Annual Winter Camp
For many years the Schoenstatt Girls’ Youth has been hosting an annual Winter Camp at the Schoenstatt Centre in Constantia, Cape Town. Like many other groups and organisations, since the pandemic, most of our activities have been online. At the beginning of this year, we asked ourselves: could we dare to plan a three-day camp? Trusting in Our Lady we decided to take a risk and plan as we did before Covid changed everything.
As the Covid restrictions began to ease our hopes and expectations grew. But what would the reality be like? How many girls would come and how many could we welcome while still adhering to the Covid regulations? One month before the Camp we sent out the invitations and to our surprise, many responded quite soon. Yes, our youth wanted to come together to celebrate and deepen their faith! Then two weeks before the Camp our joy increased as the South African government lifted all Covid restrictions. Thus, we didn’t have to limit the participants but still would nevertheless, ensure some safety measures.
“Get Connected” was the theme for this Winter Camp. This meant: connecting with God, with our Blessed Mother, with our Schoenstatt Shrine and very importantly connecting with each other and ourselves! Thirty-eight young ladies from twenty-two different parishes came together as strangers and left with newly found [hopefully lasting] friendships. This was the largest group of participants that we have had for some time.
Load shedding was yet another challenge to be faced during our Camp. So up to five hours each day, we coped without electricity! What was seen as a challenge by the organising team proved otherwise for our resilient young participants. They experienced much joy with candle-lit dinners and the atmosphere was also set for ‘spooky evenings which brought about much life and laughter!
Some of the highlights included the presence of guest speakers whose inputs elicited lively discussions. An outdoor rally was organised, where teams had to complete various assigned tasks as well as preparing surprises for our last evening together. A handcraft session ended with beautifully designed journals. As part of a social outreach initiative, the group also filled bags with essential items as part of their ‘Feminine Hygiene Project’ for homeless women as well as writing each recipient a note of encouragement.
The group experienced a deep spiritual ‘connectedness’ when they held an evening of adoration before the Blessed Sacrament in the Shrine. Being a large group, they decided to remove all the benches which also created a special atmosphere as they prayed and sang in the candle-lit Shrine. Each girl was able to write a gift she would like from Jesus on a glass candle holder and brought it before the Blessed Sacrament. They were able to take these candle glass holders home as a reminder of their petition.
Motivation for everyday
Fr. Peter-John Pearson came to celebrate Holy Mass which was yet another highlight of the camp. At the end of Holy Mass, the leaders who had made their covenant of love stood before the picture of our Mother Thrice Admirable and renewed their commitment. Other memorable moments included enjoying the walks on brilliant sunny afternoons, the long chats where they could encourage and affirm each other, also through writing personal notes.
We ended the camp, as we have done in previous years, in the Shrine handing out envelopes containing these handwritten notes. The older leaders said that they still have the notes they received many years ago. Now and again when they have had a bad day they re-read them, since it lifts them up and makes them aware that they are special and that they are loved by others and by God.
What now? We are making plans for more activities during the last few months of this year, including restarting our Leadership Training weekends and days for youth and children.
A poem that some of the girls wrote during the camp
During load shedding, we used the lamp
To continue our winter camp
Creating bonds and having fun
Connecting with the Holy One
Entering the Shrine with Prayers in mind
And getting the answers that you were trying to find
Learning and discovering new things about ourselves
And telling other girls about Schoensattt
in hopes of them finding themselves too