Summer camps JAR: an experience that transforms lives

For more than 25 years, the Augustinian Recollect Province of Saint Thomas of Villanova in the area of ​​Spain different organizes activities during the summer months. Experiences such as the Camino de Santiago, weeks in Taizé, World Youth Days, national and international meetings with other JAR young people put the finishing touch to the pastoral course in schools and parishes. But, without a doubt, the star activity is that of the summer camps distributed by age according to the JAR catechumenal itinerary: Tagaste camp (from 9 to 11 years), Carthage camp (12 and 13 years) and camp Milan (14 to 17 years old) ).

In recent years, the Sierra de Baza (Granada), the Agustiniano College (Guadalajara) and the Saint Augustine Hostel (Fuentelencina, also in Guadalajara) have been the places where more than 300 children and adolescents, together with about 90 monitors, Have shared 10 intense days around the Gospel and the Augustinian values.

The great architects of these camps are young JARs from different communities and pre-communities who develop their apostolate as monitors. All this implies, also, months of preparation and days of intense work during the camps, since the pace in these activities always turns frenetic.

The JAR have as their purpose, through friendship and fun activities, to form as individuals and as Christians, the Augustinian Recollect lifestyle. The camps are an unequaled setting where to meet wonderful people, with a restless heart who, like you, want to have fun and grow as people. More than 6000 participants from all over Spain have already enjoyed this experience for more than 25 years.

Depending on the ages and the time of the JAR itinerary in which the participants are located, the camps are structured in one way or another and insist on some elements or others. Each year a common thematic line is proposed (usually coincides with that followed during the school and pastoral course) and adapts to the different circumstances.

Camp Tagaste is the starting point. The younger ones come to him, for whom experience often means the first time they spend so much time away from home. It is a first opportunity to approach, in an intense way, the community, the prayer and the friendship from the Augustinian values. He takes great care of the thread of the camp that, in recent years, has been based on the tribes of the People of Israel, superheroes, the Disney world, the Augustinian saints, etc.

Camp Carthage is the activity for the middle ages (12 and 13 years). It is an activity that insists a lot on moments of reflection and goes deeper into prayer. For two days they make a march to a nearby hermitage, being, for many of them, a first experience of pilgrimage.

Finally, Camp Milan is conceived, to a large extent, as an experience of pilgrimage. It is, therefore, known as ‘traveling camp’. Every year a route is chosen (in the last years by the mountain range of Madrid Guadalajara) in which the participants must face the precariousness of what is a pilgrimage. It supposes a daily improvement that, in the end, becomes an unforgettable experience. In this activity, in the middle of the pilgrimage, the main moments are those dedicated to reflections and prayers.

In each of the camps there is at least one religious Augustinian Recollect as an adviser. Their work is very important as animators, companions and guides, both monitors and participants.

Many of the monitors who collaborated in these camps were participants years ago. For them, this experience supposes giving others what they themselves received when they were younger. All of them, in addition, are part of JAR communities and precommunities of different Spanish cities and, for them, supposes the opportunity to bring the wealth of the Augustinian spirituality to the smallest.

In this interview, some of these monitors tell us what this activity is supposed to do for them, what distinguishes them. These camps of others, which are the themes that usually arise most in the moments of reflection and, finally, send a greeting to all the young people who, like them, share the Augustinian Recollect spirituality in other parts of the world.