Looking back at 40 years of Salesian youth summer camps

Catch up on the news from around our Province

Looking back at 40 years of Salesian youth summer camps

Posted: Fri, 07 Aug 2020 10:11

  • Looking back at 40 years of Salesian youth summer camps
  • All dressed up at a summer camp

  • Confronto 2017

  • Lebanon youth project 2019

With Salesian summer projects and camps cancelled due to COVID-19, Sue McDonald, GBR Youth Ministry Animator, realised this is the first time she has not had a 'Salesian summer' for the last 40 years! Sue looks back fondly at the variety of summer camps run by Salesians that she has been part of, as a participant and as a volunteer or leader, over four decades, and shares her hopes for a new way to walk with the young in a post-pandemic world. The black and white photo is from a 'Youthcall' camp in the 1980s. Sue is 2nd from the right on the back row.

My first experience of summer projects with the Salesians was at 13 years old, when I signed up for 'Youthcall' at Brettargh Holt, an FMA retreat house in the Lake District. It was a summer camp for girls aged 13-17. On that camp, we had Mass every day, reconciliation, games, songs, walks. We went out on a coach trip to Grasmere to walk up the hills and we sang hymns on the green there, oblivious to the public! Here, I began to meet and make friends with people from all over the country – without Facebook, Twitter or even mobile phones! I went on these camps throughout my time in secondary school. It was here that I met my first SDB – Fr Hugh Preston – our chaplain for the week. I am still in touch with people who were there with me at that time.

Aged 16, I was old enough to be a helper, so I began volunteering on Laura Holidays (named after Bl. Laura Vicuna). These weeks were for young people from SVP who were carers or similar and needed a holiday from their roles in the families. Again, it was only girls but a little younger, I think aged 7-14. These camps were in Hastings where the FMA had a house with an outdoor swimming pool and a fig tree! I remember looking after a group in the town and standing outside the shop while they went in, only to find after several minutes, that they had used another door to escape off into the town alone for a sneaky cigarette! I helped at these camps for a few years and just loved going off to Hastings. We had many concerts where we all learnt little sketches to perform in the evenings. Sr Ella was never lost for action songs or funny sketches.

While I was 17-19, I also attended Youthcall+ a couple of times back in the Lakes, where, along with the fun, there was time to reflect on scripture and think about where we might be being called in our own vocations.

At 19, I was introduced to Salesian Holiday Scheme (SHS) in Savio House. These holidays were for young people from deprived areas, usually attached to a parish. There were only about 12 young people on the camps and a team of SDBs and volunteers – here I met Br Bob and Fr David for the first time! The camps were very active and we were outdoors most of the time. Fr David wanted us to create a family unit, and there was a 'Goodnight' each evening, usually by one of the Salesians. We did cycling, canoeing, swimming, 'wide games' in the woods (would not pass Risk Assessments now!), and archery at Savio—because we had the equipment rather than the skill. The volunteers arrived beforehand and left after the young people – we learnt about planning during the year, celebrating and more about the Salesian ethos. I volunteered on the scheme until it folded in the late '90s. At the same time, I also volunteered on a few summer camps for the FMA in Croxteth, Streatham and Battersea, for local young children 7-11yrs old.

After SHS closed, I volunteered on VIDES with the FMA. These camps worked with young people and families in their local area, and the team for VIDES slept on school or church floors in the area for 10 days. We had formation sessions, put on a concert for families at the end of the camp, which we practised for every day with the young people. Many different stations of activities were set up and the young people could go to any— art, sport, music, dance – in fact, whatever skills the volunteers had that particular year! This experience took me to Millom, Bootle and Paisley.

I then joined Salesians Out Serving (SOS) for a few years. This was completely different to anything I had done so far. The SOS team lived together in community; each morning, there would be prayer, followed by a day of service to the local community. We would paint people's living rooms, do their gardens, clean churches. We worked in Brettargh Holt, helping the FMA close their retreat centre. In the evenings we would experience different types of prayer: meditation, labyrinth, reconciliation, adoration etc. It was very much an experience of the Gospel and was based on the American version 'Gospel Roads'. I attended this until 2013.

Over the last 7 summers, I have been to Confronto in Turin, and to Lebanon with GBR Youth Ministry groups, and to Campobosco with a Spanish group. I've been to Kracow and Panama with Salesian groups for World Youth Day! I have trained young adults to work on RISE for youth leadership, Valdocco@home for asylum seekers, In the Heart of Battersea parish camps; and taken part in a lot of Phoenix Camps – for Year 7s. This summer is so strange for me without that community of Salesian family.

At present, there are no dates in my diary for projects coming up, but I am in the exciting position of taking all that I have experienced with so many others and looking at how GBR youth ministry might look with the continuing presence of Covid 19. I would like for us to be relevant to the present day and walk with the young people in this new reality. I also hope that, whether online or in person, the young people today have something in the Salesian family that they can tap into for their own fun and friendship. I hope that we pick up the baton and run alongside the young people—sharing, games, training and faith in our Salesian spirit.

2020 – no summer projects for me, but a good time to stop and give thanks for all that has been and say yes to all that will be.

If you would like to get involved or want the Salesians to work with you on your own ideas. then please contact me at sue@salesianyouthministry.org.uk (I am furloughed until 21st Aug)

Sue McDonald

GBR Youth Ministry AnimatorForty years of Salesian summers

With Salesian summer projects and camps cancelled due to COVID-19, Sue McDonald, GBR Youth Ministry Animator, realised this is the first time she has not had a 'Salesian summer' for the last 40 years! Sue looks back fondly at the variety of summer camps run by Salesians that she has been part of, as a participant and as a volunteer or leader, over four decades, and shares her hopes for a new way to walk with the young in a post-pandemic world.

My first experience of summer projects with the Salesians was at 13 years old, when I signed up for 'Youthcall' at Brettargh Holt, an FMA retreat house in the Lake District. It was a summer camp for girls aged 13-17. On that camp, we had Mass every day, reconciliation, games, songs, walks. We went out on a coach trip to Grasmere to walk up the hills and we sang hymns on the green there, oblivious to the public! Here, I began to meet and make friends with people from all over the country – without Facebook, Twitter or even mobile phones! I went on these camps throughout my time in secondary school. It was here that I met my first SDB – Fr Hugh Preston – our chaplain for the week. I am still in touch with people who were there with me at that time.

Aged 16, I was old enough to be a helper, so I began volunteering on Laura Holidays (named after Bl. Laura Vicuna). These weeks were for young people from SVP who were carers or similar and needed a holiday from their roles in the families. Again, it was only girls but a little younger, I think aged 7-14. These camps were in Hastings where the FMA had a house with an outdoor swimming pool and a fig tree! I remember looking after a group in the town and standing outside the shop while they went in, only to find after several minutes, that they had used another door to escape off into the town alone for a sneaky cigarette! I helped at these camps for a few years and just loved going off to Hastings. We had many concerts where we all learnt little sketches to perform in the evenings. Sr Ella was never lost for action songs or funny sketches.

While I was 17-19, I also attended Youthcall+ a couple of times back in the Lakes, where, along with the fun, there was time to reflect on scripture and think about where we might be being called in our own vocations.

At 19, I was introduced to Salesian Holiday Scheme (SHS) in Savio House. These holidays were for young people from deprived areas, usually attached to a parish. There were only about 12 young people on the camps and a team of SDBs and volunteers – here I met Br Bob and Fr David for the first time! The camps were very active and we were outdoors most of the time. Fr David wanted us to create a family unit, and there was a 'Goodnight' each evening, usually by one of the Salesians. We did cycling, canoeing, swimming, 'wide games' in the woods (would not pass Risk Assessments now!), and archery at Savio—because we had the equipment rather than the skill. The volunteers arrived beforehand and left after the young people – we learnt about planning during the year, celebrating and more about the Salesian ethos. I volunteered on the scheme until it folded in the late '90s. At the same time, I also volunteered on a few summer camps for the FMA in Croxteth, Streatham and Battersea, for local young children 7-11yrs old.

After SHS closed, I volunteered on VIDES with the FMA. These camps worked with young people and families in their local area, and the team for VIDES slept on school or church floors in the area for 10 days. We had formation sessions, put on a concert for families at the end of the camp, which we practised for every day with the young people. Many different stations of activities were set up and the young people could go to any— art, sport, music, dance – in fact, whatever skills the volunteers had that particular year! This experience took me to Millom, Bootle and Paisley.

I then joined Salesians Out Serving (SOS) for a few years. This was completely different to anything I had done so far. The SOS team lived together in community; each morning, there would be prayer, followed by a day of service to the local community. We would paint people's living rooms, do their gardens, clean churches. We worked in Brettargh Holt, helping the FMA close their retreat centre. In the evenings we would experience different types of prayer: meditation, labyrinth, reconciliation, adoration etc. It was very much an experience of the Gospel and was based on the American version 'Gospel Roads'. I attended this until 2013.

Over the last 7 summers, I have been to Confronto in Turin, and to Lebanon with GBR Youth Ministry groups, and to Campobosco with a Spanish group. I've been to Kracow and Panama with Salesian groups for World Youth Day! I have trained young adults to work on RISE for youth leadership, Valdocco@home for asylum seekers, In the Heart of Battersea parish camps; and taken part in a lot of Phoenix Camps – for Year 7s. This summer is so strange for me without that community of Salesian family.

At present, there are no dates in my diary for projects coming up, but I am in the exciting position of taking all that I have experienced with so many others and looking at how GBR youth ministry might look with the continuing presence of Covid 19. I would like for us to be relevant to the present day and walk with the young people in this new reality. I also hope that, whether online or in person, the young people today have something in the Salesian family that they can tap into for their own fun and friendship. I hope that we pick up the baton and run alongside the young people—sharing, games, training and faith in our Salesian spirit.

2020 – no summer projects for me, but a good time to stop and give thanks for all that has been and say yes to all that will be.

If you would like to get involved or want the Salesians to work with you on your own ideas. then please contact me at sue@salesianyouthministry.org.uk (I am furloughed until 21st Aug)

Sue McDonald

GBR Youth Ministry Animator

Tags: Homepage, Salesian Sisters, Salesian Youth Ministry, Salesians of Don Bosco