Taconic Retreat & Conference Center Milan, NY
On Monday, July 2nd, fifty-six sleepy and excited teenagers from Manhattan, Ecuador, and our four New York parishes (St. Luke’s in Long Island, Our Lady of Loretto in Long Island, Santa Maria in the Bronx, and Our Lady of Solace-St. Dominic’s in the Bronx) boarded the bus for a three-hour ride. Their final destination was Taconic Retreat and Conference Center in upstate NY, where they began their 6-day teen camp. After unpacking, the campers took part in the first liturgical act of the camp–the raising of the flags at the mast. The camp director and national president of Idente Youth in the US, our sister Yerania Gálvez, welcomed the campers to their first day of the Idente Youth Camp, encouraging them to live the highest ideals that week by making new friendships, serving others, opening their hearts to the Heavenly Father that loves them, and ultimately create heaven on earth at the camp. She explained the three flags and the importance of the sacred circle because of the majestic blue flag, representative of our Heavenly Father. While singing the Idente Youth Hymn, the flags were raised for the first time by two of our junior professors, Marilyn Joanna Martinez and Uriel Velasco, young adults in the Idente Family. With this first solemn act of the camp completed, the professors dispersed the teens into different groups for workshops, team-building games, and seminars for the rest of the camp.
The theme of the entire camp was ‘Bent, but not broken,’ inspired from 2Co. 4:8-9. It was an opportune theme for the teens of this camp due to the many issues they face at home, in their neighborhoods and in society at large. The seminars and workshops were centered around this theme with the objective of helping the teens see hope in the midst of their difficulties and view their Heavenly Father as one who unconditionally loves and never abandons. The first seminar focused on the many issues teens face that make them feel ‘bent.’ It was given by one of the Idente Youth professors, Kristallynn Leonard, a junior professor, Uriel Velasco, and our sister Yerania Gálvez.
The second seminar, given by junior professors Marilyn Martinez and Mariana Martinez and our brother, Pjeter Nilaj, consisted of discussing what it means to feel broken, what occurs in those situations, and what it really means for us as children of a Heavenly Father. The final seminar was given by Joseph Mendoza, a junior professor, our sister Patricia Paz Camacho, and our brother Roland Pereira. This last seminar focused on how our relationship with the Divine Persons is the solution to feeling bent or feeling broken, and that Our Heavenly Father loves us unconditionally, despite all we may have done. The three camp seminars were headed by our sister Yerania, our brother Pjeter, and Marilyn, a junior professor. All of the seminars included skits, discussions, and very powerful testimonies from our junior professors. These, combined with the workshops, were the groundwork for conversions, renewed hope, and renewed relationships with the Divine Persons.
Workshops were headed by our sister Patricia, our brother Roland, and Uriel, one of the junior professors. These were run simultaneously with the seminars. In them, campers were asked to analyze the Rembrandt painting of the Prodigal Son by focusing on the merciful father; to paint with watercolors during a music therapy session; use play-doh to express positive and negative experiences; and create collages of societal pressures vs. a collage free of those pressures. These were just a few of the numerous workshops. All them were unique and were especially geared towards the two age groups–middle-schoolers and high-schoolers.
Guided by our sister Patricia and our brothers Roland and Jonathan, the teamwork games helped to create a sense of unity in the camp. They required the cooperation of all campers and professors. The campers’ spirits were raised even more in these team games. They learned to rely on each other, trust each other, and work together in order to win, especially at the relay races. All the games were unique and were diligently prepared by our sister and brothers.
The fire hymns helped the campers share the best of themselves. Some of the campers sang and wrote poetry for the first time at our camp. They expressed a freedom in knowing that they weren’t performing, but sharing what they had. Our brother, Pjeter Nilaj and junior professor Mariana Martinez helped to coordinate, organize, and lead the teens in their preparation for the campfire. With the help of all the professors, campers chose what to share and worked diligently to sing, dance, act, write poetry or present the camp’s news. All campers received an opportunity to share their best with others.
The campers gave each other bittersweet good-byes on the last day, with the hope of seeing each other again. The majority of the teens are active Idente Youth members, attending the meetings in our various parish locations. Though some already knew they would see each other at the weekly Idente Youth meetings, others promised to start attending the meetings so they might continue the new friendships made. All have expressed gratitude for the beautiful opportunity to experience an Idente Youth camp.