Young Catholics disconnect to reconnect with God, friends and nature at Camp Kappe
December 14, 2021
For more than 40 years, Camp Kappe has offered young people a refuge and escape from the world to disconnect from distractions and reconnect with God, nature and each other. The 130-acre property offers lake-side water access, camping and cabin facilities, hiking and nature trails, as well a sacred space.
HOUSTON — For more than four decades, deep in the heart of the piney woods, the young Church has found safe and holy grounds to disconnect from their busy lives and familiar environments to reconnect with God, nature and each other in community.
Camp Kappe Youth Retreat, located on 130-acres in Plantersville, about an hour north of Houston, has provided a quality and unique Catholic camp experience for children, youth and young adults in parishes and schools throughout the Archdiocese and surrounding dioceses.
Operated by the Office of Adolescent Catechesis and Evangelization, the camp offers youth retreats, youth camps and spiritual-growth programs that are based on Catholic values and traditions rooted in Christ and guided by the Holy Spirit through sacred Scripture and tradition. Camp Kappe also offers one of the largest accredited environmental programs in the nation, serving Catholic fifth graders at the School of Environmental Education.
Sarah Ornelas attended Camp Kappe over 15 years ago while in high school as an Archdiocesan Youth Council (AYC) member. She feels this opportunity allowed council members to personally grow deeper in their faith and relationship with God while forming strong bonds of friendship and community to minister together in unity.
“We wouldn’t have felt like a true council without being able to gather somewhere that we knew we could feel safe to explore our faith and friendships, and Camp Kappe provided that for us,” Ornelas said. “From washing dishes in the old kitchen to canoeing with friends, to worshiping together inside and out, Kappe was a safe place and felt very much like a second home to many of us.”
Randy Adams, executive director of Camp Kappe, also attended high school retreats in the early 1980s when the camp was first built. He said his own life was shaped by this opportunity to be surrounded by nature and programs exclusively focused on youth. A decade later, when Adams was a youth minister, he gave this same experience to those participating in his parish youth program.
“My young people loved the experience of being able to leave behind their busy schedules and familiar settings and open their hearts and minds to God in a peaceful and beautiful setting in the woods,” Adams said. “Now, as the executive director, I am extremely blessed to be able to continue and expand the opportunities for parishes and schools to be a part of this experience.”
Adams said before the COVID-19 pandemic, Camp Kappe served over 4,200 participants representing 40 parishes and 52 Catholic schools in the Archdiocese.
“This was an increase in attendance from previous years made possible through recent renovations to the facilities and the amazing staff members who are devoted to making sure that each experience is a great experience for all at the camp,” said Adams.
Other recent additions include the purchase of equipment for community-building activities, the installment of a new nine-hole Frisbee golf course, soccer goals, sporting equipment, and catch and release fishing activities complete with reels and tackle boxes.
Camp Kappe is one of the 60-plus ministries supported by the Diocesan Services Fund (DSF). Adams said without this financial assistance, parish retreats and the School of Environmental Education would not be available for most parishes or schools.
“DSF provides the funding we need to make these programs possible and affordable for the participants no matter what their economic situation may be,” said Adams. “It is one of the most affordable centers in the state helping to enrich the lives of its students in their journey to be good disciples in their faith.”
James Carrasco, associate director of Faith Formation at Sacred Heart of Jesus Church in Manvel, was a fifth-grade camper in the School of Environmental Education more than 30 years ago. He currently facilitates Confirmation retreats at Camp Kappe and believes the DSF allows the camp to offer the best retreat experiences at affordable prices for every parish. He said without the funding, parishes would have to spend more time fundraising for retreats instead of focusing on evangelization and catechesis.
As a parish youth minister, I am profoundly grateful for the opportunities that Camp Kappe has made possible for thousands of teenagers whose families could not afford a retreat at any other facility,” said Carrasco. “These young people have been able to experience spiritually powerful and authentically Catholic retreats in an environment that helps them encounter the living God. It also is such a blessing to have a camp facility that has been thoughtfully designed for youth with mobility needs, and I am very proud that our own Archdiocese has taken the time, effort and expense to ensure that the facilities at Camp Kappe are accessible to all young people.”
Ornelas agrees that the support from the Archdiocese through the DSF has helped Camp Kappe become what it is today for the young Church and will continue to be as long as it continues.
“Our youth have come to know each other and Christ in a bigger and deeper way at Camp Kappe,” said Ornelas. “Our youth have watched buildings come to life, named buildings for some amazing and super cool saints, cleaned the grounds and buildings themselves, and planned awesome worship opportunities like praying lakeside, prayer walks through nature, and more recently, Mass in the new chapel. I am sure more and more good will come of Camp Kappe and its programs as we continue to give to the DSF.”