Leonardtown, Maryland — On a crisp and sun-kissed day in Leonardtown, Maryland, the warm spirit of camaraderie and faith enveloped over 100 individuals who gathered at the camp’s dining hall to partake in a remarkable celebration. “Join the Journey – Camp Maria” brought together a diverse group of supporters, all with a common bond— their deep appreciation for Camp Maria Retreat Center and the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth.
The event, a delightful blend of lunch and dinner presentations, afforded attendees a unique glimpse into the profound and far-reaching ministries carried out by the Congregation on a global scale. It was a day that also resonated with the enduring legacy of Mother Catherine Spalding, the foundress of the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth born in nearby Charles County, Maryland.
One of the most poignant moments came from Sister Judy Raley, a native of Leonardtown, Maryland, whose connection to Camp Maria ran deep. Sister Judy shared personal anecdotes of her formative years spent at the camp, from her earliest childhood memories to her role as a high school swimming instructor. She underscored the lasting impact of Camp Maria on her life journey and her enduring friendship with Sister Mary Elizabeth Miller, which was nurtured on those very grounds. Sister Judy likened the transformative influence of Camp Maria to the legacy of Mother Catherine Spalding, emphasizing its potential to be a sanctuary for those seeking a closer connection with God. In her heartfelt address, she encouraged others to explore the sanctity and beauty that envelops us, expressing gratitude for the love and lessons she received at Camp Maria.
Spalding Hurst guided guests through the program, inviting them to “Join the Journey.” The atmosphere was further elevated by the enchanting performances of The Knight N-Gales from St. Mary’s Ryken High School and a group of students from Seven Gables Academy, whose opening songs resonated with the audience. The event commenced with an opening prayer led by Sister Brenda Gonzales, setting the tone for a day of reflection, connection, and gratitude.
Sister Jackulin Jesu, the President of the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth, delivered an impactful address that resonated deeply with the attendees. With grace and conviction, she conveyed the immense significance of the support felt by the Sisters engaged in ministry work across six countries spanning three continents. Her words served as a poignant reminder that the attendees were not merely observers but cherished partners in the Congregation’s mission to serve those in need. Sister Jacky Jesu’s message underscored the interconnectedness of all those gathered, emphasizing that the collective efforts and unwavering support of the community were instrumental in fulfilling our calling to bring solace and hope to the most vulnerable. “You are partners with us as we minister to those in need,” she affirmed.
Sister Luke Bioiarski shared insights into the Lay Mission Volunteer ministry, highlighting the remarkable contributions of over 60 volunteers hailing from the immediate vicinity of Camp Maria who have partnered to serve the needs of those in need.
In a touching conclusion, each guest received a comfort cross, lovingly blessed by the Sisters at Nazareth, and a jar of Nazareth honey. These tokens symbolized the shared journey of faith and connection that defined the day.
As the event drew to a close, a prevailing mood enveloped everyone in attendance—a deep and contemplative reflection. The collective sentiment emphasized the intricate tapestry of life, woven from moments, experiences, and choices. It was a shared acknowledgment of answering the call of faith, nurturing personal growth, and the profound impact of simple acts of kindness. Recalling Camp Maria’s influence, the guiding light of mentors, and the enduring friendships that have molded individual destinies. This sentiment was a gentle reminder of the sanctity and beauty that envelops Camp Maria Retreat Center, patiently awaiting discovery.
In a world marked by constant change, Camp Maria remains a steadfast beacon, offering individuals a sacred space to strengthen and deepen their commitment to God, the Church, and God’s people. It is a place where the spirit of Mother Catherine Spalding lives on, and where faith and connection thrive.