October 29, 2021

‘It’s changing families’

Hispanic Family Camp offers ‘a chance to encounter Jesus’ and improve families

(En Espanol)

Teens take on a rock wall challenge during Hispanic Family Camp at Catholic Youth Organization Camp Rancho Framasa in Nashville on Sept. 18. (Photo by Natalie Hoefer)

Teens take on a rock wall challenge during Hispanic Family Camp at Catholic Youth Organization Camp Rancho Framasa in Nashville on Sept. 18. (Photo by Natalie Hoefer)

By Natalie Hoefer

BROWN COUNTY—When Nayeli Vasquez shared with her teenage daughter and her 9-year-old son that the three of them were going to a Catholic Hispanic Family Camp, the news did not go over well with her daughter.

“She did not want to come,” Vasquez admitted. “She cried all the way here.”

But by midafternoon, her daughter was “having a lot of fun.” Meanwhile, Vasquez was soaking in talks about spirituality and how to best communicate with her children.

The Vasquezes, members of St. Patrick Parish in Indianapolis, were among the more than 180 women, men, young adults and youths who enjoyed the Hispanic Family Camp at Catholic Youth Organization Camp Rancho Framasa in Brown County on Sept. 17-19.

The event, now in its third year, is organized by Pastoral de Conjunto, a group of Hispanic leaders from parishes around the archdiocese. The opportunity is co-sponsored by the archdiocese’s Office of Hispanic Ministry and Franciscan Health. This year’s theme was “St. Joseph, a Vocation of Love.”

“The purpose of this camp is to provide the family a good time of prayer, sacraments, fun and activities, and also to appreciate nature,” said Saul Llacsa, archdiocesan coordinator of Hispanic Ministry. “Many of these families don’t have a chance to go on vacation, so this is a chance where they can do that and encounter Jesus.”

‘It’s super fun’

That encounter happens in a number of ways, said Llacsa.

“The different age groups have their own schedule, which includes adoration in an outdoor amphitheater,” he explained. “There are two priests there to hear confession, and Mass will be held later.

“The small kids are painting shirts and making St. Joseph banners. And even when the older kids are hiking, swimming, canoeing, doing archery or climbing a rock wall, they see God in the faces of the new friends they made and in the nature that surrounds them.”

Bryan Rivas, 16, can testify to Llacsa’s words. Still wearing his safety helmet, the member of St. Monica Parish in Indianapolis spoke with The Criterion after completing a tethered-climb up a high rock wall.

“This is a new experience for me,” said Bryan enthusiastically. “It’s super fun. I didn’t really want to come here, but now that I’m here with a bunch of new people, it’s super fun to get to do something like this. I got to meet a lot of new people, which has been great. This morning before breakfast we sang a song, and that was nice to just praise God.”

Joining the teen group Bryan was part of was 13-year-old Hillary Osorio of St. Gabriel the Archangel Parish in Indianapolis.

“This is more entertaining and fun than just staying in my room,” she said with a grin. “I’ve liked meeting people who have the same interests as me. I see God everywhere in nature here, because he made everything.”

Like Bryan and Vasquez’s daughter, said Llacsa, “When the kids hear they’re going to Catholic camp, sometimes they say, ‘No, I don’t want to go.’ But they don’t know they’re going to have fun, they’re going to make friends, they’re going to enjoy nature, and they’re going to find God.

“We have two surveys—one at the beginning [of the camp] for what they expect, and one at the end about what they experienced. It’s uplifting to hear those testimonies, especially from the young folks learning that God is the creator of everything here.”

‘Our first church is home’

The young folks were not alone in enjoying the camp. Vasquez appreciated the talks for parents on the topics of communication and spirituality within the family.

“We have our material life outside, but we forget about the spiritual life inside, which is the main thing,” she said. “That’s important for me to teach my children.”

She also learned “how to listen to my children, because this is how I can learn what they want from me. Like what to do if they say ‘no’ to everything or just say ‘everything is fine’ all the time.”

Among the talks for parents was one on “the reality of Latino youths in the U.S.,” said Llacsa, followed by one on communication between parents and their young and teenage children.

“The language can be a barrier, and also the culture,” he said. “We help them to have healthy communication habits and to understand we are in a new community and need to be one family.”

Improving families is what the camp is all about, said Jose Morales of Pastoral de Conjunto.

“What we’re trying to do is to have something for the families so they can interact a little more,” said the member of St. Ambrose Parish in Seymour. “My hope is to create a better environment for parents and their kids, and more communication.

“Mainly, it’s for our parents to understand that our first church is home. Once we understand that, then we can start serving, first in our family, then secondly in our parish.”

Morales said he felt blessed to help coordinate the Hispanic Family Camp.

“I’ve seen God at work in the speakers, in the faces of the people and seeing the kids having fun. And look at this beautiful place!”

‘A great way to empower’ families

Llacsa hopes to hold more Hispanic Family camps on the beautiful grounds of Camp Rancho Framasa.

“With the help that we have from Franciscan Health, I hope we can provide two camps a year in the future so we can help even more families,” he said.

It’s an effort that would please Father Vincent Gilllmore, parochial vicar of St. Monica Parish. He was on hand at the camp to hear confessions during the adoration hours.

“I’m really glad to see this [camp] being done,” he said. “It’s so important to really let the family become the source of catechesis and the renewal of faith. Sometimes we think too much in terms of individuals, and it’s so important for us as a Church to think in terms of families. Parents are the first and primary teachers of their children, and I think this is a great way to empower them to do that.”

According to surveys from past camps, the event is achieving its goals.

One teen wrote, “I think this was very needed for my family, so I’m thankful that my parents made us come. I had a lot of fun, and this helped me a lot personally.”

One parent commented that they walked away from the experience with “much knowledge for my whole family … because in our culture it is very difficult to understand the adolescents and they, at the same time, do not understand our culture that we want to teach them.”

Another said the opportunity “was wonderful. It gave my family and I solutions to many of our problems. We are able to take home a great lesson. We as a family are going to fix our issues.”

As for Vasquez, she said it was “the right decision to come to the camp. They’ve done such a beautiful job. It’s changing families. It’s such a great and blessed work.”

(For more information on the Hispanic Family Camp, contact Saul Llacsa at slacsa@archindy.org or 317-236-7312.)

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