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Camp St. Innocent: New Antiochian Camp in Western Canada

By The Very Rev. Michael Gillis

During the last week of August, with the blessing of His Eminence Metropolitan Joseph, Camp St. Innocent (CSI) took place, the first ever Antiochian camp in Western Canada. The camp took place at the Gull Lake Centre, an excellent facility located about eighty-five miles south of Edmonton, Alberta.

The camp was sponsored by St. Philip Church in Edmonton and Annunciation Church of Calgary, but campers also came from Saskatoon, and Vancouver. There were 23 campers in total, which for a first camp seems to be a pretty good turnout. This is especially true if you consider the long distances some of the campers had to travel to come to camp. The campers from Saskatoon drove for over seven hours and the campers from Vancouver about twelve hours.

Although the travel times were long, the camp was worth it. The campers got to swim and canoe in the sparkling and warm waters of Gull Lake, they also spent one afternoon rock climbing, and on the rainy day played games in the very large gymnasium. And did I mention the food? From carmel oatmeal in the morning to build-your-own burritos and roast-your-own hot dogs over an open fire, everyone had plenty of good food to enjoy. As I heard one camper remark as he was going up for seconds: "But it's still not as good as my Mom's."

Three clergy attended the camp and provided morning and evening liturgical services and daily teaching for the campers along with lots of cheering and support during the game times. During the daily teaching time, the clergy spoke about the meaning of Faith, as the theme of the camp was "CSI: Investigating the power of faith." In addition, some of the clergy were even seen playing soccer and canoeing with the campers.

On the first evening of the camp, one of the clergy spoke to the campers about the life and legacy of our Father Metropolitan Philip of Blessed Memory and together we prayed the Trisagion prayers for the peace of his soul. Also, Chris Shahid gave an interesting talk on the life and ministry of St. Innocent (the patron saint of CSI) and then we all joined together in a service of supplication to St. Innocent.

By the end of the week, many strangers had become good friends, and everyone was eager to come back next year. So many people worked long hours and contributed funds to make this camp successful that I could never thank them all. However, I would especially like to thank Chris Shahid from the Antiochian Village who did an excellent job running the daily program and even pinch hitting as a cabin counselor when the need arose. But most of all I need to thank Nellie Salloum for the hours and hours of preparatory work she put into making Camp St. Innocent a reality.

And now we can all hardly wait until next summer. Since the first year of Camp St. Innocent has been such a success, I suspect that many more campers will join us next year.