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Totus Tuus beings summer catechesis for students

By KATIE LEFEBVRE, Globe staff reporter
(Email Katie)

The first week of Totus Tuus began June 7 with four teams of teachers dispersing to four different parishes in the Diocese of Sioux City.

This summer the teams will travel to 22 parishes in the diocese and two others outside of the diocese.

“It’s a fun, exciting, catechetical, evangelization summer vacation Bible program,” said Sean Martin, diocesan director of new evangelization, catechesis and family life. “We teach straight from the catechism on the life in Christ, the introduction to morality and the Ten Commandments.”

First through sixth graders attend Totus Tuus from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. The junior high and high school students attend from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. Sunday through Thursday.

The curriculum for the summer will focus on the Ten Commandments and the Luminous Mysteries of the rosary. For the junior high and high school, one component will be the Theology of the Body for Teens curriculum.

“In a week’s time, the youth are exposed to the teachings of the church,” said Martin. “The students are not only learning in the classroom, but experiencing Christ and his mercy in the sacrament of confession, an intimacy in the holy Eucharist and listening to his word in the Scriptures at daily Mass.”


All together there are 16 teachers, who will be split into four teams of two men and two women, who will travel to new parishes each week to facilitate Totus Tuus (see adjacent schedule).

The college students were hired for their energy, enthusiasm, love for the faith, commitment to spiritual growth, ability to work with a team and desire to work with youth. Most of the teachers are from the Diocese of Sioux City or Iowa and other states represented are South Dakota, Maryland, Wisconsin and Minnesota.

There are four seminarians in the group this year – Ross Caniglia, Travis Crotty, Pedro Pablo and Alejandro Guerrero. Matt Brady, also a seminarian and former Totus Tuus teacher, will assist this summer.


The teachers went through training from May 29 to June 7 at St. Mary’s in Remsen. Two teams from the Diocese of Des Moines joined in the training.

Father Brad Pelzel, vocations director, and Father Tom Dooley from the Diocese of Des Moines, assisted with training. Father Pat Behm, who was a Totus Tuus teacher, taught one session. Father Brent Lingle taught a session on preparing for Mass.

“The teachers are immersed in prayer and the sacraments in the training,” said Martin. “They go to the parishes set on fire for the faith. They go as witnesses to the Christian faith and to the Gospel message. The kids are always attracted to the holiness they see within the teachers.”


Team one members are Haley Heiberger, Alejandro Guerrero, Ryan Pick and Kara Bentz. The members of team two are Pedro Pablo, Kendall Evans, Shawn Vaske and Lauren Benzing. Team three members are Sarah Petrocci, Josh Ward, Travis Crotty and Missy Wachuta. The members of team four are Taylor Fernholz, Michelle Clinesmith, Ross Caniglia and Jackie Pedersen.

Caniglia, a native of Council Bluffs, was asked by Father Brad Pelzel, vocations director, to be a teacher this summer. In the fall, he will enter his second year of philosophy at St. Meinrad in Indiana.

“I am looking forward to getting to know new people – teachers and kids. I am looking forward to spreading the faith,” he said. “I am looking forward to learning from the kids to enhance my own faith.”

Petrocci, who will be a senior at University of Dayton in Ohio, is from Rockville, Md. She heard about Totus Tuus from her roommate and thought it would be something she would like to do.

“I’m excited to have a scheduled prayer routine with my team and bonding with my team,” she said. “I hope it will help me grow. I am excited for God to work in me.”

As a student at University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minn., Ward learned of the Totus Tuus program from fellow students who had been teachers last summer.

“I thought it would be a good experience,” he said. “I haven’t really had a chance to evangelize in the way Totus Tuus does it. I am looking forward to spreading the word of God and helping young kids develop their first steps in a personal relationship with God and into a deeper relationship with him.”

Bentz, a parishioner at St. Mary’s in Humboldt, will be a junior at Morningside College in Sioux City. She heard about Totus Tuus from a friend who had been a teacher last summer.

“It sounded like a cool experience to work with the kids,” she said. “I feel it would be helpful for me to get to know my faith a little bit more and learn more to be better equipped to answer people’s questions about being Catholic.”

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