Totus Tuus: ‘faith doesn’t have to be boring’

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Lindsay Steele
Totus Tuus missionary Krystal Osorio, center, spends time with participants during a break from classes June 27 at St. Alphonsus Parish in Mount Pleasant.

By Lindsay Steele
The Catholic Messenger

MOUNT PLEASANT — Diocesan seminarian William Keating smiled as he observed Totus Tuus missionaries and participants at St. Alphonsus Parish making paper airplanes and artwork between classes. He’s familiar with the program because he served as a missionary two years ago. “It teaches kids that faith doesn’t have to be boring; it can be fun and engaging,” said the seminarian, who is spending a pastoral year assisting the parish.

Nine parishes in the Diocese of Davenport have or are hosting week-long Totus Tuus programs this summer. Totus Tuus — Latin for “totally yours” — is a weeklong Catholic youth program with an emphasis on sacraments and developing a friendship with Jesus and his mother Mary. Each location has a morning program for elementary-aged youths and an evening program for junior high- and high school-aged youths. Participants also explore vocations in a broad sense. This includes priesthood, consecrated life, lay ministry, marriage and the diaconate. The diocese offers parishes and parish groups the opportunity to host Totus Tuus each year. The Mount Pleasant parish hosted Totus Tuus the last week of June.

College students and seminarians apply to lead the program as missionaries and receive training before it starts. This year’s missionaries are Lindsay Davison, Juliana Mace, Krystal Osorio, Zulema Peinado and Seamus Riley. “The whole team is great,” observed Kelley Tansey, the Mount Pleasant parish’s faith formation coordinator. “They work really well together.”

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Osorio, an incoming freshman at St. Ambrose University in Davenport and a member of the Mount Pleasant parish, enjoys working with youths in a faith formation setting. She worried her “awkward” personality would make her a less-than-ideal Totus Tuus candidate, “but it sounded fun.” She applied anyway, with Tansey’s encouragement. “It’s been great to see her take on this leadership role,” Tansey said.

Osorio said being a missionary has helped her come out of her shell; she enjoys meeting new youths at each parish and seeing how eager they are to learn. She appeared at ease joking with English- and Spanish-speaking youths in the St. Alphonsus parish hall June 27. “Making kids laugh has helped my confidence,” she said. Her faith has grown, too. “If I grow more, I can help the kids grow, too. It’s not just one way.” Praying several times a day with the team has invigorated her prayer life as well.

Each year’s program emphasizes one of the four mysteries of the rosary. Natalie Sosa, an incoming fourth-grader, loved the “yarn bracelets” (covenant strings) she and other participants received each day to help them remember the Glorious Mysteries. Cousins Amos Jirak, an incoming sixth-grader, and Cooper Boley, an incoming fifth-grader, said the Glorious Mystery lessons stood out to them, as did the activities between classes.

Osorio and Peinado, a member of St. Mary of the Visitation Parish-Ottumwa, are fluent in Spanish, which helped the team connect with youths and adults at the parishes, Osorio said. Children learn side by side; during a classroom session in Mount Pleasant, Peinado alternated between English and Spanish as she explained the difference between the “uppercase” Church and “lowercase” church. “Are we all the Church? Yeah, we’re all the Church!” she said.

Totus Tuus participants celebrate Mass each day before lunch. Father Jake Greiner, pastor of Divine Mercy Parish in Burlington/West Burling­ton, and Father Dominic Nguyen, parochial vicar, took turns presiding at the Mount Pleasant parish in the absence of a resident pastor. Father Ross Epping became the pastor July 1.

Contributed
Totus Tuus participants sing and dance last month at Prince of Peace Catholic School in Clinton.

Father Nguyen spoke about St. Cyril of Alexandria during a homily June 27, the saint’s feast day. “Who are the saints? Where do they live? With Jesus!” he answered with enthusiasm. He spoke of the saint’s connection with Mary as a powerful intercessor. “We can always come to Mary to ask for what we need and we know she will bring (our concerns) to Jesus.”

Father Nguyen encouraged the youths to build a strong foundation of faith through loving God and others, gifts and talents and spreading God’s word. “I hope you will learn a lot” at Totus Tuus, he said.

Nine parishes in the Diocese of Davenport have or are hosting week-long Totus Tuus programs this summer. Totus Tuus is a youth catechetical program with an emphasis on sacraments, vocations, and developing a friendship with Jesus and his mother Mary. Each location has a morning program for elementary-aged youths and an evening program for junior high- and high school-aged youths. The schedule for the remaining participating parishes is:

July 6 – 12:  St. Mary of the Visitation, Ottumwa

July 7 – 12: St. Mary, Pella

July 7 – 12: Sacred Heart, Newton

July 13 -19: St. Mary, Solon

July 20 – 26: St. Patrick, Iowa City

July 27 – Aug. 3:  St. Joseph, DeWitt

To sign up, contact the hosting parish. For more information to go https://davenportdiocese.org/totus-tuus.


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