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Turn to Jesus (Article)

Rite of Passage
Arcātheos boys’ camp highlights heroism in an imaginative setting.

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A view of the main gate of Arcâtheos.

September 20, 2011. There are summer camps… and then there are total immersion experiences built around a mythical narrative in which the campers are protagonists in a battle between good and evil. Arcātheos (previously Camp Rivendell) is more than a summer camp. For the boys who attend, either as officers or as ordinary campers, the camp is also a school of manhood and a rite of passage in a setting that is all about teamwork, valor, and fun.

The camp is built around a storyline in which the Kingdom of Arcātheos is under siege from the evil arch-lord Reth Maloch (the name means “evil shadow”) and his minions, the Dröch. The campers, rallied around the good Arch-Lord Valerian, defend the mighty stronghold and the freedom of all of the people of Lumenorus, as well as the fair heiress of the sister Kingdom of Captivenia, the Princess Leisaura.

Held in a remote region of the Canadian province of Alberta since 2003, this year’s camp had 43 officers (aged 13-17), 117 soldiers (aged 7-12), and about 90 dads, who serve as members of the set-up crew while also moonlighting as Dröch, the evil minions of the Arch-Lord Reth Maloch. The camp is
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One of the three division of boys lined up in front of the King’s temple (ie, chapel).
affiliated with Conquest, but is open to all Catholic boys.

Dr. Brian Doran, a Regnum Christi member who created the camp, said that although he had years of experience running backpacking camps in the mountains, he wanted to make this camp something more than wilderness survival training or a series of water balloon fights.

“I wanted to include a medieval theme and make sure it wasn’t just entertainment. There had to be a core reason to actually operate this camp. And there was no better reason than to form these boys as young men and send them off into the world as men of God,” he said.

He was inspired by the idea of a “rite of passage” mixing battle training and spiritual formation, in which boys are knighted and grow in leadership and then go out as apostles in the real world.

At first, the guiding idea was based on the realm of Lord of the Rings, but as time went by, he perfected an original story line to provide the mythical backdrop for the battles between the people of Lumenorus and the Dröch. The kingdom’s history of battles and power struggles is told on the web site under the Storyline link.

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The objective of this particular mission was to teach the boys they cannot do anything without the King’s grace. Chieftain Thorhelm had to repent of his pride, after he led the boys into a massive ambush.
in valor and skill

Throughout the course of the camp, the boys earn silver and gold coins for showing discipline, order, attentiveness at Mass, etc. With their hard-earned coins, they “buy” water balloons, foam swords, shields, and the most expensive weapon of all: squad ballista.

The squad ballista are full-sized wooden carts capable of firing water balloons a distance of 300-400 feet. The boys used these life-sized, handcrafted weapons in military drills and in battle against an army of Dröch, who were in possession of two squad ballista of their own. Seeing 12 squad ballista lined up in a row and firing in succession with military precision was a highlight for the boys.

Earning weapons was just the beginning, however. Once earned, the boys had to train with swordsmanship classes and the medieval tournament at the tournament zone with archery, swordsmanship, gladiator jousting, and the gauntlet, which is an obstacle course. The boys competed for medallions and earned points for their squad, competing for top squad and for the championship of each age group and event.

“The boys love the tournament,” said Doran, noting that the swordsmanship in particular has to be judged objectively, with three judges walking around the ring and constantly observing.
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Squad ballista, lined up and ready for battle.
The swords are made of a stiff foam so no one gets hurt (although the dads do get some welts in the battles) and there are points for hitting the torso versus the arms or legs. The boys also wear helmets with metal face guards.

Part of their training also involved special expeditions into the forest, where their missions spanned the gamut from secret reconnaissance to rescue operations to recovering a stolen scroll. Enemy Dröch were frequently lurking among the trees, with smoke grenades and pyrotechnics lending drama to the skirmishes.

In the wilderness missions, the boys got to build large fort structures as outposts to expand the king’s territory. These missions actually taught the boys real skills: how to tie proper knots, how to lash structures together, how to build fires. Later, these outposts became defensive forts that they had to defend under attack from the enemy.

One of the biggest missions this year, apart from the climactic final battle, was the rescue of Princess Leisaura from the neighboring Kingdom of Captivenia. Princess Leisaura was played by Brian Doran’s wife, Valerie, who had just finished running an all-girls sister camp two hours to the north, and whose appearance at Arcātheos was
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Launching a water balloon from the squad ballista.
intended to lend some extra drama to one of the first battles at camp. As the Princess walked through the gate, an entire legion of Dröch came swarming in, and the boys had to form a line from the main gate to the keep, which is an extensive wooden structure that has been built up over the years by the support team of camp leaders and dads.

“The morale at our medieval banquet had never been higher than that night,” recalled Doran. “The boys were clapping and pounding their tables and dancing…”

Teamwork behind the scenes

Spiritual formation was not lacking at the camp either, with five priests on site, mostly Legionaries of Christ. The vocations director from the Edmonton archdiocese also comes to the camp.

“Their talks tie into the theme that we’re living out,” said Doran. “They correlate them with the real battle for all of us on earth, and what exactly that means for us on a practical, daily basis.”

This year also had a special memorial dimension, with the dedication of Hagman Hall (a 60 by 60-foot tent) in memory of Mark Hagman, who passed away from brain cancer on September 14, 2008, leaving a wife and a young son
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During a jousting competition at the tournament.
behind. There is also a Mark Hagman memorial sword, which is used to knight the top 12 campers who stand out on the knight exam each year.

The camp’s many imaginative and ingenious elements are the result of strong teamwork between Brian Doran and the men on the support team, some of whom are Regnum Christi members, and most of whom are simply fellow men from the parish who share the same vision.

“My job is to push the vision, sketch ideas, and present the ideas to men, but there are so many guys on the team with initiative to take those ideas and build them,” said Doran, adding that about 12 dads built the permanent structure of the medieval tower over a three-year period.

Their future plans are to make the camp even bigger and better in the coming years. They are currently in the planning and fundraising stages for a three-level keep: the main floor will be a mess hall, the second floor will be the officers’ bunkhouse, and the third floor will be the headquarters. There will be walls extending from the main keep with connected towers, just like a real medieval fortress.

 As Arcātheos continues to grow in the years
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A moment during one of the battles.
ahead, it will accept more and more boys. This year, over 200 boys wanted to attend camp, but the camp directors accepted only 160 because they want to grow at a steady, controlled rate so as not to overextend themselves. Given the popularity of the camp and the high return rate of boys who come back year after year, graduating from campers to officers, it appears that the Kingdom and its battles will get even more spectacular, along with Captivenia, the sister camp for girls, which began just this year.

To learn more about Arcātheos and Captivenia, visit the web sites at and



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Sponsored by the congregation of the Legionaries of Christ and the Regnum Christi Movement, Copyright 2011, Legion of Christ. All rights reserved.

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