While some university students enjoyed sand and surf during Spring Break, others took part in an “alternative Spring Break” with University Ministry and headed to Life Teen’s Camp Hidden Lake in Dahlonega, GA. Life Teen is a Catholic youth ministry organization in the United States.
The week of service took place March 14-17 and featured holy hour in the morning, followed by service projects, community meals, and formation sessions in the evening with Camp Hidden Lake’s full-time missionaries. And there were opportunities to celebrate Mass and attend small group discussions. Plus, there was time for fun!
“University Ministry has had a relationship with Life Teen Camp Hidden Lake for the past five years,” said Lucas Nocera, interim director of University Ministry and adjunct religion faculty member.”
Many of our students spend their summers serving this camp as missionaries to the thousands of high schoolers who attend every summer. Some of our students have even gone on to work for the camp as missionaries for multiple years.”
Saint Leo students worked at the camp on several projects.
“On the trip, I helped both indoors and outdoors, said Alejandra Galaviz, a medical humanities major and a member of the Class of 2024. “For the first day, I stayed inside and helped prep decorations for the men’s retreat. I also helped tear beds apart in the old dorms so they could be thrown out. This was part of the remodeling process.”
Galaviz and her fellow students stayed busy working at the camp during their break by cleaning and “decluttering” the gym, removing items, clearing the pool house, disassembling bunk beds and storing them, and much more.
For Galaviz, it was time to rekindle her faith life. “I was hoping to not only give my service and time, but also receive the religious aspect,” she said. “I was looking forward to seeing the combination of faith and service. I really enjoyed the activities that we had, such as adoration and Mass. I really enjoyed the structure of the trip because it had leisure, work, and faith in equal amounts.”
Nocera said the alternative Spring Break trip is a “reset” for Saint Leo students. “There is a lot of time to pray, a lot of time to work, and a lot of time for building community,” he said. The students played games, hung out together and watched March Madness on TV, developing a sense of unity and friendship.
“What I took away from this trip was our students’ desire to invest themselves in the right things,” Nocera added.
And one of the things they focused on was faith formation – a chance for students to grow and be intentional in their Catholic faith. The Saint Leo students heard from the Life Teen missionaries during their Spring Break.
“The full-time missionaries who live at these camps are well-formed in their faith lives, and live in community together at the camp,” Nocera said. “It is typically a year or two of time that they give working at these camps. The talks that they give to our students are about fully living out a life of faith, and truly giving of yourself to God, and your neighbor. These talks help form our students on serving, gratitude, generosity, and selflessness.”
Faith formation is not a one-and-done process, but rather a lifelong endeavor, Nocera noted.
“Our culture feeds us a lot of instant gratification, but what we want is to help form our students in wanting what is truly going to feed them: virtue, love, self-sacrifice, community, and ultimately God himself. Not to mention, dodgeball was an everyday occasion at camp!”
Galaviz said the trip made her realize that service and faith are complementary. “It gives the disposition to help others, even when it is sacrificial,” she said. “I made a stronger community with my fellow classmates and even made new friends. It was also very inspiring to see the full-time missionaries and learn about their experiences. I found it very rewarding and encouraging that there are still young people with a zeal for mission and evangelization.”
For more information about University Ministry at Saint Leo University, email email@example.com.