More than 400 students from throughout the Diocese of Burlington participated in the 2022 edition of Totus Tuus, a summer Catholic youth program dedicated to sharing the Gospel and promoting the Catholic faith through evangelization, catechesis, Christian witness and Eucharistic worship.

“This was a successful Totus Tuus summer because we have had such positive feedback from coordinators, parents and students about how the students have learned while having so much fun, how they wish that the program was all summer long in their parishes and how impacting it has been to witness and learn from such faith filled, enthusiastic and joyful young college-age missionaries,” enthused Pam King, parish catechetical leader at Immaculate Conception Church in St. Albans who worked on the diocesan Totus Tuus program. “Many are already talking about next year’s Totus Tuus camp and are inviting friends to join them.”

Totus Tuus, a Latin phrase meaning “Totally Yours,” was the motto of St. John Paul II; it signifies a desire to give oneself entirely to Jesus through Mary.

There is an elementary/middle school Totus Tuus program during the day and high school one in the evening.

Teams of four college-age “missionaries” travel to a different parish each week, leading a 5-day catechetical program for grades 1-12, similar to vacation Bible school.

Twelve Vermont parishes hosted the program for one week each between June 19 and Aug. 5.

One host parish was Blessed Sacrament in Stowe. “Bringing Totus Tuus to [the parish] offers a dynamic encounter with the joy of being Catholic,” said the pastor, Father Jon Schnobrich. “The philosophy that underpins the program is, regarding young people, ‘the faith is caught before its taught.’ By incorporating stories of saints and miracles and sharing their own love for Jesus and the Church, the Totus Tuus teachers help keep the flame of faith burning brightly and inspire a deeper commitment to Catholicism.”

One of the Totus Tuus college-age missionaries,  Chasca King, 18, of Immaculate Conception /Holy Angels parishes in St. Albans and a sophomore at Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio, participated in the summer program as a child as a teen: “I absolutely loved going to the program as a kid so I knew that I would love being a missionary. And I have.”

The experience allowed her to trust God more deeply than she had before. “Every week at every parish is very different and requires adjusting to that particular parish’s needs, so the ability to trust that God will help in those transitions from week to week and the challenges that may occur is incredibly necessary,” she said.

Father Lance Harlow, pastor of Corpus Christi Parish based in St. Johnsbury, was “extremely” impressed with the caliber of maturity of the four missionaries there. “Their rapport with the kids and adult staff was exemplary; their knowledge of the faith was impressive; and they were a lot of fun,” he said, adding that the program provided a type of short-term youth ministry that the parish is unable to provide.

Father Schnobrich said there are many reasons he likes Totus Tuus: He likes to see the children come alive in their faith, worship God and “take their relationship with Jesus in prayer seriously and at the same time have fun and taste the joy of life in Christ is a transforming experience not only for the children who attend, but also for their parents and families.”

He also appreciates that Totus Tuus is dedicated to the Blessed Mother and is Eucharist centered; the Mass is the focus of every day. “Not only is it catechetical, but it’s also evangelical in how to turns the hearts and minds of children, parents and families towards Christ,” he continued. “I love how the children see our faith lived through the example of the teachers, and how profoundly impactful it is. I love that Totus Tuus is not just for the children who attend it, but how different aspects of the parish get to participate in the program through volunteering, helping with meals, bringing cookies, praying with and for the team and the kids.”

A 17-year-old participant said, “I really liked the high school program. It was actually fun, and I learned more about prayer.”

“The way the missionaries talk about Jesus is like they really know Him,” a 12-year-old commented.

Totus Tuus calls upon the young missionaries to share the faith with the students they encounter. They are hired for their energy, enthusiasm, love of the faith, commitment to spiritual growth, ability to work with a team and desire to work with youth.

Daniel Lacourrege, diocesan catechetical leader, noted that some students return year after year for Totus Tuus, many saying that it is their favorite part of the summer. “The greatest aspect of the experience is the witness of the missionaries who put on the camp,” he said. “Their energy, enthusiasm for the faith and love for God inspires everyone involved.”

Totus Tuus is “an excellent way to evangelize, in a non-threatening way, to that age group,” Father Harlow said.

—Originally published in the Fall 2022 issue of Vermont Catholic magazine.