A team leader and teacher in the Totus Tuus program, he is, he said, “helping children give themselves to Jesus through Mary” and sharing his experience of the faith with them as a role model.
Two teams of two seminarians and two young women each are conducting five Totus Tuus programs for elementary and middle school students and a separate one for high schoolers.
In Bennington, 62 children participated along with about a dozen high schoolers.
Totus Tuus was St. John Paul II's apostolic motto. It is a Latin phrase meaning "totally yours" and expressed his personal consecration to Mary.
Totus Tuus is a Catholic youth program dedicated to sharing the Gospel and promoting the Catholic faith through catechesis, evangelization, Christian witness and Eucharistic worship. The goal of Totus Tuus is to help young people grow in their understanding of, and strengthen their faith in, Jesus Christ. The program strives to bring faith to life by creating a balance between knowledge of the meaning of the sacraments and an authentic sacramental life.
According to Holy Cross Father Robert Wiseman, administrator of Sacred Heart St. Francis de Sales Parish in Bennington and St. John the Baptist Parish in North Bennington, the program provides a consistency in vacation religious education throughout the statewide Diocese.
Though some parishes have their own Vacation Bible School programs, Totus Tuus offers the same program with a strong catechetical basis throughout the Diocese with trained staff members.
Vermont is the only site in New England where it is currently offered.
Father Dwight Baker, director of the Catholic Center at the University of Vermont in Burlington and chaplain for Totus Tuus, said the program is a “great blend of learning and fun.”
Classes are geared to each grade level, and each year the theme is different mysteries of the rosary; this year it is the Joyful Mysteries. Participants also learn about salvation history.
“The young people [on the team] are on fire for their faith, and the children see they are living an authentic life in their faith,” Father Baker said. “They are people [the children] look up to.”
Participants in the Bennington Totus Tuus – one of the largest in the Diocese – came from Bennington, North Bennington, Manchester and Arlington and from North Adams and Williamstown, Mass.
Jessica O’Connell, one of the coordinators, sent her son, Ambrose, 5, to Tutus Tuus at the Sacred Heart St. Francis de Sales Parish Center. “It’s an opportunity for him to be with a group of his peers and be exposed to the older leaders who are encouraging him in his faith,” she said.
The other coordinator, Tammy Buckley, said she hoped the Totus Tuus experience would have an effect on the wider community too, bringing persons to Jesus through the words and actions of the participants. “It’s really all about love,” she said.
Father Wiseman said Totus Tuus also is an opportunity for him to meet parents “and engage is some pastoral ministry.”
In addition, he said it is good for parishioners to see youth activities in the parish; he planned to show a video of Totus Tuus during upcoming weekend Masses.
Kayla E. King, 14, a volunteer helper from Sacred Heart St. Francis de Sales Parish, said she helped the children “stay focused” on their lessons and have fun. “It’s important so they can grow in their faith,” she said.
Totus Tuus is funded in part by The Bishop’s Annual Appeal/the Office of Evangelization and Catechesis.
- Published in Diocesan