Founding a Catholic Youth & Family Camp in the Rocky Mountains

My wife, Amberly, and I were married in July, 2005 and one month later boarded a plane to Austria so I could begin my graduate theological studies at the ITI. It was a dream come true to begin our marriage in the splendor of the Austrian Alps. We landed in Vienna and somehow managed to stuff all our excessive baggage and bikes in and on top of our small rental car and made our way up the winding roads which led to Gaming, the home of the ITI in those days. It was the start of a great adventure and a very special two years as I studied towards a MTS degree which was completed in 2007.

A few years prior to arriving in Austria, I had entered the Catholic Church. I had fallen in love with Catholic doctrine and the vast intellectual tradition of the Church. I had joyfully embraced the fullness of the Catholic faith, but I was still a true neophyte as it related to actual being Catholic, with zero experience of living in a Catholic community. That was the first blessing that was given to me and my wife at the ITI: the very special community that was immediately both abundant and authentic. This was apparent in many ways (shared meals, LOTS of children!, feast day celebrations, talent shows, etc), but the anchor of it all was a shared communion with Jesus himself in the Holy Eucharist and in the celebration of Mass in both the Western and Eastern Catholic traditions. The love of Jesus and His Bride the Church animated everything about this community – and that witness helped this neophyte come into his Catholicism even more.

The second blessing was the study of the Faith from the font of the primary sources and by way of the seminar method. It took me a while to adjust to the seminar method within the classroom. I had not studied this way before but I learned over time how truly valuable it is. By the end of my two years there, I had been exposed to some of the greatest theologians, saints, and doctors within the Church, and had been given the tools I needed to understand them and to better understand the dance within history between competing philosophies and theologies that have impacted the world both positively and negatively. I left the ITI with a greater personal, intellectual confidence in understanding my faith as well as the philosophies of the world in which I live, and I had a better grasp of the opportunities and threats to Christianity in the world today.

This awareness that was born during my years of study at the ITI has continued to bless my work today. I am currently the CEO and Executive Director of a Catholic Youth and Family Camp in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. Our new camp, Annunciation Heights, (and our sister property of Camp St. Malo which was visited by St. John Paul II in 1993) exists to serve the Catholic family, which is very much in crisis in the world today. Our programs are designed to reconnect parents to their children and children to their parents and to facilitate an encounter with God’s love and grace in the splendor of his creation. We have learned that, just like in the Austrian Alps, the human soul and family is lifted to greater spiritual heights by walking and breathing fresh mountain air in the company of others who are pursuing the same goal. This infectious faith draws others who are perhaps seeking God for the first time. Much of what we hope to provide here at 9000 feet above sea level is similar to what we experienced and learned in the community and classrooms of the ITI.  

I continue to treasure the ITI and will pray for God’s blessing upon it for generations to come.