Saturday, June 27, 2009

BASE Camp 2009 - Reflection

This past week our young people participated in our annual BASE Camp experience. When Kate Kleintank and myself first starting forming plans for a joint project for youth from St. Mark and St. William of York parish I don't think we quite envisioned what BASE Camp has become. Originally it was to be a workcamp, an opportunity for a group of young people from the two parishes to come together and get to know each other better while putting their faith into action through community service. Certainly a laudable goal in and of itself. However, BASE Camp has evolved into something much more than that, with much of the credit going to Mercy Sr. Katherine Nueslein, or "Sr. Kitty" as we affectionately call her. And that transition began when we stopped calling this a "workcamp" and began calling it BASE Camp, the letters "B," "A," "S" and "E" standing for Baltimore - Act, Serve, Evangelize.

Through many conversations between Sr. Kitty and myself and trying new things we've come to the conclusion that as important as the work is, it is just as important (if not more so) for our young people to experience something that goes well beyond doing a "good deed for the day." We want our young people to feel the pulse of the city, to form relationships with its residents, to hear their stories and understand that reaching out and helping is much more than cutting grass or cleaning up trash. We want our young people to see that there is much healing that needs to happen in our city, and that they have the power to make that healing happen as disciples of Christ. Today, BASE Camp is less about the service and more about the EXPERIENCE. It's about putting your faith into action not just in a physical way but in a way that encourages advocacy for peace and justice. And through that advocacy we can be healers.

Each day of our BASE Camp experience featured a different theme. Day One was "Solidarity," and we prayed on that theme throughout the day as we discovered what it truly means to stand in solidarity with our less fortunate sisters and brothers. The theme of Day Two was "Care of God's Creation," and much of our time was spent working on a park that serves as a small oasis of peace in one of Baltimore's poorest neighborhoods. Day Three was "Witness," and we witnessed to our faith through our actions, and were amazed and gratified by the large number of people that pitched in to help or merely stopped by to say 'Thank You' for all we were doing to try and restore pride in community in the southwest district. Our Day Four theme was "Discipleship," and we heard profound testimony all week of what it means to be a disciple from the clients at Hezekiah House, who told us that through the darkest hours of our lives we had to continue to seek God's light. And we heard from the residents of Jonah House, who explored with us the pervasive and suffocating violence that permeates our world. And finally, our Day Five theme was "Go Forth," with the idea being that our last day of BASE Camp is not an ending but a continuation of what it means to go forth and shout to all nations the Good News of Jesus Christ.

Each day of our BASE Camp experience our youth prayed together in our Mary garden before we left for the worksite, and in the evening assessed each day with reflection, prayer, meditation and the writing of our prayer intentions on our BASE Camp prayer cloth. And our prayer intentions went well beyond just praying for the people of Baltimore and those we met through our work. We prayed for the grandmother of one of our youth that passed away this past week. For the mother of another participant that was hospitalized during our week. For Vincent Woodward from Resurrection parish in Ellicott City - where Kate Kleintank now works - who was tragically killed in an automobile accident. For our families that were missing us and for our friends and acquaintances in pain and suffering. For Sr. Kitty and each person we met during BASE Camp. And of course, for one another. For strength, for safety, for continued blessings on the work of our hands and for peace and justice to come to the city of Baltimore, and throughout the world.

It was particularly gratifying for me to see not only the way our young people work and reach out to southwest Baltimore, but to see how they reach out and support and comfort one another. Our new participants were welcomed with open arms and quickly became part of our BASE Camp family. And a group of our older participants stepped into the role of "Young Adult Leader" with maturity and grace.

In many readings from the Gospels the theme is healing. Christ demonstrated to his disciples the power of healing and that all who believe in him will be healed. This week at BASE Camp, despite a different theme each day, it was all about one thing - healing. We healed through our work and we healed through our prayers. We healed by being the answer to someone else's prayer… the person too sick to clean up their own property; the person caught up in addiction; the poor and the hungry and those just struggling each day to get by. And of course, the prayers of each other. Solidarity, care, witness, discipleship and mission. They all add up to one thing: healing. Jesus said "…as you have believed, let it be done for you." (Matthew 8:13) Our young people are believers, our young people are disciples. Our young people stand ready to go forth and be healers in our world.

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