Diocese Closing Tara-Holy Cross in Colchester

By Sam Hemingway
Burlington Free Press
February 2, 2008

The statewide Roman Catholic diocese has decided to discontinue operations at its Camp Tara-Holy Cross facility in Colchester but has not put the 26-acre site on Lake Champlain up for sale.

Bishop Salvatore Matano, in a letter distributed Friday to church members, said rising costs, declining usage and accreditation concerns contributed to the decision to end camp operations.

"While camping is a wholesome and beneficial experience, it is a costly endeavor serving relatively few young people," he wrote. "We must use our funding resources to provide the maximum possible services to the greatest number of people."

According to Matano's letter, camp operations lost $103,726 last year. He said the camp attracted an average of 47 campers per week for the six-week season, barely half the camp's capacity. Matano was unavailable for comment Friday.

The church-owned camp, formerly known as Camp Holy Cross, is located half-way between Porters Point and Malletts Head. It is partially forested and has 900 feet of sandy shoreline that faces north toward Grand Isle.

Camp Holy Cross was a Catholic boys camp for more than 50 years. In 2004, it was merged with Camp Tara, an 18-acre girls' camp located nearby owned by Vermont Catholic Charities.

The former Camp Tara was sold in 2006 for $2.2 million. Camp St. Joseph, a 14.7 acre church-owned lakefront site in Colchester used as a retreat for nuns, was sold in 2003 for $1.3 million.

Matano did not indicate whether the diocese would sell Camp Tara-Holy Cross in his letter. He wrote that Camp Ta-Kum-Ta, a group that runs a summer camp for kids with cancer, will be able to use the site this year while the diocese considers what to do with the property.

"At this time, no decision on this property has been reached and the matter remains under study," he wrote.

Tony Carbrello, a diocesan youth ministry coordinator who served as the camp's director last summer, said Friday he was not surprised by Matano's decision.

"I knew it was a possibility," Carbrello said. "The buildings are rustic. They need some work .... The property could use some improvements."

Brenda Bristol, a former camp director and a member of the Camp Tara-Holy Cross advisory board, said she is saddened by Matano's decision.

"It's been a wonderful experience for kids," Bristol said. "I don't think there's anything else to take its place."

She said she was aware the camp has been losing money, partly because half the youth campers get to attend sessions free of charge as part of their Catholic youth programming.

Bristol said Matano and diocesan officials may be holding on to the property while they wait to see what happens to a series of priest sex molestation cases awaiting trial in Chittenden Superior Court. Twenty-five cases are pending in the court.

"I know it's not on the books to sell it, but it's there if they need to sell it," she said. "There's a lot of cases that still need to be resolved."

The priest sex molestation scandal touched Camp Holy Cross in 2002 when two former camp counselors alleged that in the 1970s they came across 80 photographic slides of naked boys in the cabin of the camp chaplain, the Rev. James McShane.

The two ex-counselors said they reported their discovery to then-Bishop John Marshall at the time, and said they were unaware that anything was done about the photos.

McShane was put on leave by the diocese in 2002 after learning the Attorney General's Office was investigating sexual abuse claims against him. In 2004, the diocese paid $120,000 to settle a child sex abuse claim involving McShane, who no longer is a parish priest.

Contact Sam Hemingway at 660-1850 or e-mail at


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