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Summer Service through Mercy Camp and Mission Mercy

Mercy Camp has been a summer fixture at St. Francis for two decades, and Mission Mercy is approaching a decade of summer service!  Each summer, these camps offer the youth at St. Francis the opportunity to learn about their faith through service. As Tim Hetzel, the Director of Youth and Young Adult Ministry at St. Francis Parish, says, “Our faith teaches us to do good things, to do service, but why? How can we love others as Jesus called us to do? Service makes us most human, and it is the best way to be faithful people.”

Mercy Camp is a one-week faith-based summer camp for rising 6th – 9th graders. At Mercy Camp, youth travel to service sites throughout the Raleigh area and engage in direct service to those in need. Rising 10th graders through rising College Freshmen can register to serve as Teen Leaders for Mercy Camp. Teen leaders lead and travel with Mercy Campers to these service sites and engage with them in service. Before camp, teen leaders participate in leadership training and create many aspects of the camp. Mercy Camp runs from June 17th to 21st.  You can sign up for either role here on the parish website. 

Mission Mercy is for high school students by design. Following our Franciscan tradition of service and love of others, rising 10th graders through rising college freshmen assist in offering “Pequeños Gigantes,” a week-long, faith-based summer camp for children of The Hispanic Families Center which helps low-income Hispanic families integrate and flourish in the Raleigh area. Mission Mercy runs from July 8 to July 12. You can find Mission Mercy sign-ups here

So, what are the focused experiences during these camps? Well, as Tim emphasizes, they are focused on the Corporal Works of Mercy and the Principles of Catholic Social Teaching, which are The Life and Dignity of the Human Person; A Call to Family, Community, and Participation; the recognition of Human Rights and Responsibilities; an Option for the Poor and Vulnerable; recognition of the Dignity of Work and the Rights of Workers; the Solidarity of all people; and Care for God’s Creation. 

During a typical day at Mercy Camp, campers travel to service providers like Hope Reins, an organization that pairs kids in crisis with rescued horses to find hope and healing, Note in the Pocket, which provides quality clothing to homeless and impoverished children and families in the Raleigh area, or Inter-Faith Food Shuttle, an organization that addresses food insecurity for seniors and low-income families in the Raleigh area.  Back at St. Francis, Teen Leaders and campers reflect on these experiences and engage in small and large group activities, prayer, discussion, fun, and fellowship.  

A Mercy Camper recently told us: “I’ve done Mercy Camp for a few summers, and I love it! Going to all the service sites and helping people in need feels good, and all the games and activities with the other kids are fun. I made some new friends at Mercy Camp, too!”

During Mission Mercy, the youth are camp counselors at Pequeños Gigantes, where everyone grows in faith, serves others, and enjoys themselves immensely. Mission Mercy is unique in that it is a Ministry of Encounter, which means St. Francis teens encounter and form relationships with people in need on the margins of society, that is, the children at Pequeños Gigantes. By partnering with the Hispanic Families Center, the Pequeños Gigantes students and their Mission Mercy counselors experience a unique opportunity to enrich each other’s lives; it is a mutually beneficial experience! After assisting at camp all day, Mission Mercy teens gather each evening for deepening discussion, prayer, and fun social events like bowling and a pool party.

A recent Mission Mercy participant reflected: “Mission Mercy was an incredible experience that allowed me to serve others while also growing personally. I loved getting to know all of the kids at Pequeños Gigantes and spending time with them, and by the end of the week, we could tell that the camp had an impact. It was super special to be involved in that …”

Fundamentally, these camps provide a mission trip experience for St. Francis youth without leaving home. These mission, service, and outreach experiences encompass Catholic Social Teaching values that are the fabric of St. Francis of Assisi parish and provide an invaluable opportunity to live our faith in action. Both camps offer youth the opportunity to grow in compassion and faith while standing in solidarity with vulnerable folks, those Jesus calls us to love without condition or exception. 

Do you want your summer to be valuable and faith-filled? Do you want to live your faith in an environment where you are genuinely doing the work of ‘the hands of Jesus on Earth,’ all while having a great time? Then Mercy Camp and Mission Mercy are here for you! These camps fill up fast, so register now, but certainly before April 1st.  Click here to have an unforgettable experience this summer!

Author: Mike Watson