6th Edmund Rice Camp hosted by Chicago youth
Edmund Rice Camps were first established in Melbourne Australia in 1981. They have since spread worldwide. Chicago’s Brother Rice High School is an all-male high school which was established by the Christian Brothers in 1956.
Edmund Rice transformed the world with his love of the outsider, the underprivileged, the poor, the marginalized, the abused, the neglected, and the outcast. Students and alumni of Brother Rice High School in Chicago continue to be animated by the spirit of Edmund as they organize, operate, and reflect on their Edmund Rice Camps. These cater for underprivileged grade-schoolers who would normally not have the opportunity and financial resources to attend a summer camp.
The campers enjoyed their week of piñatas, swimming, basketball, softball, football, inflatable slides, obstacle courses, water balloons… and much more. Deepening all the fun was the spiritual side of the camp. Each day began and ended in prayer, and reflections were shared on the life of Edmund Rice and various Biblical themes. Each child was given extra-special attention: the camps are unique in having a one-to-one ratio of counselors to campers.
When Edmund Rice Camps were first brought to BRHS, the first of their kind in the United States, the hope was that eventually the Brothers would step back and let the students lead. After six years, this camp was essentially turned over to the students to run. They had the vital support of Edmund Rice Associate Mrs Michelle England, together with a number of Christian Brothers - Bob McGovern, Tim Granzotto, and Bob Beckstrom of BRHS; as well as Tim Smith and Peter O’Loughlin of St Laurence HS - and many dedicated parents and alumni. But essentially it was young people who were to the fore.
Students who volunteered as camp counselors spent the school year preparing for it. There were various meetings, prayer sessions, and fundraisers. They were introduced to the charism and mission of Edmund, which was and is to have people of faith building a community in service of others. They learned a heart-centered spirituality which brings together the Christian Brothers’ pillars of compassion, presence, and liberation. One target for the camp was that it be financed by the young people involved; and the counselors were again successful in raising the funds needed to cover the week.
And as much as the grade-school boys enjoyed the camp, the counselors - as always - seemed to get even more out of it. It renewed their faith, gave them a sense of leadership, and they learnt to reflect each day on how God’s Spirit was present. The counselors provided a fun summer camp for the kids, but the kids in turn made a lasting impact on the counselors by evoking a transformative compassion in them.
This insight was crystallized by a past Christian Brothers international Chapter. It said that Edmund Rice “was moved by the Holy Spirit to open his whole heart to Christ present and appealing to him in the poor. He was given the grace to respond by identifying through Christ with the poor in order to evoke in them a deep awareness of God’s loving presence.” Blessed Edmund Rice, pray for us, our camps, and our campers. Live Jesus in our hearts forever!
Robert Droel (2008 graduate of BRHS Chicago, currently a junior at Iona College, New Rochelle)
published July 2010