First published in the West Nebraska Register on June 10, 2016.
God is good! All the time!
This common call-and-response is probably starting to appear in churches near you. Totus Tuus 2016 in now in parishes around the Grand Island Dioceses.
This year is my second year teaching this program. Totus Tuus is a weeklong summer catechistic program that travels around the Diocese. The Totus Tuus teams of four (two boys and two girls) will spend one week at a church before traveling to a new destination.
The Grand Island Diocese has three teams traveling around this summer and the teams are going to be (or already were) in my two homes—St. Paul and Chadron—and everywhere in between. The program will be in various churches around the Diocese for all of June and July.
Last year, all 12 teachers (three teams of four) were new to teaching. None of us had any experience on the teaching side of Totus Tuus. In comparison, this year there are four teachers who were teachers last year.
Like last year, the teams trained for three days in Lincoln with about seven teams from the Lincoln Diocese and two teams from Vermont. Then training continued for another six days at St. Gregory the Great Seminary in Seward.
Last year training was overwhelming and stressful because we all went into Lincoln blind. We didn’t know the other people on our team and we didn’t know what we were really getting ourselves into. Plus the Lincoln Diocese does a few things different with their Totus Tuus program that we didn’t learn about until after we were trained and were told of the differences at one of the last few days of training.
This year, the Grand Island Diocese hosted a 24-hour training session in Grand Island before going to Lincoln to help us get to know the other Grand Island teachers, our own teammates, the basics of training and the differences to expect at the Lincoln training.
This year, I was grateful for that extra training because although it meant having to leave home and my family a day earlier, and although, I was already aware of what to expect at training, I felt more prepared going into Lincoln training and I noticed fewer freaked-out facial expressions at the training.
This summer is almost completely opposite in teaching from last year. We focused on the sorrowful mysteries of the rosary last year, and this year we will be teaching the kids about the glorious mysteries. The best thing about this program, in my opinion, is that the kids are always learning something new if they come back year after year. And this year is only the second year the Dioceses have taught about the Prayer/Praying Curriculum that we will also be focusing on.
The program is designed for students who are going into first through eight grades to come during the daytime Monday through Friday, and those going into ninth grade through recent graduates to come in the evenings Sunday through Thursday.
Bishop Joseph Hanefeld came to the Grand Island Training and asked us why we think this program is important to have in the Diocese and in the parishes. We all agreed that this program is unlike the other religious educations programs we have in our Dioceses. I believe one of the perks is that we start the kids in the program at a young-enough age that they haven’t had a real chance to turn away from the faith and we get to sometimes start that spark. Then we keep on them year after year with new information to help that spark grow into a flame. And finally, we still get to see them right before they head off for college—a time when faith and the dedication to the faith is tested more than at any other time—and we get to show them that you really can live out your faith in college because, hey, here are four college-aged students actually doing it.
It’s inspiring to see how each kid grows and changes in just the week we have with them and this year I’m extra excited to see how the kids change from year to year because I will get the opportunity to return to a few of the parishes I was at last summer.
It’s an amazing opportunity for all the kids in the Diocese, no matter what level or strength of their faith right now, so if there’s a Totus Tuus coming near you this summer, I encourage you to send your kids.