Camp Kappe reveals the love of Christ through God’s creation and STREAM

October 22, 2019

Students learn about horticulture and gardening at Camp Kappe in February 2019. More than 4,200 visited Camp Kappe in 2018, a cross section of 40 parishes and 52 parochial schools from the Archdiocese. (Photo by Jim Viola)

HOUSTON — Young members of the Church in the Houston area are finding opportunities to experience the love of Christ in a unique outdoor setting — one that fosters a strong Catholic identity, growth in discipleship, and good stewardship of God’s creation.

Since 1981, Camp Kappe Youth Retreat Facility has offered youth and young adults in parishes and parochial schools in the Archdiocese opportunities to attend youth retreats, summer camps and spiritual-growth programs operated by the Office of Adolescent Catechesis and Evangelization. 

In addition, Camp Kappe offers the School of Environmental Education (S.E.E.), which provides a supplemental education program for fifth-grade students throughout the Archdiocese and neighboring dioceses. It is the only TCCB ED-accredited Catholic environmental school located in Texas.

Camp Kappe, which is located on a 130-acre tract of heavily wooded rolling land approximately one hour north of Houston in Plantersville, is supported by the Diocesan Services Fund (DSF).

“S.E.E. helps bridge the gap between science and faith by providing fifth-grade youth in Catholic schools a greater understanding of their role in the stewardship of God’s creation and its ties to their spiritual and academic growth,” said Randy Adams, executive director of Camp Kappe. “We provide these youth with the tools to help instill respect for the nature and dignity of the human person while continuing to evangelize the mission of the Church and its importance in their daily lives.”

S.E.E. provides students an opportunity to study lifecycles, food chains, the environment’s effect on man, man’s effect on the environment and conservation of resources. The students also receive a hands-on STREAM experience, including aquatic studies, entomology, farm animals and gardening, as well as recreational activities that offer an outdoor education.

Adams said Camp Kappe served more than 4,200 participants last year representing 40 parishes and 52 parochial schools in the Archdiocese. He said this is an increase in attendance from previous years, which he believes was made possible through recent renovations to the facilities and the staff members that go out of their way to assist the teachers and youth leaders with their students. They work together to help these young people connect their Catholic faith and environment to the love God has for them in their daily lives, he said.

One of those staff members is the current director of the S.E.E., Michael Richmond, who has been with Camp Kappe for five years.

“My first experience with Camp Kappe was in high school as part of the Archdiocesan Youth Council, and I could not have imagined I would be back at the camp now working as the S.E.E. director,” said Richmond. “Getting to interact with the fifth graders and watching them grow, just within a week’s time, has been one of the most positive experiences. I also have enjoyed building relationships with the teachers and chaperones who come year after year and have seen all the continued improvement in the program and the camp itself.”

Richmond feels it is essential for the faithful in the Archdiocese to support the annual campaign so ministries like Camp Kappe and S.E.E. can continue to offer programs and services geared toward the younger generation in the Archdiocese.

“We rely on the DSF to keep the camp in operation and tuition costs low, which allows all of our fifth-grade students in the Catholic schools system and surrounding Archdiocese to attend,” said Richmond.

Adams agrees that the DSF has been instrumental in the camp’s recent improvements to its programs and services, as well as the facilities itself.

“The generous support of DSF has allowed us to make much-needed improvements, like the completion of an additional larger assembly building, break-out space, and additional beds, making the center more functional and accessible,” said Adams. “This has attracted more parishes and schools to participate. DSF support also helps to keep our rates reasonable; in fact, the most affordable in the state, which allows all parishes and schools the opportunity to use a wonderful retreat facility.”

Adams said since Camp Kappe is dedicated to serving only youth and young adults, this ensures that their needs are always considered when designing facility improvements and program activities.

“With the help of the DSF, S.E.E. continues to offer wonderful activities and programs, and is expanding its STREAM activities for the coming year,” said Adams. He said more improvements are scheduled for completion that will enhance the camping experience for those attending retreats and summer camps.

“We also are very excited about our new St. Jose Sanchez del Rio Chapel, which should be completed by the end of October,” Adams said. “This will provide our youth with a dedicated space for Liturgy, prayer and quiet reflection. We also hope to sponsor a summer camp for junior-high youth the summer of 2020 and continue to explore new programs and activities to enhance the Camp Kappe experience for the youth of the Archdiocese.”