“When Jesus touches a young person’s heart, he or she becomes capable of truly great things.” — Pope Francis
“If you are what you should be, you will set the whole world on fire!” — St. Catherine of Siena
“No, that’s OK. I’m really not that good,” I replied to Emily, one of the staff members at Camp Magis at the archery station, as the eyes of a small group of seventh-graders turned to me. “I don’t need a turn.”
It was the last day of camp. Just the day prior, I sat with this same counselor after an activity as she asked the students to reflect for five minutes on how they could be more of a servant-leader to others. Afterwards, Emily asked each student to identify one specific action they could offer in service. Once each student had shared, she asked another teacher and me to also share our thoughts. Typically, teachers are not asked such questions, as the focus of camp is on the students, so I was caught a bit off-guard. Nonetheless, I gave an honest reply.
“I can model more for my students. If I hold my students to a certain standard, then my actions need to reflect that same standard.”
At the time, I was thinking more about reading and writing, since that is what I teach, as well as my request for students to treat one another with respect and dignity. I wasn’t thinking about specific student-oriented camp activities.
In fact, this school year, my back pain was (pun-intended) back with a vengeance. The effects of the ablation and epidural shots during the 2016-2017 school year for my three bulging discs had worn off months ago, but I had not yet returned to the doctor because I am still paying those bills. Therefore, my pain level during camp often kept me from fully participating in several of the physical activities. My heart broke because my former, younger body longed to fully participate right alongside my students. Still, I long ago learned to respect my physical limitations, while participating to the degree possible.
Thus, when Emily challenged me to shoot a bow at the archery range on that last morning, I had politely declined. Then, I recalled my reply for how I could be more of a servant-leader for my students. Why couldn’t I shoot a bow? Sure, I would have to stand still which often triggers my back pain, but I wasn’t lifting anything heavy, and shooting the bow would certainly not inflict more harm.
Then, one of my students, Hope, said, “Come on, Ms. Hill. You can do it. Show ’em girls are better than boys!” as one of the other chaperones in the group was male.
Looking into her imploring eyes, I replied, “Sure. Why not?′
Emily smiled with delight. “Good! We’ll have a contest to see which chaperone is the best shot!”
“Oh, brother, ” I inwardly moaned as she lined up the three chaperones.
John, my husband, and me, along with parent volunteers, were chaperones for St. Joseph Catholic School seventh-graders attending 2018 Camp Magis. This annual fall retreat is held at the Bishop Hodges Catholic Pastoral Center located on a 1,400-acre property situated in the mountains just outside of Huttonsville, West Virginia. It is a beautiful outdoor setting with an ongoing operating farm, chapel, and expansive campus designed to be used for various purposes. One of those purposes occurs the fall of each school year: Camp Magis. Operated by the Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministry of the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston, this six-week period invites seventh-graders from the various Catholic schools in the state to spend a few days in attendance.
The main purpose of the camp is, ” ... to help young people fall in love with Jesus Christ and His church.” However, it has several other goals. By stepping out of the classroom setting and away from screens (students do not use phones/computers during their three-day stay), students spend time with one another engaged in meaningful activities designed to help them recognize that they have more in common with one another than they do differences.
Students are also asked to step outside their comfort zone, and perhaps even, overcome a fear or two, by participating in new experiences/challenges. It is further hoped that students will then
return home and seek their own unique way to serve Christ and others. However, John and I have found that it is not just the kids who are reached by these goals.
Magis means more. Therefore, throughout the week, campers are asked to, “do more” in each activity and/or setting: pray more, fellowship with friends more, and offer more service to others.
Each activity begins and ends with student-led prayer. Some form of worship service is held at the chapel each day. Bonding time with friends increases just by the mere face-to-face interactions as well as team work that if often required by the on-going scheduled activities.
Additionally, opportunities for service are programmed into each day.
Meanwhile, back at the archery range on the last day of camp...
“Oh well, no one has high expectations for me,” I thought to myself. “Still, I might as well try my best since that is what I would ask of my students.” Therefore, I listened carefully to Emily’s instructions as to how to aim and shoot the six arrows into the target ahead.
After the round, Emily carefully counted the points on each chaperone’s target. Who knew there were points in archery? I thought it was about how many arrows we could each get into the target. Oh boy.
Before the close of the archery activity, Emily provided us with a mini-science/object lesson.
The drawn string with an arrow attached is filled with potential energy similar to what is present in each person. Once the arrow is shot, the bow serves its purpose as the arrow is driven forward to its target by kinetic energy. In fact, if a bow is shot without an arrow, the undirected energy can break the bow. And, so it is with us.
Adults and kids alike need a purpose for our energy.
We can choose to mindlessly go through life, throwing our energies into various endeavors; but without any real direction, we risk being broken, or at the very least, living a purposeless life.
The Creator formed each of us with a purpose in mind. Finding our purpose is possible when we allow Divine Providence to lead us.
However, that requires time spent with a quiet mind in prayer, meditation, or reflection. It requires, not only time spent seeking and asking, but also time spent listening with an open heart/mind. It may take years to find individual purpose, but, just as Emily shared with the kids, once found, the Ultimate bow guides our aim toward our desired target. And when this happens, well, look out world!
Thus, it is a worthwhile endeavor, just as we did in camp, to take time daily to ask/reflect/meditate/pray to discover what our potential energy is calling us to do more of. Therefore, I ask you, Dear Reader, as well as myself: What is our purpose? How will we use our energy?
Oh, and by the way, in case you were wondering, I happened to win the archeryshooting contest. Luck? Most likely, but it would not have happened without my willingness to humble myself in service to do more for the sake of a student. Magis.
Stephanie Hill is a freelance writer and a teacher at St. Joseph Catholic School in Huntington. She is also a lifelong resident of Lawrence County. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or you can check out her website, stephsimply.com.