Exoblates gathered at Camp DeSales for first Reunion, 9/8-9/11

2011 XOSFS Reunion Welcoming Speech
by Bill Mittendorf


    This Welcome is spoken in the voice of Camp DeSales and, at times, Camp Brisson. Camp DeSales welcomes you to the First Ever X Oblate Reunion.

   I have asked Bill Mittendorf, aka Castro, of the infamous Cess and Castro team, and who reigned on my grounds during the early ‘60s to deliver this Welcome to you this evening.

   Many of you spent summers here as camp counselors and workers during your early Oblate years. Those of you who never spent summers here, at least heard of the events, characters, and tales spun here. Those of you from the East spent time at Camp Brisson.

    This afternoon, upon your arrival to my campgrounds, you noticed that I have changed over the years. Yes, I’ve aged, just as you have. My trees have grown taller. Most of my camp structures are no longer standing. A few though still are. The chapel built in ’48, Trading Post, Infirmary, and a few cabins in the woods remain. I invite you to visit them during your stay. Some of you spent summers at my sister camp, Camp Brisson. You, of course, remember the waterfront, concrete block cabins, the boat that took you out into the Chesapeake. Frs. McGoldrick. Hopkins and shaving cream fights. Ah! Such memories!

     You’ve probably noticed a lot of changes to my façade here at Camp DeSales, and I’ve noticed some changes in you also. Your youth has passed away. Likewise, my youthful days are gone. My sister camp, Camp Brisson, is no longer. My rifle range is no longer. My craft shop, archery range, all my jakes, the McGuire, Bryon, and Dooher are only memories. The Dew Drop Inn and Scholasticate in the woods, where many of you lived, have met the demise of the wrecking ball. Bailey Mess Hall, where you dined on Beetle buns and scrapple has been rebuilt because it collapsed, but is no longer in use as a dining hall. Beetle’s bell is, however, still there!

     There are no longer large groups of campers here any more. Only, occasionally, a small group or two come. My sister camp, Camp Brisson, was sold several years ago.

     Yes, I’ve changed. I’ve sprouted some new buildings-Lawrence Lodge, Vineyard Cabin, The Holley Institute, a new Chapel, and most importantly, a Novitiate. You see I’ve now taken on the role of Childs and Battle Creek to nurture novices into the Oblate way of life. My waterfront is different from what you remember. But I’m still sitting on the peaceful waters of Lake Vineyard.

      And so I’ve aged and changed. But my memories of you and those of my sister camp, Camp Brisson and your days spent with us many years ago remain vivid. We remember your arrivals in early summer by bus or rental cars from DeSales Hall, Lewiston, and other places. We remember you laboring in the early summer heat to get us in shape for the camping season and the arrival of the first campers, readying my waterfront, painting my white rocks and the shutters on my cabins. Especially, we recall with great pride, your rising early in the morning and coming to Chapel both here and in the Quonset hut at Camp Brisson, clad in your black habits and starched Roman collars for meditation and Mass.

       We remember well your good care of our campers- taking them to various camping activities during the day and telling them ghost stories at night. You were a great inspiration to them. I remember the days of Cess and Castro and later Castro and Kelsch, terrorizing the place with their inspections.

       I have grand memories of Frs. Shugrue, Earley, Grehl, Fuqua, Stahl, Nessel, Barkenquest, Seelaus, Crowne, McKenna, Doc Sirhall, and Beetle.

       Ah! What glory days! I’ve missed you. I’ve often wondered what became of you! I heard you left the Oblates at some time. I’m so glad you came back to visit me today, and especially your former Oblate confreres.

       Your presence here is no accident! I assure you! This Reunion wasn’t the work of any one person or Committee. It was indeed the work of the Good Lord and His Holy Spirit! Camp Brisson and I leave you with our final thoughts! Enjoy your time together here! Rehash the ole days. I think you’ll find them enjoyable. Celebrate Life! Thank God for your Oblate life! You are all bound by a special bond. Remember those who have stayed in the Oblates, some of whom have joined you this evening. Remember your deceased confreres. Pray for vocations to the Oblates! Come Back sometime to see me again! Thanks again for being here! May the Good Lord bless you and your families!

A Gathering of Wild Geese
(First Ever X-Oblate Reunion I)
by Ron Kotz
We have no bond but the bond of love.
They came from Brazil, California, Delaware, Maryland, Michigan, North Carolina, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Utah, and Virginia.  They came by plane, train, bus and auto.  They came asking themselves “why am I doing this?” 
They came because two of the legendary characters of Camp de Sales from the sixties, Steve “Cess” Puhl and Bill “Castro” Mittendorf, met again after more than four decades at the site of their former escapades.  That meeting inspired Bill to reach out to his former confreres.  He sent a note to Frank DeMilde, who for many years has been contacting old friends.  Frank enlisted Mike Meloche and Dan Hurley from the East, Tim Pilat, Tony Sutton, Don Zurack, Bill Albe and Ron Kotz from the West to form a planning committee more than a year ago.  The work culminated in the event at Camp de Sales on September 7 and 8, 2011. 
In all, thirty former and eighteen current Oblates gathered that first day, drawn together by a bond that can never be broken.  It began with a reception and dinner catered by Tony Sutton and his wife Kathy, at Lawrence Lodge.  Later in the evening, many of these men described their feelings of circulating through the crowd, peering into the eyes of faces that at first seemed so strange, and the joy of recognition at the sound of a familiar voice, the sight of a particular gesture, the warmth of a unique smile… and how the years seemed to disappear and they were instantly, briefly, young again and reconnected.  Moist eyes twinkled many times that first night.
The dinner continued with loud laughter piercing the constant buzz of excited conversation.  Bill Mittendorf interrupted the merriment to give voice to the Spirits of Camp de Sales and Camp Brisson, welcoming former counselors and workers to the first ever X-Oblate Reunion.  He recalled the Camps as we remembered them:  the migration in buses from De Sales Hall and Lewiston in the spring, the rush of activity to ready the waterfront, paint roadway rocks and cabin shutters, the early morning procession of shadowy figures dressed in cassocks and stiff collars to the Chapel across dew-covered grass and misty hills.  He saluted the grand memories of Frs. Shugrue, Earley, Grehl, Fuqua, Stahl, Nessel, Barkenquest, Seelaus, Crowne, McKenna, Doc Sirhall, and Beetle Bailey.  Though Camp Brisson is no more, Camp de Sales is now host to meetings and retreats, the site of the Oblate Novitiate and of the Holly Institute complex that ministers to children who are hearing impaired.  The dinner concluded with the blessing by Fr. Ken McKenna of memorial plaques to honor those who lived in the Scholasticate at Camp de Sales, and to Beetle Bailey for his many years of service.  Art Nicoletti, who has lost none of his story-telling skills, spurred all of us to compete in retelling utterly hilarious anecdotes of our lives as we lived them as Oblates.  Art was the last to retire at 3:30am to bring the festivities to a close.
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers…
The second day began with Mass in the Chapel of the Most Sacred Heart concelebrated by Frs. Andy Dunne and Paul Ruddy.  Fr. Dunn’s homily, reflecting on Jesus’ odd selection of poor fishermen and tax collectors as his disciples, touched many hearts when he introduced us to the congregation and welcomed us as fellow Oblates.  Later in the morning, Don Zurack led a para-liturgical recitation of selections from the Little Office of the BVM.  Don recited the famous lines from Shakespeare’s Henry V beginning with “We few, we happy few, we band of brothers…”
Fr.  Ken McKenna, assisted by Fr. Jim McHugh, prepared cooked-to-order eggs and omelets for all of us.  Fr. Ken then led us on a tour of the facilities.  We marveled at the remarkable circumstances surrounding the construction of the very beautiful Chapel of the Sacred Heart, a project conceived by no one, completed with insufficient funds, constructed from materials that were originally rejected, and embellished by the handiwork of a deaf artist who “heard” about the project on the internet, and all completed within six months.  Fr. Ken describing it as “basically a pole-barn” is like describing a Rolls-Royce as “basically a self-propelled cart.”  Do you doubt the spirit is stirring the waters of Lake Vineyard still?  Well, visit the Novitiate, its two-story Annex, and the four Hermitages; and listen, as we did in the upper-room (the scriptorium), to Fr. Ken describe the process of formation as it now exists for the Oblates.  Fr. Ken took on all our questions as he patiently explained the exquisitely conceived and nuanced year of formation in which even the design of the structures and their furnishings support the introduction to the spiritual and communal heritage of the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales.  Late into that second night, we were still remarking at Fr. Ken’s candor and his wholesome approach to issues and problems facing the Oblates and the Church today.
For stern as death is love…
As the second day went on, many left to begin their trips home.  The dozen of us remaining had dinner at Steaks in Jackson, and discussed impressions of what we had experienced.  These days were witness to healing, love, laughter, and precious memories.  At the suggestion that we do this again in two or five years, we were reminded that in the planning of this reunion, two of our brothers were called home:  Tom Moran in July and Frank Sullivan in October.  Both had planned to be with us.  The next reunion will be in the East in 2012.
Its flames a blazing fire…
We believe this reunion was no accident, no work of a committee.  We recognize the breath of the Spirit and eagerly pass the torch to those from the East to prepare a room for us next year.  The web site, www.xoblates.comwill remain for another year and we are eager to record your story: if you haven’t submitted a bio form yet, please fill out the bio form on the next page and click submit. With regard to the website photos, click on a pic and it enlarges, right click and you can download it; caption wrong? email to If you wish to volunteer to plan for the next reunion, please contact Bill Mittendorf at  If you know the whereabouts of other ex-Oblates, please contact Frank DeMilde at  We pray for our Oblate brothers and for vocations.  We celebrate the lives of the Wild Geese and the special bond we share that deep waters cannot quench nor floods sweep away.
2011 Plaques Installed, October 3,2012
The Western Reunion decided to install a couple of really nice metal plaques commemorating our many years at Camp De Sales and to also repair the old flagpole. Here's the wording:
Plaque One
Here stood the scholasticate, a building which was used by the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales as the summer residence for seminarians and brothers who served on the staff of Camp de Sales. This plaque is dedicated to all those who lived here and served in the life of Camp de Sales.
Presented by the XOSFS Reunion. Sept. 9, 2011"
Plaque Two:
This plaque is dedicated to the original bell ringer of Camp de Sales, Brother John "Beetle" Bailey OSFS who presided over Bailey Hall as chief chef for many years.
May this bell ring again in the hearts of all those who have heard it in tribute to this great man
Presented by the XOSFS Reunion Class of 2011"

Tim Pilat and I installed the plaques today , Oct. 3 , 2012 at Camp de Sales . The Beetle plaque was placed on the exterior of Bailey Hall. The scholasticate plaque was erected on a concrete form pillar in the exact area where the scholasticate stood. I know we hit the right spot because we dug and unearthed a portion of toilet ceramic. Fr Jim mcHugh blessed the plaques and we remembered all of you and all others who lived in the scholasticate at Camp. A happy day indeed!

Vive Jesu!,
Castro (AKA Bill Mittendorf)
Fr. Jim McHugh, Dir. Camp De Sales w/Beetle Bailey Plaque
Fr. Jim McHugh, Dir. Camp De Sales w/Beetle Bailey Plaque
Tim Pilat w/Beetle Plaque
Tim Pilat w/Beetle Plaque
Plaque dedicated to Br. John Bailey
Plaque dedicated to Br. John Bailey
Plaque dedicated to Scholasticate (bldg. gone now)
Plaque dedicated to Scholasticate (bldg. gone now)