Name: Steven Lovett
Hometown: Allen, Texas
Major: Philosophy and letters
Classification: Second year seminarian of the diocese of Dallas
MM: Do seminarians get to take the summer off?
SL: Every summer, we do a summer assignment. We, as seminarians of the diocese of Dallas, are assigned some sort of ministerial opportunity to work for eight weeks or so, so we’ll either be working in a parish [or] working at a summer camp … Some of our older seminarians will go to the institute of priestly formation or do clinical pastoral education. Just different assignments, depending on where we are in formation.
MM: What was your summer assignment?
SL: This summer, I was a counselor at The Pines Catholic Camp out in Big Sandy, Texas. It’s about two hours away from [the University of Dallas]. I had the opportunity to minister to several hundred campers this summer over an eight week period for myself, and I got the opportunity to work with about 150 staff out there, working very closely with all of them in different aspects.
MM: What about the summer was the most memorable for you?
SL: Two things that really stuck out:
Over staff training, getting to know and really get close with the male staff there. We just had a very strong community. Even still, after camp, I know for a fact that I can reach out to them if I were to need anything at all, whether it be prayerful support or advice, anything like that. That was just an incredible feeling. Coming into camp not knowing anybody, this being my first time at the camp, and there are plenty of staff who have been there since they were campers, so it was cool to have that time to grow close with them and to know that I was completely welcome there.
The third week of camp, I was working with incoming ninth graders, and it was just a beautiful opportunity working with them. They were very open, very excited to learn about the faith. I had one camper who had already been there for a week, and he had been through a lot of struggles in his life, and was just not very close to his faith at all, and I remember one night after adoration, we were talking with our cabin, and there were twelve of us in the cabin including myself and my co-counselor, and we were just talking about everyone’s experience in adoration for that week. He started talking, and told us that the week before, he didn’t have a very meaningful time in adoration, but this week, there was something more going on with him, so much so that he found himself moving closer to the monstrance, the blessed sacrament, and I can remember just looking at him after adoration, and the tears of peace were running down his face. And just knowing and seeing God truly working through his life now, but also seeing how God working through me and my co-counselor to impact this young man’s life. It was just a beautiful experience.
MM: Aren’t you as a counselor just taking the kids hiking and things like that? How are you leaving a meaningful impact on their lives?
SL: We do a lot of different activities, but the one thing that’s the most special about The Pines is that we are with the kids all of the time. Maybe not myself as a counselor will be with them all of the time, but we as a staff never leave them unattended, and it’s not in the sense of babysitting them, but we are constantly present with them. We aren’t allowed to have our phones on us. When we are with the campers, we’re completely, wholeheartedly, mentally present with them.
There are a lot of kids that come from broken backgrounds, broken families, and that’s where they find their love and happiness: when they have that week with a counselor that shows them that they’re important, shows them that they’re loved, and that’s why we do what we do. Not just show them that we as counselors love them, but to reflect the love that Christ has for us to them.
MM: Are you happy that this was your summer assignment or do you feel that you could have done better somewhere else?
SL: No, this was actually what I wanted to do. Last August, I heard that a few other guys had been assigned there last summer, and with my camping experience as I’ve been camping since I was three, I just fell in love with the idea of going out to The Pines and bringing my past camping experience, my love for the outdoors, into this new environment, where I could also bring my love for the faith and God, and from the very minute that I was told about this assignment, I was just super excited. Even with all of the struggles and hard work this summer, constantly being in that ministerial setting, working with kids of different ages, I still look back and see it as being one of the best summers of my life, if not the best.
MM: Do you feel like the kids were the only ones who got something out of the summer besides fun, or do you feel as though you’ve grown as well?
SL: In different ways, going into camp, it really brought me to a point where I learned how to better trust in God in different situations. Because out there we find different situations that we wouldn’t find here at school or at home, where these kids are having such problems where potentially CPS would need to get involved, or maybe they’re just not happy with how things are going, or maybe they actually have a problem they don’t know how to work through.
We need to be there for them, but not us as individuals. It’s not Steven Lovett that needs to be there in that moment, but I need to be open to the Holy Spirit working through me in that. So it really helped me to learn when I need to get out of the way and really let God work through me, and I really can’t thank Him enough for giving me that opportunity this summer.
MM: Earlier, you mentioned having struggles during the summer. What helped you overcome those?
SL: Proverbs 22:6: “Train up the young in the way they should go, and when they are old, they will not stray from it.” That was the Bible verse that truly got me through the summer, just remembering that no matter what we do in our lives right now, to ourselves, we are always going to be rooted in whatever experiences we had as kids. Any kids that we interact with, we are laying down a foundation for them, so we just need to remember that we need to set a strong, holy foundation for them so they can fall back on that when they’re older.