The family camp serves Spanish-speaking families

From front to back, Paola Pradillo, Isis García and Hannah Pradillo, all members of St. Paul’s Parish in Olathe, enjoy a canoe ride at the first Hispanic family camp at Prairie Star Ranch in Williamsburg. LEVEN PHOTO BY MATT MCCABE

by Matt McCabe
sourdough special

WILLIAMSBURG – Prairie Star Ranch here has long been the setting for a transcendent week for young people and families in Kansas City’s Archdiocese of Kansas.

But it has struggled to reach everyone, until recently.

This summer, Deacon Dana Nearmyer and his wife Debbie, their staff, and Hispanic Ministry leaders within the Archdiocese hosted a first-ever Hispanic Family Camp.

For Debbie, it was time.

“I was overwhelmed by how humiliating it is to walk with our brothers and sisters with whom we share the same faith, even though we don’t share the same language,” she said.

Jesus Gonsalez Cruz, a member of Holy Cross Parish in Overland Park, tries his hand at the archery range. LEVEN PHOTO BY MATT MCCABE

The language barrier initially caused some anxiety. But they learned that many of their teenage staff members and families are bilingual.

“We are supposed to be the church,” Deacon Nearmyer said. He was convinced that the offer of a Hispanic family camp fit with Pope Francis’ overall goal of getting out of someone’s comfort zone.

“We’re supposed to be the people who can bring it all together,” he added.

Canoeing, a staple of the Prairie Star Ranch, was a hit among the families who attended the Hispanic Family Camp. LEVEN PHOTO BY MATT MCCABE

The Aguayo family knows both ends of the camp experience. They have previously attended a regular family camp, and their teenage daughter is on the camp staff.

“I think it’s amazing that they opened it up to Spanish-speaking families,” said Elizabeth Aguayo, who is a parishioner at Sacred Heart of Jesus, Shawnee.

Some of the families in the camp came from parishes with a high concentration of Spanish-speaking and Spanish-speaking families; some don’t.

But the week together acknowledged the communities they share: Hispanic heritage and devout Catholicism.

“For my community, this has been a new experience,” said Julieta Cordero of Good Shepherd Church in Shawnee. “But above all, I am very grateful to all the people who made this possible. Many of us are in our 40s and experiencing this for the first time.

Campers soar through the air at the infamous Praire Star Ranch ropes course. LEVEN PHOTO BY MATT MCCABE

The campground experience was very much the same as the traditional family camp.

“We are very grateful that Hispanic families were considered, to be able to do something for us,” said Ignacio Galvez of Blessed Sacrament Parish in Kansas City, Kansas. “Because really what we’re seeing right now is something very beautiful.”

The beauty of the week was not lost on the Nearmyers. They felt a special liveliness and passion for the Eucharist during their days with Hispanic families.

It was so special, they said. This is a lesson for the rest of the church.

“They want to see integration,” Deacon Nearmyer said. “They want to see authentic community, they want to see authentic action.”

“I thank God for this family camp for Spanish speakers,” said Deida Galvez, also of Blessed Sacrament. “It’s a very nice thing to be able to live together, to have new adventures, to do new extreme things that you’ve never done before.”


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