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Youth of diocese experience Christ through Totus Tuus

By KATIE LEFEBVRE, Globe staff reporter
(Email Katie)

The summer Totus Tuus programs have come to an end, but not without a lot of faith, fun and friends.

Six weeks at parishes

Four teams of teachers traveled to 22 parishes in the diocese and two outside of the diocese throughout the six weeks of Totus Tuus this summer. More than 1,000 elementary youth and close to 350 high school youth participated.

“It went very well. From what I could see everyone experienced the love of Christ through the Totus Tuus teachers from youth to adults,” said Sean Martin, diocesan director of new evangelization, catechesis and family life. “I can see the teachers shared the Catholic faith and people’s lives were touched through the teachers and the program.”

At each host parish, the pastor and parish contact person received an evaluation form to review the program. This year’s parishes had all hosted before.

“We are very thankful to the parishes, priests and contact people for allowing our teachers to come to their parishes and come into their homes,” said Linsey Hoard, assistant director of youth catechesis and evangelization.

Lauren Benzing, one of the TT teachers, said the summer was “absolutely amazing. I can say without a doubt it was the best summer of my life.”

“Coming into it, I thought I would be the one teaching, ministering to the kids and helping them get the most out of the summer,” she said. “I did, but I didn’t realize I would be doing a lot of learning too, growing in my faith and the Lord would be working on my heart simultaneously. Sometimes the best way to learn something is to teach it.”

Diocesan seminarian Alejandro Guerrero, a junior at Conception Seminary, explained the summer was an opportunity for him to teach the youth of the diocese and for him to grow in his personal faith.

“I appreciated and loved this summer because it is an amazing experience for someone who is aiming for the priesthood,” he said. “I was able to share the Gospel with, not only those people around you in seminary, but actually bringing it down to a level the kids can understand and learn more about Jesus. I was able to celebrate the sacraments with them.”

Camp Totus Tuus

On July 27 and 28, high school youth participated in Camp Totus Tuus at Twin Lakes Christian Center near Manson. The two days included talks by the Totus Tuus teachers, Mass with Bishop Walker Nickless, adoration, reconciliation, skits and other fun activities.

The high schoolers were given the choice to participate in one or both days. There were 16 participants and only one didn’t attend both days. Most of the teens also attended the summer program in their parish, Martin reported.

“It went incredible. I think that camp bears much fruit,” he said. “It’s a culmination of the summer for the teachers to be able to preach the Gospel. By their example, being together, their love for each other and their love for God is tremendous witness to the teens that come.”

Martin noted each year there has been at least one non-Catholic attendee who is now interested in becoming Catholic.

“They really enjoyed the Totus Tuus program and they still had questions,” Hoard added. “They were going because they wanted to spend more time with the teachers because the teachers had such a positive impact on their lives.”

Joy of the Gospel

Travis Crotty, TT teacher and diocesan seminarian, introduced the theme for the first day – “Joy of the Gospel.” The theme for the second day was “Listening for God’s Will.”

“Pope Francis wrote an exhortation called ‘The Joy of the Gospel,’” he said. “Sometimes there can be a confusion between happiness and joy.”

The youth raised their hands to give examples of happiness and joy. Crotty said things that make him happy are pizza, coffee, longboarding and chocolate.

“Joy goes one step further. All those things I mentioned can all pass quickly,” he said. “Joy is something different. It has to with an interior contentment.”

Bishop Nickless told the youth this was an opportunity for him to be with his “sheep.”

“Pope Francis says to smell like your sheep,” said the bishop. “What he really means is to be with your people. This is a great opportunity for the bishop to be with his people. All of you are my people and my job is to get you to heaven. Whatever your motives were to be here, I am glad you are here.”

Benzing, who will be a sophomore at Benedictine College, was part of a talk the second day about vocations and listening for God’s call.

“This camp is a great retreat, not only for the high schoolers, but for the teachers to reflect on all of the wonderful things that have happened this summer and strengthen themselves to live the joy of the Gospel when they go home or to college,” she said. “This is for the high schoolers who want to go a little bit deeper.”

Guerrero along with another teacher gave a presentation about Mary as the mother of evangelization.

“We usually try to get closer to God through the sacraments and adoration, but we forget about the important role of Mary as the mother of the church,” he said. “She is the one who brought Jesus into the world. In order to understand Jesus, you have to understand Mary.”

Stefanie Amador, a Carroll Kuemper Catholic sophomore and parishioner at Holy Spirit, attended the Totus Tuus program in her parish and wanted to go to Camp Totus Tuus to reconnect with God.

“The Mass was nice and I was glad the bishop was able to be here,” she said. “I am hoping to gain new experiences and reconnect with myself on the spiritual level.”

Sophomore Le Mars St. James parishioner, Miranda Hicks, also participated in Totus Tuus at her parish and still had some questions so she wanted attend Camp Totus Tuus.

“I enjoyed that it made me closer to God and answered questions I had,” said Hicks of the parish program. “I wanted to go (to Camp Totus Tuus) because I couldn’t go last year. I learned there are a lot of different analogies to look at the faith.”

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