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Civita Youth Camp molds future leaders in Jakarta

Character-building camp started by Jesuit priests for young Catholics marks 45th anniversary

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Civita Youth Camp molds future leaders in Jakarta

Jesuit Father Odemus Bei Witono, director of Civita Youth Camp in Jakarta, peruses one of several books he likes to use for reference during his formation sessions. (Photo by Katharina R. Lestari/ucanews.com)

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Nicolaus Bintang Ardana, 17, has for years been participating in formation sessions run by Civita Youth Camp, a retreat for young people that aims to mold future leaders with Catholic beliefs.

It is managed by the Jakarta Archdiocese.

"I first joined when I was still an elementary school student. I was just a kid at that time, and all I knew was that I went there to have some fun," Ardana said.

Recently, he joined a group of 28 students from Kolese Gonzaga Senior High School in South Jakarta in a four-day formation session at the camp located in South Tangerang, Banten province.

Like the other participants, he took part in various programs including Solo Night, during which he was given 90 minutes to reflect on himself in the darkness of the night, armed only with a lit candle.

"I reflected on one question: ‘Who I want to be.' I had often told my teachers, when they asked me the same question at school, that I just wanted to be myself. But here I found an answer," he said.

In his reflection, he saw himself as Yudistira, a character from the epic Mahabharata performed in the Javanese leather shadow puppet theater.

"The character represents myself. Yudistira is the eldest of five brothers and hungers for knowledge, which he uses for the common good. Perhaps this character is too good for me, but I believe it will lead me to a good future where I'm able to guide people," the teenager added.

The third grader plans to study managerial economics after graduating from senior high school, hoping that he'll be able to set up a company of his own and offer job opportunities to many others. 

Nicolaus Bintang Ardana (middle) engages in conversation with his schoolmates during a snack break in this January 2019 photo. Ardana was among a group of 28 students from Kolese Gonzaga Senior High School in South Jakarta who joined a four-day formation session run by Civita Youth Camp, a formation center for young Catholics in Jakarta Archdiocese. (Photo by Katharina R. Lestari/ucanews.com)


"Civita Youth Camp is very important for young people like me. If we want to change other people, we need to change ourselves first," he said.

Ardana's schoolmate, Danielle Tracie Ariella Primadi, also found the formation center beneficial.

"The materials given by the formators, the priest and nuns, broaden my horizons. Now I realize there are more passive people than active ones," she said.

"Here, I'm being molded into a leader. I'm taught to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world," the 17-year-old said.

Ardana and Primadi are among more than 30,000 young Catholics — elementary school, junior high school and senior high school students, as well as university students — who have joined sessions at the camp over the last six years, under the direction of Jesuit Father Odemus Bei Witono.

Water of life  

The Civita Youth Camp was founded in 1974 by Jesuit Father Siegfried Zahnweh, Sister Carolie from the Congregation of Carolus Borromeus Sisters, and Catholic university student Bernadette Setiadi.

It marked its 45th anniversary on Jan. 15.

The founders formerly served at the archdiocese's Secretariat for Young Catholics.

"It all started when then-Archbishop Leo Soekoto of Jakarta was concerned about the absence of a formation center where young Catholics in his archdiocesan area could be taught ways to build character," the camp's director Father Witono said.

The word Civita comes from the Sundanese word "ci," which means water, and the Latin word "vita," which means life. 

A banner welcomes visitors at the Civita Youth Camp complex in the Indonesian capital. (Photo by Katharina R. Lestari/ucanews.com)


"Just like its name, we hope all of our alumni can give something meaningful to society and promote cultures of peace and anti-violence. We hope they can become agents of change," the priest said, adding that more than 5,000 young Catholics join the formation sessions each year.

With its vision of providing spiritual service based on love and compassion, and its mission of helping young people to understand themselves and their roles in the society, the camp, which is built on a 2.5-hectare plot of land, offers different themes for young people, such as Orientation of Life, Who Am I, I Am Free Man, and I Am Someone Who Is Loved.

Father Witono, assisted by three Carolus Borromeus nuns, leads the formation sessions, which last for nearly 15 hours a day.

"The important reflection of this camp's 45th anniversary is that this formation center can continue to mold youth into people of good character, who are needed by the nation and the Church," he said.

A full Christian life

For Archbishop Ignatius Suharyo Hardjoatmodjo of Jakarta, the camp is a place where young Catholics can learn about the fullness of a Christian life.

"Thus it is evident to everyone, that all the faithful of Christ of whatever rank or status, are called to the fullness of Christian life and to the perfection of charity; by this holiness as such a more human manner of living is promoted in this earthly society," he said, quoting Pope St. Paul VI's Dogmatic Constitution on the Church: Lumen Gentium.

Thanking the founders, he hoped that the camp would continue to serve as a blessing for young Indonesian Catholics.

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