By Michael Paul
The day that I wrote this was my one-year anniversary as director of the Kenosee Boys and Girls Camp, as well as the Mother Teresa Centre and the Kome N See retreat centres (all of which I refer to as “the Camp”). Over the year, the joys of running a kid’s camp and a retreat centre have been more than I could have imagined. The personal growth, friendships, and support have been overwhelming, and now, on my first anniversary, I would like to share with you what I have learned about what makes the Camp so special.
A brief history of the Camp: we are a Knights of Columbus sponsored, Archdiocese of Regina summer camp and retreat centre located in Moose Mountain Provincial Park. Tucked away at the far end of Kenosee Lake, surrounded by forest, the Camp has been a place for people to make life-long memories since 1967. It started with minimal facilities, and through donated time, money, and supplies the Camp has been built into a magnificent summer camp and year-round retreat centre.
For years the Camp has been called, and will continue to be called, Fr. Banga’s Camp. Fr. Banga was the Camp Director from the early 1970’s until his passing in 2012. The Kome N See and Mother Teresa retreat centres were his dreams come to life. His passion and vision for the Camp truly made it the special place it is today. The important connection between God, nature, and silence (…more so for the retreaters than the rambunctious campers) is ever present at the Camp. Countless campers have experienced mass in our outdoor chapel, and homilies that emphasize the wonder and awe of God in nature. Fr. Banga would not let a moment of awe pass without noting how amazing God is. The close connection between God and nature became engrained in campers and counsellors. Maybe a few of you are reading this right now remembering Fr. Banga reflecting on how God cares so deeply for all creation that he even created the tiniest most insignificant ant, smaller than the tip of your pinky, with an inspiringly complex brain – how utterly amazing!
My years at Camp helped form who I am today. My love of nature started at camp, and has resulted in a passion to protect and praise the world we live in. Returning as camp director has allowed me to reflect more deeply on what makes this Camp such a special place for both campers and retreaters. In my research I came across some of Father Banga’s writings – which couldn’t more accurately describe the importance of the Camp.
Fr. Banga explained that silence is essential in connecting with God. Yet, people do not seek silence in their daily lives. In fact, life for most people is an attempt to avoid ever being alone with silence. For example, let’s examine an average day. Maybe it starts off with the sound of an alarm clock. Soon, either TV, music, YouTube, or Netflix will be accompanying your morning routine. The drive to work has the radio on. At work there is a constant blur of noise, music, and conversation. Once home for the evening music or TV is back on for the evening. Only when we drop into bed, too tired even to dream, do we encounter silence. And this silence is found to be so uncomfortable that people think something is wrong, so they reach for the ever-present sleeping pill or tranquilizer to remove the chance of a prolonged encounter with silence. But silence is so important. As Mother Teresa said, “[God] cannot be found in the noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature – trees, flowers, grass – grow in silence; see the stars, the moon and sun, how they move in silence. The more we receive in silent prayer, the more we can give in our active life. We need silence to be able to touch souls.”
Freedom from the hustle and bustle of modern life allows us to seek and find richer relationships with God, ourselves, and others. People are seeking direction and meaning in their lives; however, people get lost in the busy, maddening crowd which makes it difficult to find silence and stillness in our lives. This kind of silence cannot be hurried or forced; instead, it must be allowed to just happen. As Fr. Banga wrote, “In the wilderness, in the desert, one has no one – nothing to depend on – only God. In the desert wilderness we discover our true self and reject our false self. When we find our true self, we find God, and when we find God, we find our true self. A wilderness retreat is truly part of a rebirth for any Christian.”
I have realized that the Camp is Fr. Banga’s enduring gift that provides a wilderness retreat to help facilitate silence and peace in our lives. To give us the opportunity to spend time with God in nature. The Camp is the place where people can feel comfortable reconnecting with God, themselves, and others, while experiencing the presence of God in the solitude and quiet of creation.
It is hard to describe the feeling that pulls a person back to this place. There is a sense of peace, safety, and joy that falls upon you when you enter the Camp. Ask anyone who has spent time at the Camp, and I am sure you will hear a similar story. The Camp is a place where children, school groups, individuals, couples, families, and other groups come to escape the pressures of their daily lives in order to pray, reflect, relax, and be with God. The Kome N See and Mother Teresa Centre are one of a kind wilderness retreat centres located right here in our diocese, and I encourage you to come and experience the peace and serenity we all need at “the Camp”.
Page URL: http://archregina.sk.ca/news/2019/10/04/connecting-god-disconnecting-wilderness-retreat-all