The Club

Article excerpt

For a few years during college, I worked at a summer camp on a campus outside Boston. It was a wonderful experience, but an intensive one, in part because I didn't have a car.

If I wanted to get away on my day off, my options were largely limited to lying in an un-air-conditioned dorm room and listening to my tiny desk fan do what it could to dispel a humid Massachusetts summer.

Sundays, though, were different. Early on, someone in the camp leadership had sidled up to me and said they'd heard I was Catholic. I nodded slowly; there weren't many Catholics at this camp, and I wasn't sure why they were asking. So far, the only skills the job had demanded of me were returning from field trips with precisely as many middle-schoolers as I'd left with, and making sure that no one had gotten too terribly sunburned in the interim. I'd had a 100-percent success rate with the former and was running about 50/50 with the latter. That was apparently enough to qualify me for the next request.

"There's a student," I was told quietly, "who wants to go to a Mass."

At first I worried that they wanted me to say the Mass, but no, the matter had been looked into, and a Catholic church had been identified nearby. If I were willing to chaperone, they'd give me the keys to one of the camp vehicles. Deal.

I had one condition, though--I wanted to make a general announcement every Saturday that anyone who wanted to was welcome to join us the following morning (early the following morning, to accommodate the camp's highly regimented schedule). The camp directors agreed, though skeptically. This one student was interested in Mass because her parents had called and said it was obligatory. What other camper would go willingly--especially at dawn on a Sunday?

Very few, it turned out. After a startling introduction the day before as the moderator of the "Catholic Club" (the what?), I made my announcement, got two takers, and was given the keys to the car--a massive, ancient Chevy station wagon, with a school bus placard haphazardly affixed to its roof. A switch beneath the dash controlled the requisite "stop lights," which a camper riding with me switched on and off delightedly, causing surrounding traffic to screech to an infuriated halt. …