Shortly after I arrived in the Diocese of Helena, I was approached by the agents of a wealthy businessman. They wanted to purchase Legendary Lodge.
As a cash-strapped Bishop, facing serious financial challenges, I decided to hear them out. As the representatives described their plans for Legendary Lodge, images of our children and teenage campers traversed across my mind.
I envisioned the group of fifth-grade boys with fishing poles across their shoulders headed down to the lake in search of the “big one.”
The voices of our teenagers singing the Holy Holy Holy resounded in my mind. I recalled the little guy whose mom had given him a disposable camera to capture the week in photos, who had already taken 20 pictures of a water snake on the first day. I remembered the joyful enthusiasm of our young adult counselors standing on the dock to welcome a new group of campers. I thought of the generations of men and women – former campers all – whose lives were so deeply formed by the Legendary experience.
At the end of the business presentation, I said no.
Legendary Lodge is our memory maker. It is not only a place of pristine beauty that has formed generations of Catholics in our Diocese. It is also an experience that lasts a lifetime.
In the recently distributed pastoral planning vision statement Come to the Light, our Diocesan Pastoral Council stated: “We heard great energy around Catholic faith formation for children, young adults, adults, and most especially our youth. There is a desire for opportunities for our young people to encounter Christ, to become disciples, to embrace and proclaim the faith the Church professes, deepening their faith and commitment.”
The Diocesan Pastoral Council, echoing the voices of our people across the Diocese, has identified Legendary Lodge as “a valuable resource of the Diocese of Helena and, as such, should be well maintained, preserved and utilized to the fullest.” The Diocesan Pastoral Council has recommended that “the Lodge should be explored for expanded use to benefit the faith formation efforts of the Diocese of Helena and should be staffed appropriately.”
Legendary Lodge is rustic, historic and beautiful. It has grown tired around the edges and will need, in due season, an infusion of financial resources to meet the challenges articulated by the Diocesan Pastoral Council.
Its pristine beauty will undoubtedly attract potential buyers in the months and years ahead.
On my watch, it will remain in the Diocese of Helena as a place of formation and education where our children and youth encounter the life and love of Jesus Christ.
Legendary Lodge will remain a place where Catholic life is lived out joyfully, and modeled well by wholesome young adult counselors. It will remain a place of song and laughter, where our children and youth experience outdoor adventures and inner journeys. Legendary will remain our memory maker, where new friendships are forged and new generations of Catholic youth deepen their commitment to Christ and the Church.
This week a youngster, age 12, summarized in his own words what Legendary Lodge meant to him.
“It was a fun and amazing experience that I will leave with a closer relationship to God. I will always remember this time and the wonderful people who volunteered their time for us. Legendary is truly my second home.”
Published in The Montana Catholic, Vol. 23, No. 7, July 20, 2007.