Catholic camp for teens takes root in Missouri

The Office of Youth Ministry in the Archdiocese of St. Louis has always dreamed of having a Catholic summer camp. Now Greg Barker, who used to call himself a displaced youth minister, is helping to make that dream a reality. 

Barker is now employed by Catholic Camps of America (CCA) who recently purchased the 130-acre Camp Rockyvine, located 40 minutes from St. Louis. Rockyvine sits in Missouri’s hilly wine country and overlooks the Missouri river, close to the small town of Dutzow.

“The camp is one of the first of its kind”, Barker told CNA, “a privately funded Catholic camp specifically geared for high school teenagers.”

He noted that CCA, which is working in conjunction with the Archdiocese of St. Louis, is “planning to develop a camp that is full of thrilling activity for any high school teenager.”

While it already boasts such facilities as a ropes course, mountain bike trails and bikes, sand volleyball courts, mountain boards and numerous trails, Barker is quick to point out that the ultimate purpose of the camp is to lead teens “closer to Christ and His Church.”

Funded primarily by the Archdiocese of St. Louis and Life Teen, an international Catholic youth ministry, Camp Rockyvine is modeled in many ways after the hugely successful Young Life camps.

Young Life, a protestant ministry for high school teens, Barker said, “has been doing top-notch camping for teens for over fifty years.”

Though Life Teen plans to use Camp Rockyvine as one of its three camp sites around the country, the camp itself will remain owned and operated by Catholic Camps of America, a non-profit company created by the Patrick & Cathryn Barron Charitable Foundation.

The Barrons, Barker said, who were long involved in the Young Life ministry, “have dreamed for many years of starting a camp for high school teens in the Catholic Church.”

The camp opened its doors for retreats last fall, but is still planning for big expansions. Barker, who admits that he’s never attended a youth camp before, is “humbly learning each day at the camp.”

Despite this fact, many are putting great hopes in Camp Rockyvine to be an integral ministry within the Archdiocese. They trust Barker’s love for the Church and what he calls “a big heart for teens.”

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