Off to Camp St. Joseph

1960s Advertisement

1960s Advertisement from The Catholic News

June marks the end of the school year and the beginning of summertime fun! Over the years, the Archdiocese of New York has overseen various summer camps. One such camp was situated on the shores of Lake St. Dominic in Sullivan County. Camp St. Joseph opened for the summer on July 1, 1926 for boys and the girls’ camp opened on June 27, 1929. The camp was located on the property of the sisters of St. Dominic in Forestburgh, NY. The idea for a boys’ camp, and later a girls’ camp, was presented by Cardinal Patrick Hayes to the superior Mother Polycarpa, and Msgr. Vincent Arcese, the chaplain at St. Joseph’s. The lakeside location provided the perfect space for a recreational summer camp for children.

Ground was broken for the Boys’ Camp on November 2, 1925. Upon its completion, twenty-eight lodges were erected for sleeping along with a mess hall that could feed two hundred people. When the camp opened in 1926, Msgr. Arcese was appointed Spiritual Director with Major William Howard as Camp Director and Rev. Thomas Bronnack as Chaplain. With the structure of the Boys’ Camp in place, it was easy to add on the Girls’ Camp in 1929. Additional lodges, tennis courts, and recreational halls were added over the years at both camps. Mother M. Bernadette de Lourdes served as the Girls’ Camp first Spiritual Director, and Miss Anne L. Daly was the first Camp Director.

Aerial Photo of the Boys' Camp

Aerial Photo of the Boys’ Camp

The camps focused on the development of both the body and spirit. This was achieved through the various daily and nightly events and activities. Swimming, boating, archery, horseback riding, and baseball were among the many outdoor activities offered at the camp.  Arts and crafts, dancing, and singing were also options, particularly at the Girls’ Camp. Mass was offered daily in the Chapel to Our Lady of Wayside, which was dedicated by Cardinal Hayes on May 30, 1927. The children had the opportunity to participate in various parts of the Mass. Cardinal Hayes was no stranger to the camps as he visited numerous times throughout his tenure as Archbishop of New York. He presided over dedications of new buildings, and even brought Governor Al Smith for a visit in August 1927.

Arts and Crafts time at the Girls' Camp

Arts and Crafts time at the Girls’ Camp

The camp continued to grow even during the the hard times of the Great Depression and the Second World War. Eventually, the property was sold and the camp was closed in the 1970s. Though the camp may no longer be open today, its history lives on in the Archives of the Sisters of St. Dominic of Amityville on Long Island.

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