Sr. Krista von Borstel, executive director of CYO/Camp Howard, speaks to supporters during the Aug. 11 dedication of a new lodge at the camp in the Mount Hood foothills. “It is truly a dream come true to achieve this building,” she said.
Sr. Krista von Borstel, executive director of CYO/Camp Howard, speaks to supporters during the Aug. 11 dedication of a new lodge at the camp in the Mount Hood foothills. “It is truly a dream come true to achieve this building,” she said.

Treasure Stoffel, a former special needs camper at Camp Howard, stood high on the deck of a new lodge gazing across the forest.

“We are happy that the new dining hall is open for business,” Stoffel said. “I hope and pray that the Lord will bring campers and happenings here and do a lot of stuff.”

The simple but stately lodge includes fireplaces, a patio, decks and a large modern kitchen. It’s built to last a century, hosting boisterous meals, hilarious skits and solemn ceremonies — the “stuff” of Camp Howard life that Stoffel and other fans cherish.

Called Mary’s Lodge, the $4.1 million, 7,580-square-foot structure replaces a 1950s dining hall that was on its “last leg,” said Sister Krista von Borstel, executive director of CYO/Camp Howard.

It took three years to raise the funds, draw up plans and finish construction.

“It is truly a dream come true to achieve this building before the old one was condemned,” Sister Krista told a crowd of supporters Aug. 11 during a blessing of the lodge. 

Father Dave Gutmann, pastor of Holy Trinity Parish in Beaverton, did the blessing. His parish donated about $70,000 for the dining hall.

“We know how you are being honored by how Camp Howard uses this property,” said Father Gutmann, his eyes closed and his arms spread wide. “We pray that this new building will be an enhancing way for them to reach out to our young people. We pray for all the lives that will be changed here — that they find a place of security, of trust, of greater confidence, that they may learn to honor you in their lives as well.” 

Sister Angeline Sohler, a Sister of St. Mary of Oregon since 1943 who has served at the camp, came for the lodge blessing. The new building will allow for more unity among campers, rain or shine, Sister Angeline said. “Kids can all eat together in one place, they can have get-togethers here, singalongs. It’s very useful.”

Before, campers were divided up and ate in two different buildings, creating more work for everyone, explained Simone Helfrich, a former camper and counselor who attended St. Pius X School and Jesuit High.

“One of the benefits is that now the campers don’t need to sit with just their cabins; they can sit with the entire unit,” said Kelly Gentry, a counselor and graduate of St. Cecilia School and Jesuit High School. The new setup will help create more friendships, Gentry said.

Henry Fitzgibbon, an architect with Portland-based Soderstrom, designed the structure, which sits on a rise that overlooks the Bull Run Canyon. Clean roof lines cover a massive indoor room ringed by the deck and 900-square-foot patio with its own fireplace.

An expansive realistic mural of bears, cougars and other forest creatures covers interior walls. It is the work of Vancouver, Washington, artist Wayne Chin.

“What is there not to like about this building?” asked Scott Kneefel, a member of the CYO/Camp Howard staff. “When I see this lodge, Mary’s Lodge, I think about the decades to come.”

“There is probably more concrete in this building than the whole rest of the camp combined,” said Dan Pettit of Todd Construction, which built the lodge. Pettit said the building would survive a strong earthquake. 

“A facility like this is absolutely necessary,” said Steve Mussio, a member of The Madeleine Parish who backed the project. “It is money well spent.”

Joshua and Shauna Danielson brought their 3-year-old son Spencer to last month’s blessing. Joshua has been coming to Camp Howard since age 5, and he and Shauna had their wedding guests stay in the camp’s cabins during their three-day celebration five years ago. The Danielsons predict more people now will want to hold events at Camp Howard.

“The possibilities for this particular dining hall for events is huge,” Shauna said. 

Even before the building was done, donors came forward with grants for a welcome center and new chapel.

“I took that as a sign that God wants me to keep going,” said Sister Krista, who has run CYO/Camp Howard for 22 years. “So look out.”

She thanked the group — including donors, staff, former counselors and many from her Sisters of St. Mary of Oregon religious community — for being “passionate” about Camp Howard.