Camp Kittimaquundi, a weeklong summer camp for girls in Maryland, USA, celebrates two decades of carrying out the St. Raphael Work
By: Helen Collins and Sophia Martinson
For many adults, some of the best memories from childhood summers were formed at our favorite sleepaway camps. The scenic views, the outdoor adventures, the campfire songs — all of it left an imprint on our lives.
For both of us authors, this was certainly the case with Camp Kittimaquundi, a weeklong summer camp for girls. Between the two of us, we have a total of 18 years of camper, counselor, staff, and board of directors experience at this camp, and we have loved every minute of it.
But more than the fun activities we enjoyed there, what we love most about Camp Kitti is that it offers something much more profound: personal formation in being a better friend, daughter, and apostle.
Guided by the teachings of the Catholic Church and the spirit of Opus Dei, Camp Kitti is one of many apostolic activities that helps young people get to know their faith on a deeper level, so that they can find God in their daily life long after leaving the campsite.
St. Josemaría had a special place in his heart for the apostolate of young people, which he dedicated to St. Raphael. He would often encourage members of the Work to treat this particular apostolate as “the apple of our eye,” since it always has particular importance in the Church’s mission to evangelize all peoples. For decades, summer camps inspired by his message have been helping young people around the world build a deep, personal friendship with Christ.
When we learned that 2020 marked Camp Kittimaquundi’s 20th anniversary, we were eager to learn more about the history of this program that has helped us and hundreds of other young women for two decades.
“Jumping into the Water”
To begin our search, we spoke with Jean Beatty, a supernumerary from Virginia and one of the founders of Camp Kittimaquundi.
Twenty years ago, Jean was one of four women — three supernumeraries and one numerary — who decided it was time to have an overnight Opus Dei camp in the Washington D.C. area.
As president of Camp Kitti’s board of directors for 14 years, Jean has lived through the extensive work and challenges that have been part of its development, especially at the beginning.
The camp held its inaugural year in Columbia, Maryland with 84 campers. “It was an adventure,” Jean recalled, as she and the other founders divided managerial tasks, promoted the camp among mothers and girls clubs, and sought volunteers to help cook or sew. And when the time came, she said, they just “jumped into the water.”
The biggest challenge to getting the camp up and running, she said, was that “it was almost impossible getting counselors!” Convincing high school girls to volunteer a week of their summers at a new camp proved difficult.
Nevertheless, the founders consistently prayed to St. Josemaría and Mary Kittimaquund, a Native American girl who converted to Catholicism in 1639 and is the camp’s namesake. According to Jean, they never failed to ensure a successful summer of Camp Kitti.
“Still the Same Camp”
Since that first year, Camp Kitti has grown into a thriving week of summer fun and formation that draws dozens of girls and young women each year. Last summer, Camp Kitti had about 150 campers and 23 counselors.
After renting several different campsites from summer to summer, the Board finally found an ideal location in West River, Maryland, which has been Camp Kitti’s home for 10 years. There, campers get to enjoy a full spectrum of outdoor activities, from rock climbing and field sports to canoeing and swimming.
But to Angela Fortunato, a numerary who serves as Camp Kitti’s current director, the best part of the new site is the ability to reserve the Blessed Sacrament in a makeshift chapel space, where campers, counselors, and staff can pray and attend meditations throughout the week.
In the midst of all these developments over the last 20 years, there are some things about camp that have never changed. Regardless of Camp Kitti’s size or location, Mass, Confession, and one-on-one mentoring have made up its backbone. “Fundamentally, it is the same camp,” said Jean. “What has stayed the same is the spirit of the camp.”
And at the heart of it all, the apostolic mission drives everything. “The mission of the camp mirrors the overall mission of apostolic programs that Opus Dei runs for young people around the world,” said Angela. “That is, to help as many young people as possible to develop and deepen in their personal friendship with Jesus Christ.”
Carrying out that mission faithfully requires not only a lot of work but also a lot of prayer. “I rely very much on the working of the Holy Spirit,” Angela added, “just as I suggest that the counselors do in their role modeling for their campers.”
Over the years, that work and prayer has borne fruit in the lives of many girls. Many who have enjoyed camp over the years — ourselves included! — can attest to first learning habits of prayer like the Angelus or the Rosary at Camp Kitti. And after learning the “Camp Code,” a set of ten rules that include “Have a continuous spirit of service” and “Play to win, but learn to lose,” many keep those principles with them long after camp and even fold it into their family life at home.
Counselors often benefit in a particular way from the weeklong immersion in formation and friendship. According to Angela, this is often because they are at a crucial point in their lives as maturing women. “A 15 to 18-year-old young woman is at that juncture of her life when her decisions of how she acts really impact who she will be for her adult life,” she said.
Brigid Kilner, a St. Raphael girl who has attended Camp Kitti five times as a camper, twice as a counselor, and several times as a staff member, agrees that it has had a tremendous impact on her life.
“As a counselor, you learn a lot about yourself and your talents through serving and loving the girls,” she said. Camp Kitti, she added, “is this really beautiful mix of structure and freedom, and it inspires me to shape my daily life to be a little more like camp.”
In contrast to its first few years, Camp Kitti now receives an abundance of counselor applications each year. So many young women, like us, want to experience that transformative week again and again.
Looking to the Future
As Camp Kitti continues into its 21st year, the board and staff continue to work and pray that it will keep serving young women of the Washington D.C. area with incredible formation, deep and fruitful friendships, and, of course, countless memories.
“I'd like Camp Kittimaquundi to go on to celebrate its 50th and 100th anniversary, even though I won't be around to see it,” said Angela.
“I hope camp continues to be a space where girls can take a moment to reset themselves, to have fun, and to lay the groundwork for a beautiful and intentional life,” added Brigid.
Like the hundreds of women who have been touched by this wonderful camp, we too wish that it will continue to set the hearts of many women on fire for Christ for decades to come.
The authors first went to Camp Kittimaquundi as campers when they were entering 4th grade, in 2005. They were both counselors in training and then counselors and now serve on its board of directors.