To Sam Gerbic, the explanation for why he was covered in sprinkles, chocolate syrup and whipped creme was simple.
“To share the Gospel!”
Gerbic, of Incarnate Word Parish in Chesterfield, served this past summer as a Totus Tuus missionary for the archdiocese’s Office of Youth Ministry (OYM). The Totus Tuus day camp program marked its second year
in St. Louis this summer, wrapping up two months of fun and formation
the week of July 22 at St. Gerard Majella Parish in Kirkwood.
Tuus is a nationwide catechetical program with origins in the Diocese
of Wichita. Staffed by college-age missionaries and seminarians, the
camp travels around a diocese from week to week in the summer.
Missionaries form participants in grades first through sixth through
participation in the sacraments, catechesis and fun, and also lead a
night program for teens that consists of reflection and social time.
Host families at each parish house and feed the missionaries during
their stay in the area. Missionaries generally traveled in two teams,
though combined for certain larger parishes.
The program has
expanded in the archdiocese from its inception last year, when seven
parishes participated, compared to 11 this year. Around 1,100 campers
attended sessions this year, up from approximately 930 last year.
Dobrynski, Coordinator of Faith Programs in the OYM, said that the camp
accomplishes its goal “through the relational ministry of the teachers
who are college students absolutely on fire for their faith.”
teach the faith through focus on the Catechism and a set of mysteries
of the Rosary, using various analogies, cheers and games to communicate
material. This year, the missionaries taught on the Luminous Mysteries.
The Latin phrase “Totus Tuus” is taken from eighteenth-century French preacher St. Louis de Montfort’s moniker “Totus Tuus, Maria, Ego Sum,” meaning “Mary, I am totally yours.” The Totus Tuus program is steeped in Montfort’s Marian spirituality through its focus on the mysteries of the Rosary. St. John Paul II also used the phrase as his apostolic motto.
the learning and the fun is a basis in the sacraments, a relatively
unique feature of Totus Tuus compared to other religious summer
programming. Campers attend daily Mass before lunch, go to confession on
Monday if they have already participated in the sacrament and attend
Eucharistic adoration on Thursday.
Adoration “was amazing,” said fourth-grader Ryan Eilerman. “I could feel the presence of God.”
morning at St. Gerard Majella consisted largely of review of the week
thus far. The young campers tossed around phrases such as “hypostatic
union,” “institution of the Eucharist” and “to Jesus through Mary” with
“What a shocker!” shouted one sixth-grader as
missionary Kristin Gummersheimer, a parishioner at St. Gerard Majella,
explained a Eucharistic miracle from the eighth century.
Fifth-grader Maisy Veninga said she likes learning about the faith “so I can go to heaven, and be with God.”
the seemingly high-level content of the material, the children
understand it because of its grounding in truth, explained missionary
Abby Sanders of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish in St. Charles.
“It makes it more attractive, that it’s true,” Sanders explained.
“I like learning about Jesus,” said first-grader Lila Brown. “Miss Abby (Sanders) told me about how He died on the cross.”
Sixth-grader Joseph Jansen of St. Ferdinand Parish in Florissant said that having “cheerful” teachers made the camp enjoyable.
to the start of camp sessions, missionaries attend a two-week training
program, which this year took place in Lincoln, Neb. Missionaries
described a “college-level” program of theological formation designed to
supplement existing knowledge of Scripture and Catholicism. However,
missionary Michael Baer, who is entering his first year of pre-Theology
at Kenrick-Glennon Seminary, emphasized that their learning was not
focused on memorization but evangelization.
“This is supposed to
inflame in your hearts a desire,” he described the formation, “and then
you’re supposed to share that desire with the kids.”
whose four children attended both last year and this summer, cited that
same enthusiasm for learning in her children.
“This is fun, but
it’s also experiential learning, jumping right into our Catholic faith,”
Eilerman said. She described her kids coming home excited to explain
the hierarchies of angels, and said that “our dinner conversations are
filled with their experiences of the day.”
“They’re more aware of
the teachings of the Church, of the love that God has for each of us,”
Ann Eilerman said of her children’s experience after two years
attending. Sarah Veninga, mother of campers Maisy and Adelle, also said
that her two daughters attending were gaining a “really good, deep
knowledge” of the faith.
The week doesn’t simply consist of summer
days spent in class, however, as afternoons are also at times dedicated
to recess, skits and games.
At St. Gerard Majella, Gerbic and
Gummersheimer dripped the concoction of sprinkles and syrup as part of
the “Human Sundae,” a Totus Tuus tradition for the last afternoon of
camp before a giant water war.
“This is Totus Tuus,” Baer smiled proudly in the midst of his fellow missionaries’ antics.
>> Get Totus Tuus in your parish
Totus Tuus is organized by
the Office of Youth Ministry, part of the Catholic Youth Apostolate. If
you would like information about bringing the program to your parish
next year, contact Joe Dobrynski at firstname.lastname@example.org or (314) 792-7613.
“There’s not a parish that I’m not willing to drive out to and meet with people” interested in the program, Dobrynski said.
Parish registration to host next year’s camps opens November 2nd.
>> Wait, what’s the hypostatic union these kids are talking about?
worry, you might still be smarter than these fifth graders. The
hypostatic union is a theological term that refers to the union of human
and divine natures in the Person of Jesus Christ.
To learn more, see the Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraphs 252 and 468.
Totus Tuus parishes in the archdiocese this year
St. Patrick, Wentzville
Little Flower, Richmond Heights
Sacred Heart, Valley Park
Holy Spirit, Maryland Heights
St. Joseph, Imperial
St. Gabriel, south St. Louis City
Immaculate Conception, Dardenne Prairie
St. Clare of Assisi, Ellisville
St. Gerard Majella, Kirkwood
one team of missionaries flew to Honolulu, Hawaii to host the camp the
week of June 9-15 for Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickman at the request of
Prince of Peace Catholic Community, which serves families at the base.