Sister Norberta Villaseñor, a sister of St. Francis of Penance and Christian Charity working the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, was one of more than a dozen sisters leading a unique healing camp for children in Uvalde, Texas, after the Robb Elementary mass shooting in May.
Launched by Catholic Extension, a Chicago nonprofit whose mission is to build up Catholic communities in underserved regions, Camp I-CAN (which stands for “Inner strength, Commitment, Awareness, and Networking”) offered 3rd-5th graders a chance to “gently reintegrate” into a school-like setting. From July 25-28, children participated in arts and crafts, faith-based activities, games, music, and physical activity.
Many of the children who participated were survivors of the Robb Elementary shooting, although the camp was open to all students.
Sister Dolores Aviles, a Uvalde resident, led the camp with the help of sisters from across the country. Her own extended family lost three children in the shooting.
“Uvalde has experienced an unspeakable and senseless violence, and the community is still… processing grief,” said Father Jack Wall, president of Catholic Extension. “It is our goal that, through the spiritual accompaniment of religious sisters, the children and their families feel God’s presence, and are reminded that they are not forgotten or alone.”
“My hope and dream would be that [the children] know they are being loved, that they are safe,” Sister Norberta said. “Through our presence, they can know that not all people are bad; that there is goodness in people.”
Uvalde was one of the first cities supported by Catholic Extension, which helped to build Sacred Heart Church in 1906 and Sacred Heart Catholic School in 1912. Both institutions have been providing ongoing support to the community in the wake of May’s tragedy.