Camp Alumni Reunion Well Attended
On Saturday, November 1, 2014 over 60 Camp Nazareth Alumni gathered together with His Grace Bishop Gregory at Camp Nazareth for an afternoon of learning, fellowship, socializing, story-sharing, prayer, worship of God and fun. It was the first event of its kind for Camp Nazareth alumni because it gathered together in one place alum from nearly every generation of campers, volunteers, chaplains and staff. The Camp is approaching its 40th Anniversary (and really has already come to it if you include the years of planning and fundraising prior to construction) and has literally seen thousands of campers, hundreds of staff, and an equal amount of clergy and volunteers come through its “doors”. Gathering 60 or so of its Alumni together to connect, re-connect and fellowship was a great way to begin the process of connecting generations of our alum together.
The afternoon began with a reception, a social hour which, it turned out, lasted longer than an hour. This was a time for our Camp’s alumni to greet old friends, make some new ones, enjoy some delicious food and relax after having traveled to Camp from as far away as Philadelphia. It was a time for them to visit a picture display of the Camp, perhaps find themselves in those pictures, and watch Camp slideshows for years past. The pictures and videos brought back a lot of great memories and reminded our alumni (as if they needed any reminder) just how much they loved, and STILL love Camp.
Following the extended social hour, the alumni listened to several speakers who talked about the formation of the Camp as well as its years of history down to the present, with His Grace Bishop Gregory concluding the speaking program by sharing the future plans for the Camp including the expansion of the cabins, the addition of a challenge/ropes course, and the potential for the addition of new cabins. The speakers included the Very Rev. Protopresbyter Michael Polanichka (a member of the building committee responsible for constructing the Camp as well as the Camp Overseer for many years), Attorney Michael Ristvey (also a member of the building committee originally responsible for the construction of the Camp), Very Rev. Michael Zak (one of the Camp’s former Directors), Very Rev. Protopresbyter Kenneth Bachofsky (current Camp Nazareth Overseer), the Rt. Rev. Sean Rowe (Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Northwestern PA which as has been coming to Camp since 1979), and His Grace Bishop Gregory (our Diocesan Hierarch). Despite the variety of speakers, a consistent message emerged: love for the Camp and its ministry, a strong devotion to our campers, and a commitment to stewardship of the blessing that is Camp Nazareth.
After the speaking program, the alumni gathered together in the Camp church for an evening service. They did not know the blessing that awaited them. It had been arranged that Fr. Mark Leasure, our Diocesan priest at St. George’s in Taylor, PA, would bring the Myrrh-streaming icons from the parish there to Camp for this event. This was a wonderful surprise and blessing for the Camp’s alum who sang together the Moleben to the Mother of God, listened to Fr. Mark share the story of these icons, and were then anointed with the Holy Myrrh which streams from the icons. This was the centerpiece of the afternoon’s schedule. The presence of St. Mary is never disappointing, rather it is always beautiful, peaceful, powerful, and simply lovely. This was a great gift for the Camp’s alumni and one which left its “mark” on them.
After the time in Church with one another, the alumni returned to the Lodge for a delicious dinner: Homemade Chicken Cordon Bleu, Pork Tenderloin, Pasta with homemade Penne ala Vodka sauce, Green Beans, Salad, Rolls, drinks and homemade desserts. There was no speaking program during the dinner…just a time to socialize, enjoy each other’s company, and continue to share stories.
The evening concluded after dinner. Each alum received an icon card of the Holy Innocents (the patron saints of the Camp) and a card depicting the Camp Church (Sts. Cyril and Methodios), as well as a carnation. His Grace Bishop Gregory had also distributed icon cards of St. Nectarios of Aegina to each of the alumni.
The whole event was really a blessing. It was the beginning of a Camp Alumni association and it was begun in the right way…with the presence of the Mother of God through her Myrrh-streaming icons. This was the solid foundation on which to build what will come next, that is an association that includes not just our diocesan alumni, but all the Camp’s alum including those from the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Pittsburgh and the Episcopal Diocese of Northwestern Pennsylvania. More of these events will be held around the Diocese in the coming year. They are opportunities to thank our Alumni, connect with them and one another, and begin to look at what we can do together to care for the Camp we all fell in love with and all love. As one of the speakers mentioned, “Camp Nazareth is the greatest example of Christian stewardship.” Over the years many have given their time, talents and treasure to help maintain and improve the Camp. This event was an opportunity to say thank you for that and then to look ahead at what is yet to come with the help of our Camp Alumni.