The spiritual leader of the Archdiocese of Portland appreciates CYO sports and Camp Howard because they offer youths a subtle but powerful formation in virtue.

“Sports the way CYO does them and camp instill values in kind of a sneaky way,” Archbishop Alexander Sample said during an interview at the camp in the foothills of Mount Hood. “The kids don’t know they are being formed in leadership, teamwork and respect for one another.”

The archbishop feels joy when he sees “that strong faith dimension just seamlessly woven into all the activities.”

“Virtues are so important in the world today,” he said, aware that the child athletes and campers will be leaders in tomorrow’s church and society.

“What I have come to love most is the opportunity it provides for our young people in a Catholic environment,” the archbishop said.

An outdoorsman who loves Oregon’s natural beauty, he’s grateful that Camp Howard allows children a chance to get away from everyday life in a bustling and sometimes chaotic city.

“They can spend time in God’s creation but also spend time with each other and form friendships that may last a lifetime,” he said, adding that because of the pandemic, peer relationships are even more vital.

The archbishop appreciates that CYO staff, athletic directors, coaches, camp counselors, parents and children have become like a family. And he gets a feeling of solid ground when he meets parents who also went to Camp Howard decades ago.

“This camp is a jewel of the Catholic Church here in western Oregon,” the archbishop said. “I consider it one of the greatest blessings God has given us. We need to preserve it though. It’s not going to continue just on its own.”

He knows of no other organization in the U.S. church that achieves what CYO/Camp Howard achieves.

“The programs of CYO and this incredible camp can only do what they do because of the generosity of donors, people who believe in the mission,” Archbishop Sample said. “We need it to go forward.” He made it clear: He wants CYO/Camp Howard to serve many generations to come.