Joy, the inexplicable feeling and word I will use to sum up my experience at this camp. Before going to Summer School I received a pamphlet through my youth group which gave me information about the camp and what it would be like.
As far as I knew it was a charismatic Catholic week-long camp in Bathurst that was confronting yet life-changing. I didn’t question the confronting or life-changing part, nor the extent of it.
I arrived at Stannies (St Stanislaus) and instantly felt the warmth and welcome of the people there and thus began the emotional roller coaster ride of the week.
I guess one of the most important aspects of Summer School is the sense of community and love it brings as we all unite in a common belief and eagerness to learn and share our faith.
Everyone loving each other, praying together, singing and dancing together, eating dinner together, and just loving God together sparked an incredible joy and happiness inside of me.
During the week, we attended lectures and seminars that were interesting. I attended a lecture called Engaging Graciously with Unbelief, conducted by Jude Hennessy, which I found particularly interesting.
He spoke about science and religion, how they correlate with one another and how to answer questions thrown at us by atheists. It provided me with great wisdom and knowledge which I believe will give me the confidence to stand up for my faith when I’m asked about it.
The seminar I attended was called Awaken the Dawn: Song Writing as Prayer which was a great way to get to know others and it astounded me how many talented people there were.
Three amazing musicians; Louisa, Pete and Lloyd who ran the seminar gave us invaluable information on what it’s like being a Christian musician and songwriter. They described the ‘light-bulb’ moments and the struggles of writing songs individually and in groups and gave us a heap of tips on how to write praise and worship music.
This seminar also gave us some time to work in groups and attempt to write a praise and worship song together to then share with the rest of the group. I was blown away by what others had written with the limited time and resources we had.
Every day, we attended plenary sessions which I found really fulfilling. The ‘plenary host’ would introduce the theme of the day to us and we would spend some time discussing it.
After discussion someone would give their testimony based on the theme. At the end, we were allowed to ask questions. I particularly enjoyed the gender-specific session where we could bond over our sisterhood.
It really allowed us to open up and ask questions and discuss things that were relevant to our lives, girls’ lives.
We had recreation time each day which I spent either playing cards, talking to new people and making friends or jumping into the pool in the 40-degree heat.
Following this there was Mass and dinner, then a night session which was probably my favourite part of the day. The praise and worship music really set the mood for these sessions. Some songs would make me want to sit quietly and pray in front of the Blessed Sacrament, others saw me raise my arms, jump and sing at the top of my lungs while waiting in line for either Reconciliation or prayer teams.
The night session kept me on a ‘spiritual high’, as I like to call it, for the rest of the night. People came out of these sessions experiencing different things but I was skipping around, so full of the joy that I’m sure God wanted me to share with everyone. Overall, the week was tiring but truly lived up to its reputation as confronting and life-changing. Some aspects that made it confronting were: hearing people speak in tongues (one of the most beautiful and moving sounds I’ve ever heard), seeing people healed right in front of my eyes and street evangelising.
We took the time to go onto the streets and shared our love with the locals – this was a beautiful experience.
Summer School is life-changing. I am a believer in God but Summer School has made me a believer who wants to show everyone how much joy and love you gain by just opening up a bit and letting God into your life.