Camp Kappe grows to serve parishes, youth, young adults

May 12, 2015

PLANTERSVILLE — A hidden gem lies off the beaten path in Plantersville, Texas. Camp Kappe Youth Retreat Facility, the only youth retreat center operated by the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, is undergoing a much-needed renovation to better accommodate the Archdiocese’s parishes and youth ministry and young adult programs.

Brian Johnson, director of Camp Kappe and director of the Office of Adolescent Catechesis and Evangelization (OACE), said after more than 30 years, the 134-acre retreat facility is about to undergo some very exciting renovations and improvements. 

“With such large acreage, there is still plenty of room to expand without infringing on the beauty and solitude of the camp,” Johnson said. “Our current buildings are in great need of repair due to the weather in this part of Texas. We are looking at ways to aesthetically keep the rustic look of the current and future buildings as well as make sure they last another 30 years.”

A few additions include two wheelchair-accessible cabins, a sports pavilion, recreation room, updating the general assembly building with new audio-video equipment, expanding the dining hall, updating to a modernized kitchen, and adding a swimming pool. The biggest expansion — the number of retreatants Camp Kappe can house. This will increase from 81 retreatants to 121. 

Camp Kappe is unique in that it allows all parish youth and young adult programs throughout the Archdiocese to host self-directed retreats. Also, Camp Kappe operates the School of Environmental Education, a week-long, overnight enrichment program for fifth-grade students in the parochial school system. The school educates students on one of the principles of Catholic Social Teaching — respect and caring for the earth. This year, the school has reached more than 40 Archdiocesan schools and more than 30 schools from the Austin, Beaumont, Brownsville and San Antonio dioceses. The renovations will add a dedicated science classroom for the school. 

The Camp Kappe team also plans to add a summer camp for seventh- and eighth-grade youth and add new programs such as OACE-sponsored retreat programs run by Archdiocesan-staffed teams for confirmation and other spiritual retreats.

“All of these renovations and additions will tremendously upgrade our 30-year-old facility and provide for continued growth in offering a special place for the youth of this Archdiocese,” Johnson said. “The site is secluded and offers many opportunities for various places to experience God through prayer, reflection and activity. Spiritually, the youth love to experience praying the Stations of the Cross located along various trails within the wooded part of the property along with other great spaces to reflect and pray.” 

Retreatants often enjoy opportunities to canoe and fish at Camp Kappe while visiting The Global Village and the Barn. These favorites of campers are not going anywhere and the retreat facility staff maintains that peace and tranquility will be preserved. Johnson is especially appreciative of the consultation and leadership of Father Ben Smaistrla, who served as the first director of Camp Kappe and played a major role in setting the direction for the renovations and additions; Sister Thomas Ann LaCour, the former director of the school for more than 30 years; Shayne Rodrigues, the new director of the school; Steve Faught, director of the Archdiocesan Construction Office; Richard Ghanem, structural engineer; Liz Brannan, architect; and Randy Adams, facility manager. 

“The mission of this site was and remains to serve the youth of the Archdiocese,” Johnson said. “It is also one of the most affordable retreat sites in the state. It is because of the supporters of the Diocesan Services Fund that we are able to keep this mission moving forward. My hope for the future is that more young people will experience this jewel.” 

Camp Kappe will be closed for renovations between June and October to complete the work needed for the first phase. When the first groups arrive in November, they will experience the renovated general assembly and dining halls, two new cabins and the sports pavilion. The renovated general assembly and dining hall will be named in memory of Dennis P. Duffy, a member of the Archdiocesan Youth Council from 2012-14. 

Johnson and his team continue to seek funds, grants and prayer to help this $2 million expansion. Contact him at for any questions or to make a contribution. 

To reserve the site for the 2015-16 season, contact Tommy Cordova, business manager, at or 936-894-2141. For more information on Camp Kappe, visit