.
But the fun is only half the story. Mission Possible is also a boot camp for solid Catholic spirituality. Inspiring talks, solemn Masses and heartfelt rosaries are all part of the weekend. The aim is for boys to deepen their relationship with Christ and help them begin to answer the question, “What is God calling me to do with my life?”

Most parents recognize the need for spiritual training for their sons. As boys mature through adolescence they face serious moral challenges in society.  Many Catholic teens “check out” of the Church after receiving confirmation.  The exodus of college-aged Catholics is well-documented. Thus the high school years are a critical time; teens will either choose Christ or not, run toward the Church or run away from it. For parents who want to encourage their sons to make the Faith their own, Mission Possible is a good choice.

While the camp is sponsored by the Vocations Office, the purpose is not to usher teens right into seminary, said Fr. Matthew Long. “I just want to help young people encounter Christ, whether they’re called to priesthood or to build strong Catholic families in the future. If our young people draw close to Jesus, the priestly vocations will come in time.”

Mission Possible begins Friday afternoon, May 31, and ends on Sunday afternoon, June 2. While there were just 15 attendees at last year’s camp, the diocese is looking to triple that number this year. Plans are also afoot for a girls’ summer camp in 2014.

For more information and to register for Mission Possible, visit www.shreveportvocations.com.

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