August 6, 2010

Faith, Hope and Charity / David Siler

God’s special people and the body of Christ

David SilerFrom the moment I stepped onto the property, I had a very real sense that the ground that I was standing on was holy ground. A feeling like that is hard to explain, but a sense of peace and calm washed over me.

Nestled in the hills of southern Indiana along the Anderson River, near the southern-most end of our archdiocese, is a little piece of heaven called Anderson Woods.

For the past 33 years, Judy and Dave Colby have welcomed hundreds of God’s special people to their home in Bristow, Ind., not far from Jasper. It is about 175 acres of some of nature’s finest elements on display.

The Colbys live on this property, but for eight weeks every summer Anderson Woods is also home to both children and adults that have special needs—individuals with Down’s syndrome, autism, cerebral palsy, brain injury, etc.

For four, four-day periods, children attend the camp followed by four, four-day periods for adults. Camping activities include staying in cabins, hiking, creek-stomping, mud-sliding, horseback riding, gardening, s’more-making, singing—you name it.

The day that I visited was tie-dye shirt-making day for the 30 adult campers. I had the pleasure of watching them, guided by the caring children and young adult volunteers, create their masterpieces. I was struck by how incredibly focused they were on their task, and how delighted they were to show me what they had made.

I had the privilege of meeting Christopher, a young man who does not speak but says everything that needs to be said with his eyes.

Dave Colby told me that Christopher is the camper with the best sense of humor—without saying a word. His giggle was absolutely infectious. I couldn’t help but wonder what was going on in his mind, but I knew that he was surely in a very happy place. Somehow I just felt better being in his presence.

I stayed for lunch with the campers and the dozen or so volunteers. I sat near Chuck, who has a passion for baseball like I have never seen before. He wanted to know every detail of the players and team that I followed as a boy. He knew all of the players that I named on my Detroit Tigers teams during the late 1960s and early 1970s. He listened as intently to me as anyone had ever listened. Even though it was just baseball, it was an important conversation. We formed a bond.

The meal that we shared was, for me, a profound experience of sharing Eucharist. I had a very clear sense of being with the body of Christ. I learned that day from my new friends about one of the important lessons that we learn from nearly all of the great saints—living fully in “this” moment is where we find joy and peace.

My two oldest daughters volunteered at Anderson Woods during the camp’s first children’s week. They learned, like I did that day, that these special people have so much to teach us. Judy will tell you that she and Dave have gotten far more from their campers than they could ever give them. My girls are already lobbying to spend the entire summer at this special place next year.

To learn more about Anderson Woods, log on to

(David Siler is executive director of the Secretariat for Catholic Charities and Family Ministries. E-mail him at

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