Twin brothers Josh and Jake Russell, both juniors, are used to helping others. Their mother, Sonja Russell, teaches religion at Our Lady of Perpetual Help school and often takes them along to help with the school’s service projects. So they eagerly signed up to work as counselors at Gasper River Catholic Youth Camp in Bowling Green, Ky., after having attended the camp for several years. Their sister, senior Liberty Russell, was a counselor last summer.
“It seemed like the next step,” Jake said.
They began attending the weeklong summer camp several years ago after their father learned about it while on a men’s retreat at the site. They enjoyed taking part in activities such as zip-lining, rappelling, and team building, especially since they were paired with spiritual activities as well.
Being a counselor rather than a camper gave them both new insight into the camp.
“I just enjoyed being able to be a counselor,” Josh said. “After going for three or four years, it was a different experience to counsel. I was able to put my attention on other people and help them experience it.”
Jake said the counselors play an important role in making the summer camp experience even better, and he was grateful for that opportunity.
“Getting to be the person that inspired them and lead them on their journey – that’s one of the reasons I enjoyed it so much,” Jake said.
Even though they were both counselors, the brothers said they didn’t have much time together. During their training, they were taught not to spend time with other counselors but to focus on the participants. Still, they enjoyed being there at the same time.
They plan to attend the annual Christmas Camp between Christmas and New Year’s Day, which they have enjoyed in the past. They said they like the contrast to the summer camp, which is primarily outdoors with a full scheduled of planned activities. Some activities are outdoors, but this time they are bundled up instead of in shorts and T-shirts. The Christmas Camp also allows teens to choose from a variety of activities.
Josh said his favorite part is going to Mass on New Year’s Eve at 11 p.m., which allows them to literally start the new year in church.
Gasper River has become a favorite spot for the brothers, and they hope to be able to be counselors again.
“There’s just something about it,” Josh said. “The Holy Spirit really moves in that place. There’s no traffic noise, so you can really connect with nature and the people around you.”
“It’s a combination of a really good Catholic environment with a lot of people who care about their faith in their daily lives,” Jake said. “It takes people like that to make it the way it is.”
The rest of the year, Jake and Josh help out in different ways. Jake is a member of the Student Ambassador Leadership Team (SALT) through the Deanery’s Catalyst Catholic organization. He said he enjoys helping the team help plan middle school activities in the Deanery.
Josh helps his dad with Men’s Group activities at OLPH and hopes to help coach soccer at the school in the spring. He also attended One Bread One Cup, a liturgical ministers camp at St. Meinrad over the summer, which led him to be invited to lead morning prayer at NCYC in Indianapolis next month.
Josh said he enjoyed learning the origins of today’s liturgical music and “how it evolved from the Gregorian chant,” while at One Bread One Cup. “I learned the intricacies in the style of chant and just how difficult it can be.”
He has learned more and met more people in practicing for the leading the prayer at NCYC, which he considers an unexpected honor, he said.
“I met so many awesome people through training and practicing with them,” Josh said. “We had so much fun at St. Meinrad. I think that it’ll be so much fun to lead on the big stage. I’m looking toward being a part of something I used to sit in the stands for. I look forward to encouraging my friends all along the way and just having fun doing it.”
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