Summer Camps for Catholic Kids

| 19 Jan 2024 | 06:05

Once, Catholic sleepaway camps were everywhere. In the May 1, 1948 issue of The Tablet, the weekly newspaper of the Diocese of Brooklyn for example, there are ads for Camp Molloy (boys) and Camp Immaculata (girls) in Mattituck, Long Island; Camp Alvernia for boys in Centerport, Long Island, and for girls in Ringwood, New Jersey; Camp St. Agnes for boys in New Paltz; Camp St Regis for boys and girls in East Hampton; Camp Wapanachki for boys near Kingston, New York; Tegawitha for girls in the Tobyhanna, PA—the list goes on and on, and stretches up to Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont and New Hampshire—even Camp La Salle in Sante Fe, New Mexico,

Times change. Assimilation, suburbanization, economics (soaring land values on Long Island for one) and a host of other factors have made finding Catholic sleepaway camps more difficult than it once was. Still, the desire remains, as do some distinguished camps— even if they are further from Manhattan than those our parents and grandparents enjoyed.

A big pull for kids from the city is in New Hampshire, the Granite State, where Camps Bernadette and Camp Fatima—the former for girls, the latter for boys, both run by the Diocese of Manchester—stand tall.

“I loved it, it was awesome,” said Eamon Kelly, a Manhattanite who is now a college senior.

HIs friend Sean Halbert was equally enthusiastic. “I went to Fatima for five years from ages ten to 14 and it was always the best two weeks of the summer. Being a city kid, it was nice to have the opportunity to meet other kids from different parts of the country and even the world.

It sister camp, Bernadette, founded in 1953, is situated on Lake Wentworth in Wolfeboro. Fatima, founded in 1914, is about a half hour away on Upper Suncook Lake, in the town of Gilmanton. Both operate with the same mission “to love and serve those around us with Christ as our model and our means.” To that end, there is a weekly Mass and a regular evening prayer sessions called “Shrine.”

Otherwise, camp life at Bernadette and Fatima is much like that of other camps in such wondrous natural settings: swimming, boating, fishing, archery, rock climbing, riflery, tope courses, horseback riding (at Fatima), sports (baseball, softball, wiffle ball, lacrosse, basketball, volleyball, tennis, soccer, street hockey, football, dodgeball, racquetball and more); arts and crafts. Girls and boys do come together for certain events and share their resources when one location has things the other doesn’t.

Field days, cook-outs, dances, movie nights and, for older campers, field trips, are also popular.

Said former camper Halbert, now a college senior: “My favorite part was how active they made sure we were. We were always spending time outdoors doing everything from playing team sports against other cabins to learning about archery, to learning about nature and religion as we walked through the woods.”

Administered by the Diocese of Springfield, Massachusetts, Camp Holy Cross ( in the Berkshire Hills town of Goshen, offers two weeks of sleepaway camp in July at exceptionally affordable rates. Open to kids ages 8 to 15, their programs include all the usual summer staples in a rich natural, and faith-based, environment.

While numerous areas in Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island and Long Island still offer a healthy range of Catholic day camp options, Manhattan is not so fortunate. One notable exception is the girls camp offered by Convent of the Sacred Heart ( at the CSH Athletics and Wellness Center at 406 East 91st Street in Yorkville.

Open to girls entering grades K through 4, the program operates in the last two weeks in June, with Monday through Thursday being full days, and Friday a half day. Camp activities include a mix of swim, sports and dance and a period of “S.T.E.A.M.” based academics.