September 9, 2022

Be Our Guest / Mary Conway

Visit to Camp Rancho Framasa brings back many joyful memories

Mary ConwayIt’s only fitting that as we celebrate the 75th anniversary of Catholic Youth Organization (CYO) Camp Rancho Framasa in Brown County that I share these sentiments.

I had the joyous experience of being the camp nurse for two weeks this summer. As if that wasn’t enough, I got to share it with my past camper, past counselor and dear friend Peggy Roach. Peggy and I, along with another camp lifer, Pattiann Gavaghan, spent many summers at the camp in our childhood and youth.

While there have been many changes over the years, the magical essence remains the same. The cabins, pavilion, creek, lake, birds, flowers and trees are exactly the same. The smell of the grass and air on a rainy night, the same.

Peggy, Pattiann and I often talk about what an impact camp had on us; how it truly helped shape and define who we are today. Our love of God and his wondrous nature, our love of music, campfires and laughter are rooted for us here. We have story after story of funny, wonderful camp memories. We even have some of sorrow and loss.

It was so very special to be able to come home to camp so many years later and to share it with Peggy. We were guided by the capable hands of Kathleen Soller, who by the end of our time together, felt like a little sister. Peggy and I had such a great time together that we volunteered to come back for another week at the end of the summer session. We couldn’t seem to get enough.

While there, we couldn’t help but be in awe of the entire staff. They embraced us as one of them. We were looked upon as peers, not elders, and were fondly called “the singing nurses.” (We spontaneously developed a nighttime ritual of singing bedtime songs to whomever would have us.) It was like no time had ever passed.

To be able to “come home” after so many years was indescribable. But for those of you who have been there, you know! It’s visceral. A magic that never leaves you.

It became so very clear on that last night. As we sang our songs, we cried with campers, counselors and each other, just like we did 60 years ago. To be able to step back in time, have it feel exactly the same, and with my bestie … pure bliss!

So, thank you Kevin and Angi Sullivan (co-directors of CYO Camp Rancho Framasa) for keeping the love alive. We will be back; you can count on it!

Send your kids and grandkids to camp. They’ll love you for it!

(Mary Conway is a member of St. Therese of the Infant Jesus (Little Flower) Parish in Indianapolis.)

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