The summer before coming to Bellingham I was assigned as the Priest chaplain for the CYO camps down in the Seattle area. I have stayed involved to some extent by saying Mass and hearing confessions at least a few times each summer that I have been up here. This year the camps are trying something new during their high-school sessions and have asked me to participate. Typically at camp the youth sleep in cabins that, while rustic, provide a fairly good shelter and have indoor bathrooms. Each week during sessions for high-schooler’s the teens spend a period of time out in the wilderness surrounding Camp Hamilton, near Carnation,WA, where they have to create their own shelters and cook food over the open fire. This “overnight” experience is the highlight for many of the campers.
This year the camp directors wanted to add a priestly element to this experience and asked if I might help. What is asked of me is time on Wednesday and Thursday three times this summer so that a priest can be present during the overnights; having done this before I can attest to the great effect this little bit of time has on the youth. Seeing a Priest in such a different context really opens kids’ eyes to the reality of the call from God and makes a vocation something possible in their own lives. This week will be the first of the series of high-school sessions. This will affect our Mass and confession times but will not eliminate them. The Wednesday schedule will remain consistent with 8:00 a.m. Mass and adoration and confessions to follow, because I won’t be needed until later in the afternoon. Thursdays of camp weeks we will have a Tuesday schedule of 5:00 p.m. confessions and adoration with 6:00 p.m. Mass. This schedule may shift a little once we see how things fall into place at the camps. Thank you for your flexibility; it will have a huge impact for the youth.
In other news, make sure to join us for our Prayer for the Middle East prayer service next Friday from 5:30—6:00 p.m.. Each of the churches in the Bellingham area take a turn leading the prayer vigil on the 18th of each month. All sorts of religious groups are invited, though I don’t know what sort of turn out we will get. It seems providential that we will be hosting around the same time as we call attention to our parish well project in Bethlehem, so I wanted to give an extra shout out to all of you so you can attend if you want. Plus, we don’t want a poor showing at an event we are planning, it’s kind of like not showing up to your own birthday party. The evening will be fairly short, 5:30—6:00 p.m., and will include prayers taken directly from Pope Francis’ prayer meeting with the leaders of the Holy Land nations, and music if any of you more musically inclined are planning on being there. It’s just a great way to show our connectedness with our brothers and sisters around the globe. I hope to see some of you there.
Fr. Joseph Altenhofen