We are honored to have a role in the process of forming young Christian lives. Since 1933, Camp Sancta Maria (CSM) has been offering young people aged 8 to 16 a summer full of fun, personal growth, and spiritual development. With the ever-increasing prominence of technology in our day, our mission now includes offering young people a respite in a technology-free zone and provide them with wholesome recreation centered in the physical world around them. Whether it is playing sports, horseback riding, learning to swim, or going on one of our outside camping trips, our campers feel refreshed and experience a sense of wonder as they live more fully in nature – a very different experience from their daily routine. Our 96 acres of wooded landscape in the heart of Northern Lower Michigan and the stunningly beautiful local sites that serve as our destinations for outside trips are the perfect setting for this work and for the close-knit community at CSM.
Infused into all of our activities is an atmosphere of faith. We seek to hire senior counselors who are navigating life successfully and enjoy a rich spiritual life. From seminarians to students from local universities, to students at Franciscan University in Steubenville, our counselors come to CSM because they enjoy working with youth. Their young adult lives also testify to our young people – more often by actions than by words – that the greatest joy in life comes from having a personal relationship with the Lord.
It is not unusual for campers to have a relationship with God become real or become revived at CSM. Why? Much of it comes down to the fact that kids open their hearts while they are both away from home and in the unique atmosphere of CSM – and the Holy Spirit is then allowed to get through to them. One of the great aids to personal growth are prayer and the sacraments. CSM has been relied through the decades on daily Mass, opportunities for Reconciliation, the Angelus, grace before and after each meal, and our Night Chapel service. How rewarding it is both to see campers come to love this life and to see moms cry when they hear their boys sing in Church! Although we are proudly a Catholic Camp, we work hard to ensure that campers of all denominations and faiths feel welcome at CSM.
Being away from home is another essential element that facilitates camper growth. While some of our first-time campers (and moms!) experience home sickness, this is a testimony of the attachment that comes from their love for each other. A degree of physical separation is also something that has to be experienced in order to grow. One of the most beautiful sights at CSM is the reunion of a camper with their parents and family! Indeed, absence makes their hearts grow much fonder. If this is one of your concerns as a mom, please let us know. We will put you in touch with one of our “veteran moms,” who will help you navigate through these waters!
Yet another element of personal growth comes from meeting new people. Campers live and play with some people they may have never met before. They discover that not everyone lives like they do and they have to reach out to them. It is a very common experience for campers to form friendships that will extend over their whole lifetime. The experience is somewhat akin to soldiers who become bonded through a common experience away from home. They become a band of brothers.
To accomplish this growth, the standard 2 week trip is critical for boys. Over the years, we have come to see that it takes 4-5 days for the boy to become settled and for his heart to open. In the remaining week, their personal sense of accomplishment and their relationship with God notably take off!