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Blessed Carlo Acutis Youth Camp officials overjoyed as namesake heads toward canonization

A young girl shows her Eucharistic artwork at Blessed Carlo Acutis Youth Camp in Huttonsville, W.Va., in this undated photo. (OSV News photo/courtesy of Blessed Carlo Acutis Youth Camp)

(OSV News) — Its mission is to lead young people to a deep relationship with Jesus Christ through his church. And the Blessed Carlo Acutis Youth Camp does just that each summer for young Catholics in West Virginia.

Set deep in the southern region of the state in the small town of Huttonsville amid the breathtaking mountains of Randolph County, the camp has offered generations of children and young people the opportunity to grow closer to Christ while enjoying the summer camp experience. And the last three years of this ministry has been presented to young Catholics reflecting the love of and dedication to the Most Blessed Sacrament that the teenage boy, for whom the camp is named, had in his life.

“It’s no coincidence that as we begin preparing for an incredible summer of Catholic camping, that our namesake should formally be on the way to canonization,” said Nick Chancey, director of the Office of Youth and Young Adult Discipleship for the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston.

“Blessed Carlo Acutis loved Jesus in such a unique and beautiful way, most especially in the real presence of the Blessed Sacrament,” he said. “It’s unique, in part, because he was so young and had very few people around him to support him in his work and in his devotion to the Eucharist.”

“I think many of the young people who come to our camp can relate to that, especially in the face of an ever-secularizing world,” he told The Catholic Spirit, newspaper of the statewide diocese. “What better way then, than to bring them together in the beautiful mountains of West Virginia, where they can have fun, make lifelong friendships, and come to know our Lord the same deeply intimate way that Blessed Carlo did, in the Eucharist.”

Pope Francis will hold a consistory with cardinals in Rome July 1 for the final approval of the canonization of several sainthood candidates, including Blessed Carlo Acutis, according to the master of papal liturgical ceremonies. The date or dates for the canonizations could be announced during the ceremony.

Activities at Camp Carlo include a high ropes course, a giant swing, swimming, water slide, horseback riding, backpacking, camping, fishing, canoeing, field games and more. At the center is Christ, camp officials said, “and humbling ourselves in front of the true presence of our Lord during Mass and adoration.”

The camp was founded 59 years ago by the late Father Leon Alexander as the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston’s youth camp with the title Camp Tygart. After a few named changes throughout the years, the camp was renamed Blessed Carlo Acutis Youth Camp in 2021 in honor of the first millennial to be beatified. With the new name came a new motto: “Cum Ipso in monte” (With Him on the Mountain), referencing the Transfiguration, according to the Camp Carlo website. It further notes, “A reflection of the Transfiguration, life at Blessed Carlo Acutis Youth Camp draws young people into direct encounter with the divinity of Christ.”

Blessed Carlo, being an incredible figure of what young holiness can look like, shows young Catholics that they too can be saints, Chancey said.

“We now have this beautiful modern example,” Chancey said. “This 21st-century boy who devoted his whole life, his whole being really to promoting the Blessed Sacrament in the Eucharist. What better figure for us, whose primary goal is the evangelization of young people, than Blessed Carlo Acutis. And that love and that devotion that he had for Jesus in the Eucharist — that’s what we’re hoping to instill in these young people.”

Upon learning of the news that Pope Francis had recognized a second miracle attributed to the intercession of Blessed Carlo Acutis, clearing the way for him to be formally recognized as a saint, Camp Carlo’s new director Kara Milinovich was overwhelmed with excitement.

“Having a young person so passionate for their faith and our Eucharistic Lord is wonderful but having them canonized so close to their death is incredible!” she said. “What an example for each of us.”

Kara co-directs the camp with her husband, Steve. The ministry of the camp, she said, reflects the life of Blessed Carlo and his love of the Most Blessed Sacrament in many ways.

“At Camp Carlo, we are blessed with busy priests from the diocese coming to (celebrate) daily Mass, hear confessions, and offer adoration and benediction this summer,” she said. “Camp Carlo has the Eucharist at the center of camp life. As Catholics we are blessed with Jesus truly present — body, blood, soul, and divinity. And at camp we celebrate and embrace this. Blessed Carlo made Mass and adoration the key part of his day and, at camp, we do too.”

The camp is open to high school students and children in grades three to 12. Campers are led by 14 young adults who serve as camp counselors. According to the camp website, all staff members are required to comply with the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston’s Safe Environment protocol. The Safe Environment protocol entails a background check, acknowledgement of the diocese’s policy relating to abuse, and completion of awareness training. They also receive a code of conduct for working with and supervising children and are educated regarding the state of West Virginia’s 24-hour reporting requirement.

As the camp looks to have a successful summer, Chancey is looking to add a permanent tribute to the camp’s namesake. He is currently in talks with a Catholic artist who has provided a rendering of a Blessed Carlo statue, “hopefully soon to be St. Carlo Acutis statue,” he said.

As for a possible location, Chancey envisions the statue to stand at the center of the camp’s small courtyard, saying, “That really is the heart of the camp.”

It’s the perfect place to honor a boy who loved Christ so much and was so drawn to the Most Blessed Sacrament and Christ’s real presence in the Eucharist.

Colleen Rowan is executive editor of The Catholic Spirit, newspaper of the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston.

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