For any camp to run effectively and efficiently, the staff must work together as a family. The head of this family is the camp chaplain.
It is up to him to maintain the camp spirit. This means certain qualities must be enacted: thinking of the camp and children first, cooperating with everyone, willing to learn to do things differently, giving others the chance to go first, laughing when things don’t go quite right, and communicating with the staff.
When conflict or disorder arises, the chaplain should speak and reconcile matters, as a pastor and father, whether it is staff, counselors, or campers. He is the one to bring strength, comfort, joy, guidance, and with a firm hand resolve any disturbance in the camp family.
A good chaplain must be interested in his campers, and know them – their family and parish backgrounds. He must be ready to question them, listen to them, answer their questions, and generally be in touch with them. For some children this will be the first opportunity to be close to a priest, to get to know him in a different way.
For some, this personal relationship with the priest can be the highlight of the whole week. The priest can bring the church closer to the life of each child. If the camp experience is seeing the church as a family, and the growth of that family and a new fellowship, much will depend on the Chaplain’s talents and efforts and skills to make this happen.
Finally, underlying the hope of the camp work is that it will inspire and confirm young boys in later accepting the vocation of priesthood. This also includes young girls who have the potential to be workers in the church’s education or music mission.
Those who work with children, whose lives come into contact with the children through the camp experience, are teachers, in the broader sense, whether they be counselors, parents, instructors, cooks, house mothers, or handymen. They must always keep in mind their extended role as teacher. The chaplain must be conscious of this, as well as all the camp staff.