From Traveling Summer Camp to Missionary Movement with National Impact
A Story of God’s Providence
The Beginning: Catholic Youth Summer Camp
In 2001 a group of parents and parishioners in Columbus, OH realized that their kids needed an experience of the Catholic faith that was dynamic, adventurous, and joy-filled. That summer they put together a week-long event for about 60 middle schoolers, aptly named “Catholic Youth Summer Camp”.
Over the next several years a consistent leadership team began to form and invest greater planning and prayer into the program, entrusting it to the protection of the Blessed Virgin. In 2006, CYSC was incorporated as a 501(c)3 not-for-profit corporation with the permission of Bishop Frederick Campbell.
CYSC continued to grow, and by 2015 there were over 1000 campers spanning 8 weeks– a level of participation that was close to exceeding the capacity of every rentable campsite across the state of Ohio. It was evident that the camp needed a permanent site in order to meet the demand.
Under the leadership and generosity of a visionary team of benefactors, CYSC was blessed with a stunning 471-acre property in Centerburg, OH which could fulfill that dream of a permanent home. But while we dreamed big, God dreamed bigger!
Through deeper discernment, it became clear that God was inviting us to be more than a summer camp. He was seeking missionaries who would cooperate with Him to reverse the trends and re-write the story of the Church in America toward a renewed hope and life in Him.
Damascus was founded as a response to that call, and the first Catholic Mission Campus was constructed to serve as a home base from which a community of full-time missionaries could serve the region year-round through retreats and outreach. It was named for the city where our patron, St. Paul, encountered the living God and began his life as a missionary for the Gospel.
Over the next five years and several phases of construction, the campus expanded to welcome over 4500 campers each summer. Meanwhile, the community of full-time missionaries grew from 4 to 90, serving an additional 6000 kids annually from local parishes and schools, and hosting retreats for adults who hungered for the same encounter with God.
Despite every effort, however, the growth of the waitlists continued to outpace the growth of the campus. Once again, we needed to do something to keep up.
In 2020, a team of missionaries began traveling to dioceses across the country, bringing the experience of high-adventure retreats with them. The following year, a small team of missionaries moved to the Twin Cities to found the Northwoods Mission Hub, running a second Catholic Youth Summer Camp and serving the Minnesota-Wisconsin region year-round. 2023 saw the launch of the third CYSC location in Brighton, MI, with more camps and mission hubs on the horizon in years to come.
Meanwhile, the same missionary impulse has spurred additional forays into creative ways to share the Gospel through digital media, increasing national impact through Damascus Worship and the Beyond Damascus Podcast.
Today, we know the story is still being written. It's a story of great hope, made possible only by the many generous people who have believed in the mission and contributed to its success. We give glory to God for all that He has accomplished through us, and we continue to seek the unfolding of His plan for the revival of the Catholic Church in America.