An adventure camp filled with zip lines, rock climbing, paintball, rope walks, swimming, and a game room is also home to Mass, Adoration, retreats, and encounters with the living God so incredible that hearing about them will make you drop to your knees in awe and wonder. This is Damascus, an evangelization and adventure camp for Catholic youth founded by Dan DeMatte and others. Damascus, a place of adventure, companionship, and lifelong friendships, is also a place where miraculous healings of self-harm scars, illness, and disease are commonplace. Youth grades 6-12 come home from Damascus with an experience of the love of Jesus Christ that is transformational. The camp is helping to form the next generation of Catholic leaders for our nation, saints in the making.
As their website states, the name is a deliberate choice: “Just as St. Paul encountered the living God on the road to Damascus, Damascus Catholic Mission Campus is a place of encounter where a generation is awakened, empowered, and equipped to live the adventure of the Catholic faith.” Also from the site: “For too long the facts have been planted in our minds, without a relationship being planted in our hearts. Eighty-nine percent of Catholics who have remained faithful to the Church after college identify a particular event or experience (emphasis added) that triggered their faith commitment. Damascus Catholic Mission Campus exists to provide these events and experiences.”
The website notes the crisis in the faith among youth: “… 5 out of 6 young people confirmed in your parish today will no longer be practicing their Catholic faith within 10 years of their Confirmation.” Damascus is one of the Holy Spirit’s responses to this crisis. I feel as though Damascus is an answer in part to the anguished prayers of millions of Catholic parents who have been crying out to God to bring our children back to the Church.
The development of Damascus has been a miracle itself. The camp began in 2001 at St. Andrew Catholic Church with a single week of camp called Catholic Youth Summer Camp By 2016, under the leadership and generosity of a visionary team of benefactors, the Damascus Catholic Mission Campus was built on 471 acres in Centerburg, OH as the first permanent home of Catholic Youth Summer Camp CYSC Home - CYSC - Catholic Youth Summer Camp. with a capacity to serve 1000 campers per season. Per the Damascus Catholic Mission Campus website: “Within months of its opening, Damascus had impacted thousands of lives, hosted dozens of retreats, and served a variety of vibrant Catholic ministries.” The camp now serves 7,500 youth during the summer with three locations in Ohio, Minnesota, and Michigan. Damascus runs parish and school retreats year-round serving an additional 8,000 young people during the academic year on campus and another 8,000 youth across the nation through their national ministry efforts. Even with all the expansion efforts, Damascus continues to nearly fill up within 36 hours of camp registration opening for the upcoming season. It is a goal to open more sites around the country to make the encounter with Christ experienced by Damascus campers more accessible to all the youth in the country.
To learn more about Damascus or to find out how you can help make more Damascus camps become a reality, go to Damascus Summer Mission Campus . To inquire about a Catholic Youth Summer Camp session for your young person visit CYSC Home - CYSC - Catholic Youth Summer Camp.