A funny thing happened when a group of Knights were clearing vegetation at a Catholic summer camp in Florida prior to the Covid-19 pandemic: they discovered a long-forgotten stone grotto and pond with a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Then, like good Knights, they decided to restore the 60-year-old grotto to its original grandeur.
Based in Lecanto, 80 miles north of Tampa, St. Scholastica Council 14485 has enjoyed a long-term relationship with Our Lady of Good Counsel Camp in nearby Floral City. In fact, Fr. James Johnson, pastor of St. Scholastica Parish, is presently the executive director of the 73-year-old camp, which is sponsored by the Diocese of St. Petersburg. So it was natural that when the grounds needed some sprucing up and physical improvements, the Knights were called to action.
“Father Johnson came to the council and requested that we build a walk to the Chapel to make it easier for disabled children to attend Mass,” explained Les McGlothlin, the council’s public relations representative. “While there, our Knights found a clump of rocks covered with vegetation. Upon closer inspection, we found a grotto and pond, which had been covered with vegetation for decades.”
About a dozen Knights spent some 75 man-hours across three days on the project. The coral rocks were pressure washed and bleached to bring them back to their original white color. The statue of Mary was repaired and painted. A stone path leading up to the Marian statue was built using bricks from a former mess hall that had burned down. Finally, weed killer was sprayed to retard the regrowth of the vegetation.
“The council wanted to complete this project to preserve an important part of history of the camp and of Citrus County,” McGlothlin said.
Founded in 1947 by Msgr. George W. Cummings, Our Lady of Good Counsel aims to provide campers with “a greater knowledge and appreciation of nature and its Creator.” It serves hundreds of boys and girls ages 7 through 15, Catholic and non-Catholic, with scheduled activities that run from mid-June to early August each summer. In addition to a wide range of sporting and recreational activities, campers participate in daily Mass and prayer as an integral part of the camping experience.
Council 14485 assists Our Lady of Good Counsel Camp each year in recruiting campers with an open house for students and families of St. John Paul II School in Lecanto. As the families tour the facilities and experience some of the camp’s activities, the Knights help park cars, lead group activities and prepare a lunch for upwards of 200 guests.
At another of the camp’s facilities, the Tomahawk Lodge on the Rainbow River in Dunnellon, council members have performed maintenance and repairs including clear brush and fallen tree limbs after storms, pressure-washing buildings, resurfacing patios, and replacing broken dining-room chairs with benches.
The camp has also benefitted from council fundraising efforts. “In the past, we have donated a portion of our collections from our Disabled Citizens Campaign to assist disabled children to attend summer camp,” McGlothlin pointed out. And last month, Knights raised $3,360 to send several children to camp from Don Bosco’s Children’s Home in Inverness. They also held a raffle last fall that raised $4,500 to assist in refurbishing 12 cabins and have made other donations to the camp’s general operation funds.
The Marian statue at the grotto wasn’t the only religious image to get a makeover from the Knights. Recently they refurbished and repainted four other large religious statues on the grounds. “We returned them in their original glory,” McGlothlin said.
St. Scholastica Council stands ready to respond the next time the camp calls upon them for assistance, he added.
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