It is finished.
Totus Tuus 2015 has come to an end. My summer of teaching kids about the Catholic faith is over. Which means this will be my last blog post. Thank you to everyone who took the time to read my posts this summer!
Throughout the summer I learned and grew in ways that I did not plan to. My attitude and perspective on a lot of different things in my life has drastically changed.
In a couple weeks, I will be heading back to Chadron and will be continuing school as a junior. As a journalist, my life rarely has a break from a hectic schedule, but after this summer of spending all my time at the church, praying, and with people who are full of faith, I will be rearranging my schedule to make more time for church.
This summer has changed me. The way I look at life and different priorities in my life has definitely changed and going back to school with these differences are scary.
Every week we talk to the kids about different fruits of the mystery, and my teammates will tell you that Wednesdays were always my favorite day of the week, for multiple reasons. 1. We get to wear jeans. 2. It’s the potluck night. 3. I get to tell the story of my confirmation saint—St. Maximilian Kolbe (http://www.catholic.org/saints/saint.php?saint_id=370#wiki).
The mystery and fruit of Wednesdays were Crowning of Thorns and moral courage. Every week I would talk with the kids about what they can do when they see other people being made fun of or when they are getting made fun of. I ask them if they have ever been made fun of for being Christian or Catholic. It made me happy every week that there were rarely any hands that went up.
When I was in high school I wouldn’t have raised my hand either. In high school it was easy to defend my faith because most of the people in my class were Catholic. Since going to college though, I have a new outlook.
I tell the kids every week that we can stand up for Jesus when He is getting picked on and made fun of by simply saying we love Jesus. I tell the kids, if we act the way Jesus wanted to act, we are making Him happy. If we walk away from a fight or if we just show those “mean” people love, we will make Jesus happy.
If the kids learned one thing from me all summer, I hope they learned that we are supposed to love everyone, even those who treat us badly. I also hope I’ve learned the same lesson and can be an example of that when I’m back in Chadron, out of my Totus Tuus safe zone.
Since a young age, I’ve been blessed with a pretty strong faith. I always knew I could rely on God and count on Him, and I always trusted Him.
As a 7th grader, I first began helping at my church. I was the religious education director’s assistant. I’d run errands during CCD, made snacks for the kids, and clean out the occasional closet. The reason I got started helping was to complete my 40 hours of community service required for me to graduate high school.
My 8th grade year, I did the same thing with my friend, even though my community service hours were completed. I just enjoyed it.
That next year, freshman year, all the way through my senior year, that same friend and I taught 1st grade CCD. The summer after my junior year was the first summer Totus Tuus was in St. Paul. I had missed my opportunity to attend Totus Tuus in grade school, but I went and helped as a high school helper and I attended the high school night sessions.
That first week Totus Tuus was in St. Paul was my favorite week of the entire summer. The next two summers would be the same routine; the week of Totus Tuus would be my favorite week of the summer.
That brings us to this summer. I’m teaching Totus Tuus all summer long, but I have a confession to make. I almost didn’t teach Totus Tuus this summer.
Last summer, my family, my friends, and my community were hit with a tragedy, and although I had encountered tragedies in my life before, this specific tragedy did what I thought nothing would ever be able to do. It shook my faith. It took it off its firm rock and blew it all around and hid it from me. I thought as the year went on, my faith would come back. I would feel just as strong as I used to before the accident. I struggled most of the year at school, and when I got an interview for Totus Tuus I told them I was worried because I wasn’t back to the faith I used to have. A very wise friend of mine, who just happens to be one of the big wigs in Totus Tuus, told me that anytime she feels shaky in her faith, she comes back to Totus Tuus in some way and it always helps.
I was scared when I took this opportunity that I wouldn’t have enough to share with the kids and I wouldn’t have a strong enough faith to get the kids excited about theirs. For the past seven weeks though, I have been in an environment that is full of faith filled people, full of prayers, full of God.
During the past seven weeks, I’ve realized that my faith never left; God never leaves. I have grown more in this atmosphere than I have in any other atmosphere. I blame the kids. They take everything as it is. They see the truth in everything, but they trust easily. I have mentioned it before, but I can’t mention it enough. These kids are teaching me so much more than I’m teaching them. They are helping me grow more than I could possibly be helping them grow.
Every year the Totus Tuus program focuses on a different theme. This year we are teaching the grade school kids about the sorrowful mysteries and about the virtues. Every week, I teach the kids about the sacrifices Jesus made for us and all the suffering he went through during his time here on earth.
On Mondays we start with the agony in the garden and how Jesus sweat blood. Tuesdays we discuss the scourging at the pillar and how Jesus was whipped almost to the point of death. Wednesdays are about the crowning of thorns, and Thursdays is about carrying of the cross. Finally, Fridays are about the ultimate sacrifice, the crucifixion.
During the week, my teammates and I joke about some of the things we have to do and we motivate each other by saying, “It’s for the Lord,” like when there are just two brownies left at our host supper, but we are stuffed beyond belief from the amazing meal, we say, “We gotta eat them! It’s for the Lord.” We joke about some of the sacrifices we make during the week, but we all know deep down that none of the sufferings we are going through compare to the sufferings of Jesus.
Through the week, parishioners will come up to us and tell us we are a blessing, we are saints, that we are making a great sacrifice of our summer by coming and teaching the kids of their parish.
This summer is so much more of a reward for us than it is a sacrifice. All summer long we are fed amazing food, we spend a good portion of our day praying and being with Jesus and praising Him, and we teach kids all day long. Kids are fasinating humans. They are extremely curious about everything and they take everything you tell them and believe it. Instantly. (Even if one of your teammates tells all the kids at one parish that you are dating another one of your teammates, they will not forget it, for the entire week…)
Every week I am reminded of all that Jesus went through to allow us, people who were not even born at the time, to go be with Him in Paradise. I am reminded of all the suffering and hurt He endured for us, for me. Jesus sweat blood, He was whipped, He was made fun of and mocked, He carried the cross, and He died, all for me. The least I can do in return is give up a summer of my life to teach about Him, to share His story, to honor and praise Him.
Jesus suffered, I just teach.
We’re back at it again! Team Scooby has hit the road and are back to teaching in Broken Bow. For the past four weeks I’ve been traveling and teaching with the same teammates: Megan Kreutzer, a junior at the University of Nebraska at Kearney studying elementary and middle level education with endorsements in math and English; Dillon Spies, a senior at Chadron State College studying psychology; and Mitchell Schleis, a senior at Briar Cliff studying elementary education.
For the past four weeks these people have become my family. I spend all my time with them. I travel with them; I eat with them; and they have quickly become some of my greatest friends.
But this week, things have drastically changed for Team Scooby. Our teammate Mitch has gone on to finish his summer at a different job. Our replacement is Jeremy Vinton, a senior at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln studying geology.
On Friday and Saturday all the teams from the Grand Island Diocese met in Lexington, just to hang out and go over a few things before we took off for the final weeks of our summer.
I was incredibly excited to meet up with a couple friends from the other teams, but I was shocked with how much fun I had with everyone there. We shared stories from our weeks, discussed some of the struggles we’ve dealt with, and told about our favorite kids.
These teams I have the opportunity to work with this summer are amazing. From the time of training to now, our mid-summer retreat, I’ve already noticed differences in the other teams. We’ve all changed from this process and it’s all been in good ways.
Before Totus Tuus, I had a hard time dealing with change. I like routine and I like everything to go as planned all the time. Totus Tuus doesn’t allow that. You have to be flexible; you have to be willing to go with the flow; and you have to expect changes.
Adding Jeremy to our team this far into teaching wasn’t easy and I already miss Mitch, but I know I’ll get use to it. I’ll learn to adapt and I’ll stop trying to put Jeremy into a Mitch box.
Our job and vocation this summer is to teach kids about the Catholic faith and get them excited about the faith; we are supposed to change their lives. The actuality of this summer is that this job is changing us, for the better.
All the Totus Tuus teams just finished the fourth week of teaching and are now on a much needed week break.
Every Friday, we teach the grade school students about vocations. We tell them about the vocation everyone has that calls us to love, to be holy, and to act like the saints; we tell them about stages of life vocations, such as priesthood, religious life, and marriage; and we tell them about vocations of today.
For the last four weeks, my vocation of today has been to teach Totus Tuus, to help students get excited about their faith and learn as much as they can about the Catholic faith.
My vocation for the next week is to relax at home and watch my brother play baseball. My vocation is to recuperate.
The past four weeks have pushed my limits. I’ve been tested and struggled. Some students are more difficult than other students but all students are rewarding.
At training, they told us everyone is scared of the first and second graders, but they will be the best part of your week. When I was in high school, I taught first grade CCD for all four years so I was excited to teach the first and second graders. The high schoolers were the ones I was terrified of. I thought there was going to be no way I would be able to win the high schoolers over because I knew my high school aged brother thought I was extremely lame.
The high schoolers have surprised me though. Every week, I enjoyed teaching high school nights more than the week before. We have averaged about 10 high schoolers at every parish. At St. Patrick’s Church in Sidney the high schoolers were my favorite part. These kids were excited to learn and had all kinds of energy. Almost all of the high schoolers came to help with the grade school kids during the day. These kids amazed me. They were curious and interested in everything we were teaching, both at the high school nights and at the grade school days. I loved talking with each of these high schoolers and learning all I could about them. They are great kids and have extraordinary faith. The high schoolers at St. Patrick’s are going to do great things. They were a huge blessing during the week when I had personal and family struggles to deal with. They were also our saving grace from the large number of grade school students. All the kids I’ve encounter so far on this journey have taught me all kinds of new things about myself and they’ve all been fantastic, and so far, the high schoolers haven’t thought I’m lame.
“Let no one have contempt for your youth, but set an example for those who believe, in speech, conduct, love, faith, and purity.” 1 Timothy 4:12
At training in Seward, during a team building exercise, we were told to try and come up with a team motto or quote or bible verse to guide our summer. Our team bible verse is 1 Timothy 4:12. We decided this verse is the definition of Totus Tuus. I came across this verse last semester at school and it really spoke to me.
My interpretation says that, even though I am young, there’s no reason I can’t do great things. People are looking up to me and the way I act and the way I carry myself all the time, this verse reminds me of that and reminds me how important it is to act in a respectable manner for that reason.
At training they told us, “You will be living in a fishbowl for the next eight weeks; everyone will be staring at you.” I didn’t realize how true that was until I was actually at my first parish.
Through the entire week, as Totus Tuus teachers it’s important to remember that everyone is watching us. The way we act in mass on the weekends, the way we act with the kids we are teaching, the way we act at host families houses, and the way we act in any of our free time is constantly being analyzed. For some people that might seem like a big stress to have to worry about what everyone is thinking of you, but I look at it as an opportunity to bring someone else closer to God.
If I act respectable at church, but still act excited about mass everyday, the kids are going to think there actually is something special about mass, meaning they will hopefully pay more attention to mass and actually get something out of mass. If I show love to every person I come in contact with throughout the week, even that annoying kid that everyone picks on, that kid will think he is important and the other kids will maybe start to think he’s not so bad.
This job is not an easy job by any means, but it definitely has the potential to be the most rewarding job I’ll ever have. If I can help make one person find a connection with God each week, my week will be successful.
Last week, I had the opportunity to teach with my Totus Tuus team at Sts. Peter & Paul, my home parish, in St. Paul. It was a new experience being on the teaching side of Totus Tuus. I attended and helped as a high school helper for three years at St. Paul and was excited to go home again to teach kids I’ve known and watch grow up.
The kids were excited all week long and we had a great turnout the entire week. With the new directors of religious education, Judi Baker & Becky Knox, and with the retirement of Father Ray coming up at the end of the month, I was surprised at how smoothly the entire week went. Father Ray is one of the busiest men I’ve ever met and we are grateful he took as much time out of his schedule to help the kids and us with all of our needs as he did.
We were blessed with at least six fantastic high school helpers during the week to also make sure everything went smooth.
Totus Tuus has two separate programs, including a grade school program for students entering grades one-eight, and a high school program from anyone entering high school to recent graduates. The grade school students are split into four classes, first and second; third and fourth; fifth and sixth; and seventh and eighth.
The grade school students collect points from their teachers through the week, and at the end of the week the class with most points wins a special surprise. All the grade school students get to participate in a water fight on Friday, whether they win or not though.
Being at my home parish, I was not-surprisingly the victim for the winning classes surprise at the end of the week.
For the past two weeks our water fight has been a quick, get-it-over-as-soon-as-possible water fight because the weather has not been cooperating, but the students love it, rain, shine, cold, or hot.
We are now half-way to our break week. All the teams will run for four weeks, take a break off, and then head off again for another three weeks.
We are just starting our third week at the parishes and are still enjoying our time. This week my team is at Sacred Heart Parish in Greeley. We have met our host families and are still loving everyone we meet.
For the first time, I will be spending my summer away from home. I will not be playing softball for the first time since I was 5 years old; I won’t be watching my brother play in his baseball games; I won’t see my parents or my high school friends; I’m “leaving the nest.” This summer my time will be spent teaching the summer camp Totus Tuus.
I am studying communications arts with an emphasis in journalism at Chadron State College and I will be a junior when I go back in the fall. Just to keep up my skills, I plan to write a brief article or paragraph about the Totus Tuus program for the weekly newsletter.
Totus Tuus means “Totally Yours.” It was a part of St. John Paul II’s pontificate and the idea is that by totally giving ourselves to Mary, we grow closer to her son Jesus. Every year, the program focuses on a different set of mysteries of the rosary. This year’s focus is on the sorrowful mysteries. We will also be focusing on the virtues.
The Grand Island Diocese has three Totus Tuus teams of four members each. The teams spent three days in Lincoln training with six Lincoln Diocese teams and two teams from Vermont. After three days in Lincoln, training moved to St. Gregory’s Seminary in Seward. Training in Seward was described as “drinking from a fire hose.” Following that intense week, the teams were sent out to teach at their first parishes.
This is the first summer of teaching Totus Tuus for all of the teachers in the Grand Island Diocese. But like they told us at training, you become a veteran after the first Tuesday of your first week.
We are all currently in our second week of teaching Totus Tuus and so far, everyone we have met with the program has been magnificent. Everyone is very welcoming and willing to help us and are accepting of any request we give them. The students at our first parish, Holy Rosary in Alliance, were a great first group of kids to work with and we are excited to get to know and teach the students of Sts. Peter & Paul in St. Paul this week.
Totus Tuus is a great way for us teachers to give our witnesses to the faith and also spread our faith. We are lucky for the opportunity and are definitely enjoying the time with the students thus far.