Summer program brings the joy of Jesus to youth

| Jennifer Janikula for The Catholic Spirit | July 30, 2013 | 0 Comments
Totus Tuus leader Angelyn Von Rueden sings with the elementary students from St. Joseph in Waconia. Jennifer Janikula / The Catholic Spirit

Totus Tuus leader Angelyn Von Rueden sings with the elementary students from St. Joseph in Waconia. Jennifer Janikula / The Catholic Spirit

Two seminarians, a soon-to-be band director and a former NET Ministries team member spent the last six weeks together, moving from parish to parish, sharing the joy of their faith-filled lives with students in grades one through 12.

Their unique ministry, called Totus Tuus (Latin for “totally yours”), offers young adults who are in the process of discerning their vocation the opportunity to lead parish youth to Jesus through Mary and the sacraments.

The team, including Ben Nelson and Danny Fiedler from St. John Vianney College Seminary in St. Paul, Maddie McCarthy from Holy Family in St. Louis Park and Angelyn Von Rueden from St. Anthony in Menomonee Falls, Wis., presented youth programs at six parishes in the archdiocese.

Lisa Stockman, Totus Tuus coordinator for St. Timothy parish in Maple Lake, described the biggest benefit of Totus Tuus: “The team leaders love the Lord and love their faith. They are young people relating to young people as instruments to pass on their faith and their relationship with Christ.”

This year’s Totus Tuus program provided five full-day sessions for elementary school students and four evening sessions for junior high and high school students.

The young students learned about the sacraments, the saints and the joyful mysteries of the rosary. They played games, attended daily Mass and received the sacrament of reconciliation.

The older students attended eucharistic adoration, received the sacrament of reconciliation and participated in discussion groups.

Spiritual flashes

The Totus Tuus team ended its summer tour last week at St. Joseph in Waconia.

“We have already seen so many little spiritual flashes,” said Maggie Smith, St. Joseph’s director of faith formation for preschool through fifth grade. “The team has an aura about them. They lead the kids by example.”

The Totus Tuus leaders spent time each morning preparing the elementary students for Mass. They practiced genuflecting, they showed the students how to make an altar with their hands to receive Jesus’ body, and they practiced the Angelus prayer, which they said at the end of each Mass.

Carla Folz, St. Joseph’s director of faith formation for grades six through confirmation, said, “The kids are receiving Communion differently — more reverently and respectfully.”

Adoration is awesome

The middle school and high school students from St. Joseph’s used one of their Totus Tuus evenings to prepare for and participate in eucharistic adoration. They spent one hour face to face with Jesus — sitting quietly, without talking, without cell phones and without distractions.

Believe it or not, the students agreed that adoration was their favorite part of Totus Tuus.

“I like listening,” said sophomore Mark Folz. “I don’t hear big things — it’s little things and feelings. It’s cool. Jesus is right there.”

Olivia Doeden, also a sophomore, agreed, “I like the one-on-one connection with Jesus — just me and him. It feels more personal during Adoration than in Mass.”

Leading by example

Totus Tuus leaders strive to be an example of how young people can live out their faith.

“Having a college-aged person teaching them, especially for the high schoolers is a completely different experience,” said Nelson. “A lot of people lose their faith in high school and college, but these kids get to see us living and teaching our faith.”

The students see college-aged adults paging through worn out, dog-eared, highlighted copies of the catechism. They hear the leaders say things like: “I want to say a prayer from my prayer book” or “let me pull up a quote from St. Claire on my cellphone.” The students listen carefully to each leader’s powerful, personal testimonies of faith.

“We are people who love God and have fun with our faith,” McCarthy explained. “The men are studying to be priests and still having fun. The students see that it is still possible, in our crazy world, to enjoy their faith.”

The Totus Tuus summer Catholic youth program originated in the Diocese of Wichita, Kan., in the 1990s. Since then, several dioceses across the country have adopted the Totus Tuus model and catechetical curriculum. Though other dioceses in Minnesota have been sponsoring Totus Tuus for several years, 2013 marks the first year a Totus Tuus team has been sponsored by the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.

The archdiocese hopes to expand the program to more parishes next summer.

For more information about bringing Totus Tuus to your parish, please contact Nancy Schulte Palacheck at the Office of Marriage, Family and Life at (651) 291-4489.

Totus Tuus — Totally Yours

“The mission of Totus Tuus is to inspire in young people a true longing for holiness, a deep desire for daily conversion and an openness to their vocation by constantly challenging them to give themselves entirely to Christ through Mary and by continually strengthening their prayer lives in imitation of Her.” — The Catholic Diocese of Wichita

The five pillars of Totus Tuus are:

1. The Eucharist
2. Marian devotion
3. Catechetical instruction
4. Vocational discernment
5. Fun

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