From the 4th to 11th August 2019, a group of teens from Dunkeld Diocese attended the Life Teen Summer Camp in Helvoirt, the Netherlands for the third year in a row. Led by Charis McCrosson from the Dunkeld Youth Service, the five teens joined many others from across Europe at the Emmaus Retreat Centre for an intense week of activities with long and action-packed days. Activities ranged from quiet reflection, Mass and adoration to wild team games and a messy day which saw participants caked in mud.
Sessions throughout the week looked at answering the following questions:
“Íf the Relentless Father is so… GOOD, why is there so much EVIL? …PERFECT, why am I so MESSED UP? …LOVING, why do I SUFFER? …PRESENT, why is He SILENT? …POWERFUL, why does He seem WEAK?”
These sessions were followed by time in small groups which gave the teens an opportunity to discuss their thoughts and feelings about the topic and to explore some of their personal experiences in a smaller and more intimate setting.
On the Tuesday evening the camp held a confession session, which explored the theme of being “Perfectly Broken” and allowed teens to be still and reflect, and to have time with a priest in confession or just to go for a chat about their circumstances. This was a really beautiful moment which really touched a lot of the teens. There were also prayer ministry teams available for teens to go to. On the Thursday evening an all-night adoration was held in the chapel with teens each allocated to a one-hour slot through the night. This was followed by a rosary walk the following day, and a service project to give back to the community by helping with some chores around the Retreat Centre.
As well as the many in-depth faith elements, there were also lots of fun activities, such as a team building obstacle course, an off-site activity day at the beach, an afternoon of messy games and a talent show and dance party on the final evening.
The following are some testimonies of the Dunkeld teens who attended the camp, as well as a comment from one parent who was able to attend the Family Mass at the very end of the camp:
“Life Teen is an extraordinary experience. I made many new friendships and strengthened those I made previously. I’ve found there is a noticeable difference between the people I met at Life Teen, and the friends I already have. There’s a stronger bond and an unspoken understanding of faith and community. Every day we have sessions where we talk about God, and there are questions that dig deeper into big issues. I really felt that these questions helped me to grow in and understand my faith in a way that makes sense to me. The songs played at camp also had a big impact for me. They really touched my heart and made me think and tune in to what is going on in my life. I enjoyed having time in small groups, because it lets you share your thoughts and feelings with a small number of people. I felt that my small group was really supportive, and everyone listened or helped with advice. It’s also another chance to reflect and pray.
Confession and adoration opened my eyes. The beauty in our faith that so many of us are able to come together to unite is mind-blowing. I could feel the holy spirit’s presence and it was very calming. We had Mass every day, and I will miss the joyful celebration and liveliness, the songs and the dancing priest! I saw everyone united in prayer and love for our faith. I now understand what being “present” actually feels like because I always felt present in Mass.
Life Teen also knows how to bring the fun. One day we had an activity day out at the beach where we did team building activities, another day we had messy games and got caked in mud! It was really fun, everyone got really involved and it was good to have some friendly competition. Life Teen was and still is very emotional but there is so much to get out of it, and I’ve made amazing friends that can never be replaced. My faith, trust and heart have grown. I have peace, love and comfort with who I am and those around me. I am transformed.” – Alisha McCrosson, 15.
“This was my second year as a leader at the camp, and I really enjoyed seeing how much the teens opened up and responded to the different elements through the week. It was truly inspiring to watch them all grow as the week progressed, and I feel I also benefitted immensely from the experience. The questions which were asked at the sessions were very ‘big’ questions and seemed very hard to unpack. As a small group leader in charge of a group of 9 girls aged 15 and 16, initially I was a little apprehensive about leading discussions on these topics. However, I was really impressed with their depth of knowledge and understanding and felt that they taught me as much as I was able to teach them. By the end of the week we had all really bonded and I feel really proud of each and every one of them. The experience of camp was incredible, and I look forward to bringing it back home and seeing how it can be used to benefit the young people in our diocese.” – Charis McCrosson, Group Leader