My name is Daniel Whalen, and I am entering my Philosophy 2 year at Sacred Heart Major Seminary. Over the last two weeks of May, eight of my fellow seminarians and I went up to Camp Sancta Maria in Gaylord, Michigan to help the camp get ready for the boys and girls who will be coming to camp over the summer.
Now, this year was very special because Camp was closed in 2020 due to Covid-19, and I wanted even more to help get the camp ready for the campers who missed out on a whole year of “wholesome recreation in a religious atmosphere.” There is no better way to do this than by volunteering at work camp.
But, why do we call it “work camp”? The reason for this name, of course, is that from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. everyday, seminarians, camp staff, and volunteer men and women from church groups are putting in hard work to clean the camp up from the winter months!
Each day, we begin with Mass and then breakfast. Then we would get started on the day's project; this year’s involved cutting down trees. Over the past few years, Lake Twenty-Seven has been growing bigger and bigger, so much so that Camp Sancta Maria no longer has a beach. Our task was to create one.
With the united efforts of Fr. Spezia, more seminarians, and many of the other 40 volunteers, we were able to take down 30 trees and three buildings that were overcome by the lake. By the end of our time in Gaylord, Camp Sancta Maria had a brand new beach for campers to enjoy the beautiful, Pure Michigan waters.
In addition to restoring the beach, we installed new insulation in buildings and painted some of the cabins. We added twenty new toilets and sinks to the bathrooms, built a new deck for one of the buildings, and newly insulated and built siding for the building by Camp’s gate. Camp Sancta Maria was transformed by the countless number of volunteers this year — and will be in the years to come!
When I reflect back on all of this good, hard work, I consider the blessing of growing in fraternity and making new memories with my brother seminarians. We all woke up at the same time, prayed together, ate together, went to the Sleeping Bear Sand Dunes together, and, most importantly, worked together on the same projects. Our teamwork helped Camp reopen this summer with a new beach, cleaner facilities, and new stories to tell.
For me, this experience is made especially humbling and rewarding with the knowledge that Camp Sancta Maria was founded by a group of seminarians from Sacred Heart Seminary in 1933. Knowing this gives me great courage and honor to be blessed to continue this lineage of seminarians helping out at Camp Sancta Maria.