Camp Sancta Maria (CSM) is a proudly Roman Catholic camp for youth, ages 8-16, located in Gaylord, Mich., on nearly 100 wooded acres with a lake. Founded in 1933, countless generations of boys and girls have discovered God in nature and within themselves, making enduring friendships.
One of the tenets of camp is to provide a technology-free zone. Digital devices are collected upon arrival, giving campers an opportunity to think, pray and fully experience fun in a myriad of wholesome activities. Swimming, horseback riding, ropes course, sports, arts and crafts, adventure games, and a trip to Mackinac Island are some of the activities available to campers, in the midst of an atmosphere of faith.
Campers live their Catholic faith through daily Mass, Reconciliation, the Angelus, grace before and after meals, and night prayer in the Chapel.
“Camp Sancta Maria is needed today more than ever. At camp the kids leave their blue screens at home and discover that there is immense beauty in our world. Spending time in groups, they learn to relate to each other face-to-face and work out disagreements, they discover God has a plan for their lives and they are immersed in nature. They grow as true human beings and they leave refreshed,” said Fr. Bob Spezia, President of the Board of Trustees.
“As soon as you arrive at camp you are filled with wonder and sense the tranquility and holiness of the surroundings. When our children were young, my husband and I attended Father/Son and Mother/Daughter weekends with our kids and they soon spent time at camp each year. My son always commented that his favorite part was being in the chapel, especially for night prayer. He said there was peace there, but I knew it was God -- God in the laughter and God in the silence,” shares Camp Trustee Mary Henige.
Building relationships is at the heart of the camp experience, something that staff and alumni frequently mention. The bond formed while campers, staff and counselors play, pray and work together keeps them coming back.
“When alumni get together it is amazing to hear so many stories of their time at camp. The impact CSM makes on both campers and counselors is incredible; from skills learned, to friendships formed, and faith caught and grown. Our camp, under the Blessed Mother’s patronage, is truly a special place,” reflects John David Kuhar, CSM Executive Director.
Trustee Mark Mastracci served for four years as a counselor at CSM and has spent the last 46 years supporting the camp because of the impact it made on his life. “Camp Sancta Maria offers the opportunity to grow in love of the Lord and love of nature. Camp allows young people to grow in personal responsibility away from their parents, to think for themselves and become part of a team of young Christian people. I cannot think of a better place for young people to grow into well-rounded individuals than Camp Sancta Maria.”
The health and safety of campers is an overriding principle. The infirmary was recently renovated and is staffed by a full-time nurse. Potential counselors go through interviews, reference and background checks in order to be hired for the summer. Additionally, counselors have taken Protecting God’s Children training and receive extensive training before each summer’s camp begins. Counselors are selected for their ability to be good role models who also have rich spiritual lives. The Camp is accredited by the American Camping Association and licensed by the State of Michigan. “Our staff have hearts of service and care deeply for the children. They want the children to be safe, have fun, and grow in faith,” said John David, who, with his wife and daughter, lives at camp each summer.
“Campers come to live in another culture which is decidedly Catholic. Our counselors are outstanding role models, and the undercurrent which ends up moving most campers is to love God and each other more,” Fr. Bob said.
CSM understands that its mission is more relevant now than when the camp was founded. Leadership is planning for the future, not only through improvements to the property to ensure buildings are clean and updated, but also through sustainable financial planning, such as establishing an endowment fund with the Catholic Foundation of MIchigan.
Reflecting on the significance of the camp for the greater good, Fr. Bob said, “CSM forms people to give of themselves, as boys and girls who serve others. This is what our society desperately needs, especially from our kids who will one day take leadership roles. The future belongs to those who win the children over!”
To learn more about Camp Sancta Maria, to register for camp or to work as a counselor visit https://campsanctamaria.org.