Retreat center upgrades to serve today’s youth in formation

December 8, 2015

PLANTERSVILLE — Camp Kappe, a retreat center located on a 130-acre tract of heavily wooded rolling land approximately one hour north of Houston in Plantersville, has recently made major improvements to meet the growing needs of the Catholic schools and parishes in the Archdiocese and surrounding communities.

“Since 1981, Camp Kappe’s main mission has been to provide, in a Catholic tradition, opportunities for youth in our parishes and schools to experience the love of Christ in this unique outdoor setting, and be challenged to grow in body, mind and heart through spiritual and educational programs and retreats,” said Randy Adams, associate director of the Archdiocesan Office of Adolescent Catechesis and Evangelization. “Camp Kappe serves the youth in our Archdiocese in a variety of ways. We are the only dedicated youth retreat center for our parishes to host their youth retreats for weekend and summer activities.”

Also, on weekdays during the school year, Adams said Camp Kappe is home for fifth-grade students that attend the School of Environmental Education (S.E.E.) program, which serves Catholic schools in the Archdiocese and four additional dioceses.

Adams said Camp Kappe’s facilities have not received any major updates over the last 30 years, and as with any facility, age takes its toll. Major renovation and expansion plans for the center became a top priority when the Office of Adolescent Catechesis and Evangelization assumed responsibility for the facility two years ago. Major improvements include the reconstruction of a main building: assembly hall, dining facility and updated kitchen with new appliances, providing more space for youth.

Camp Kappe is one of 60 ministries supported by the Diocesan Service Fund (DSF). Adams said this support has been critical for the center to offset its operational costs for S.E.E. and retreats, thus making it the most affordable retreat center in the state.

“The DSF has allowed us to make these much-needed improvements so we can continue to meet the needs of our youth and make the center more functional and accessible,” Adams said. “We also can keep our rates reasonable for Inner-City Catholic schools and parishes, and those with limited budgets.”

Recent facility updates also include the construction of a new larger cabin that is ADA-compliant, which will allow more young people with special needs to enjoy the facilities. The sleeping capacity was at 82 beds and with the new cabin, has increased to 120 beds. In addition, a new sports pavilion and meeting hall also are being constructed to meet the needs of youth. 

State-of-the-art technology also was installed in the assembly hall. Groups will now have access to an audio-visual sound system, microphones, flat screen televisions and Wi-Fi, which can be hard to access in this rural setting. To add to the outdoor setting experience, a new stage, seating area and fire pit were added.

“Our improvements will allow us to meet the needs of more parishes and schools looking for a retreat facility, one with many options,” Adams said. “We are here to serve their needs, and are excited for the continuation of our ministry at Camp Kappe with modern-day services and facilities while still maintaining the rustic feel of our site.”

In addition to physical improvements, the Camp Kappe staff has enhanced the S.E.E. program to provide participating fifth-grade students with an enriched educational experience incorporating the Catholic faith and science, while communicating the importance of being good stewards of the Earth. S.E.E. is an accredited four-day outdoor adventure where students experience God’s gift of nature first-hand and study such topics as life cycles, food chains and man’s effect on the environment. Students also enjoy Priscilla’s Place that offers a chance to interact with many farm animals and learn about gardening to complete the experience.

This summer, Camp Kappe also will become the home for the Catholic Social Immersion (CSI) program, which focuses on introducing the principles of Catholic social teaching to high school youth. According to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), programs like these teach the Church’s rich treasure of wisdom about building a just society and living lives of holiness amidst the challenges of modern society. CSI will offer hands-on experience where students serve the needs of others in nearby parishes and agencies and take those experiences back to their parishes for future service project ideas.

“We are excited to bring our CSI Program to Camp Kappe and serve the needs of the people of Montgomery, Grimes, Waller and Walker Counties,” Adams said. “The hands-on service projects take our Catholic social teaching to a larger scale, offering opportunities for our youth to learn about their call to serve as Catholics, in their homes, communities and the world.”