Totus Tuus leaders learn as they teach


By Lindsay Steele
The Catholic Messenger

Totus Tuus is a week-long program dedicated to helping youths understand and appreciate Mass, prayer, Scripture, theology and vocations. It’s also an opportunity for the young adult leaders to learn and grow.

Lindsay Steele
Seminarian Grant Colborn teaches youths at Totus Tuus June 15 in Clinton.

Each year, the diocesan Office of Vocations selects four young adults to lead Totus Tuus programs at participating parishes, generally a combination of seminarians and college students. “For the seminarians… we see it as an opportunity for them to experience a type of mission work, especially being introduced to the variety of parish communities they serve,” said Colleen Darland, the diocesan Office of Vocations’ administrative assistant. “All the teachers — young ladies and men both — are encouraged to use this time of ministry and increased prayer life to further their vocational discernment.”

This summer’s group consists of college students Mary Jacobsen and Mary Meis and diocesan seminarians Grant Colborn and Osmin Melendez.


To prepare, the leaders took two weeks of training at Bishop Lane Retreat Center in Rockford, Ill., along with Totus Tuus program leaders from other dioceses. Leaders-in-training stayed in the youth center and had sessions with clergy, spiritual directors, past Totus Tuus teachers and Theology of the Body trainers, among others.

Darland accompanied the leaders at the training earlier this year. “The first week allows for individual and team formation, learning the depth of the content they’ll be teaching that year and gaining a fuller understanding of church teaching. They also are introduced to or further formed in spiritual practices of the church, such as Liturgy of the Hours, daily rosary recitation and the Divine Mercy Chaplet devotion. These aspects prepare them consciously and spiritually for the tasks of the summer ahead.

“The second week delves more into the practicalities of lesson planning and classroom management, allowing the teachers to learn how to take deeper aspects of church teaching and creatively translate that to the understanding of young children. They also discuss working with the parishes and volunteers, being servant leaders and building relationships with the young people to whom they minister.”

Parishes in Clinton, Columbus Junction and Grinnell offered to host week-long Totus Tuus programs this year. The leaders spend mornings and afternoons teaching elementary-aged youths and evenings with junior high and high school-aged youths. Mass is celebrated daily, with the youths taking turns serving in different capacities. Students spend time in the classroom in prayer and in worship and participate in other activities. The week culminates with an array of outdoor water games. Local families house the leaders at each location.

Through Totus Tuus training and working with youths this summer, Colborn, a native of Rockford, Ill., said he has learned to break down theology in a way that they can understand. “Theology can be tough to simplify. I’ve learned a lot in trying to do that,” added Colborn, who studies pre-theology at Mundelein Seminary in Mundelein, Ill. “I love working with kids and it’s a unique experience teaching children so young.”

Jacobsen said she saw an ad about Totus Tuus in The Catholic Messenger, and her mother, Tracey, encouraged her to give it a shot. “I’m studying theology and I want to teach (someday),” added Jacobsen, who recently completed her first year at St. Ambrose University in Davenport. “I thought it would be a good opportunity to get some experience.” She’s had the opportunity to share her love of music, too, leading praise music sing-alongs while playing ukelele.

Meis, a kinesiology student at Iowa State University in Ames, grew up attending Totus Tuus programs in her home diocese of Sioux City. She was eager to apply for and take on a leadership role in the Davenport Diocese’s Totus Tuus program, she said.

Melendez said he heard about the Totus Tuus program from his classmates at Conception Seminary College in Missouri. Melendez contacted diocesan Vocations Director Father Thom Hennen about the possibility of helping out. Melendez thought it would be a good opportunity to gain confidence working with youths. “I was really happy” to be accepted, he said.

His favorite moments have been interacting with youths during free time and lunch and observing their growing faith. “We talk about the classes and how they feel about them. … I can see their motivation to follow Jesus,” he said. “It strengthens (my confidence) in my vocation.” Originally from El Salvador, his home parish is St. James in Washington. “I feel blessed by my experiences this week. It’s a wonderful experience.”

Support The Catholic Messenger’s mission to inform, educate and inspire the faithful of the Diocese of Davenport – and beyond! Subscribe to the print and/or e-edition, or make a one-time donation, today!

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Posted on