Totus Tuus, Parish Catechetical Summer Camp returning

The Totus Tuus Parish Catechetical Summer Camp program aims to inspire young people to strive for holiness, develop a deep desire for conversion and personally renew their faith with a stronger prayer life. Through evangelization and catechesis, Totus Tuus seeks to foster openness to the sacrifices and blessings of the various Christian vocations.

The Totus Tuus program, which is open to grades 1-12, has been very well-received by young people, parents, and Parishes in the Diocese of Venice for the last two years and is returning to the Diocese of Venice this summer, beginning in June 2024.

The first camps open the week of June 2-7, and take place at a variety of Parishes throughout the summer with the final camps taking place the week of July 21-26. All camps are one-week day camps, and programs are divided according to age. The goal of the weeklong camp is to help the children develop a true and lasting longing for holiness. The Five Pillars of Totus Tuus are: The Eucharist; Marian Devotion; Catechetical Instruction; Vocation Discernment; and Fun.

Bishop Frank J. Dewane helped bring Totus Tuus – which means “totally yours” – to the Diocese of Venice in 2022. The original program began in 1987 as a Vacation Bible School program in the Diocese of Wichita, Kansas. Then, in 2022, the Diocese of Venice launched its pilot program, with great success. The Diocese received many requests from parents to continue the program; which not only has continued, but expanded in 2023 and set the hearts on fire of more than 1,000 youth.

“This program works,” Bishop Dewane said. “Totus Tuus complements what the children learn from their parents, who are the first and best educators of the faith. This is evident whenever I visit a Parish Totus Tuus camp. I am always impressed by the response each child has to the uplifting program. Whether in a group activity, or in a classroom, everyone is clearly excited and alive about their love of the Lord.”

The weeklong program is divided into two sessions, with the day component (9 a.m. – 3 p.m.) for students grades 1 – 6, and the evening session (6:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.) for middle school and high school students grades 7 – 12.

The younger children participate in four classes each day, attend daily Mass, learn the parts and liturgical songs of Mass, and participate in games, skits, songs, recess and prayer. The older students participate in instruction, small group discussions, quiet meditations, adoration, prayer and fellowship.

Parishes hosting Totus Tuus this year are: St. Frances Xavier Cabrini, Parrish, and Our Lady of Grace, Avon Park (June 2-7); Ave Maria, Ave Maria (June 9-14); St. Finbarr, Naples, and St. Paul, Arcadia (June 16-21); Epiphany Cathedral, Venice, and St. Katharine Drexel, Cape Coral (June 23-28); Our Lady Queen of Heaven, LaBelle (July 7-12); Our Lady of Light, Fort Myers, and St. Cecilia, Fort Myers (July 14-19); Our Lady of the Angels, Lakewood Ranch, and St. Peter the Apostle, Naples (July 21-26).

Youth are welcome to attend any of the Totus Tuus camps, but registration is requested ahead of time. To register, contact the hosting Parish directly. Parish contact information can be found at https://dioceseofvenice.org/totustuus2024/.

For general questions about the Diocesan Totus Tuus program, please contact Jim Gontis at gontis@dioceseofvenice.org.

Missionaries Wanted!

The Totus Tuus program is still recruiting for a few missionaries to lead the camps! To apply, you must be a recent high school graduate or college-aged man or women who is committed to the Catholic Faith and feels called to share their faith with youth throughout the Diocese. The mission is a nine-week commitment from May 23 to July 27 (excluding the week of June 29-July 6). Application deadline is May 8. For more details and to register, please visit https://www.research.net/r/totustuus2024.

Totus Tuus benefits 1,000+

Impact reaches beyond young participants

Hearts are on fire for Jesus Christ for the more than 1,000 young faithful who took part in the Totus Tuus weekly sessions throughout the summer.

In its second, year, Totus Tuus – which means “totally yours” – taught the children of all ages to put a spotlight on sharing the Gospel and promoting the Catholic faith through evangelization, catechesis, Christian witness, and Eucharistic worship. The goal of the week is to help the children develop a true and lasting longing for holiness.

Bishop Frank J. Dewane, who personally visited the Totus Tuus session on June 22, 2023, at Ave Maria Parish in Ave Maria, was impressed by the response each child had to the uplifting program.

“In each classroom everyone was so excited and alive about their love of the Lord,” Bishop Dewane said.

The goal of the Totus Tuus program is to inspire young people to long for holiness, develop a deep desire for conversion and personally renew their faith with a stronger prayer life. Through evangelization and catechesis, Totus Tuus seeks to foster openness to the sacrifices and blessings of the various Christian vocations.

Carrie Harkey, Diocesan Coordinator of Family Life and co-coordinator of the Totus Tuus program, was impressed by the response not only from the children, from the youngest to the teens, but from the Parish staff and volunteers as well as the parents.

“We saw the participants take to heart the message of developing a true and lasting longing for holiness,” Harkey said. “Then they shared that joy with their priests, staff, volunteers, and whole family. This is having a beautiful and lasting impact for the Parishes. We had many children and parents come to us and ask us to extend the program to a second week and if not please return next year. That is so wonderful.”

Totus Tuus works to complement what the children learn from their parents, who are the first and best educators of the faith. This is something Bishop Dewane has stressed since the program had its trial run in the Diocese in the summer of 2022 at eight Parishes with four missionaries.

This summer, there were 12 missionaries who worked in two teams, though for Parishes with large groups of children the teams merged for the week. The expansion meant that 11 Parishes served as hosts through the seven-week program. The weeklong program was divided into two sessions, with the day component for students grades 1 – 6, and the evening session for middle school and high school students grades 7 – 12.

The younger children participate in four classes each day, attend daily Mass, learn the parts and liturgical songs of Mass, and participate in games, skits, songs, recess and prayer. The older students participate in instruction, small group discussions, quiet meditations, adoration, prayer and fellowship.

The Totus Tuus missionaries (six men and six women plus two Diocesan seminarians who served in a supportive role) went through an intensive training session in early June in preparation for the summer. From there, they were split into teams. Each team had a weekly leader with the missionaries rotating amongst themselves which grade level they taught each week to better enhance the experience for them and the children.

Each missionary leaves the Diocese feeling blessed by the experience.

Missionary Victoria Cardona, who is a student at Ave Maria University, said the Totus Tuus program was an amazing experience as she quickly connected with students and saw them grow in their faith on a daily – and sometimes hourly – basis. She hopes to become a teacher and this experience reinforced her desire to impart knowledge, particularly about the faith.

“It was rewarding to see when a young person begins to understand the beauty of the faith through the Most Holy Eucharist. This is seen at Mass and at adoration. They come to understand what the Real Presence of Christ means to them in their heart. Just beautiful to witness and be a part of them learning this for the first time,” Cardona said.

Fellow missionary Andres Jimenez, also of Ave Maria University, agreed, saying seeing Jesus in a new way for the children, and helping them grow closer in their understanding and love for the Lord, was rewarding.

“It helped reinvigorate my faith as this process opened my eyes to the wonders of the the Church and revealed how the Lord works in each of us, from the youngest child, through the teens and to us as missionaries. I am leaving this experience having learned myself, how to better listen to the Lord and understand that He has a plan for me,” Jimenez said.

The Parishes which hosted the Totus Tuus team this summer were: St. Katherine Drexel in Cape Coral, St. Frances Xavier Cabrini in Parrish, St. Agnes in Naples, Ave Maria in Ave Maria, St. Peter the Apostle in Naples, St. Catherine in Sebring, Our Lady Queen of Heaven in La Belle, St. John XXIII in Fort Myers, St. Patrick in Sarasota, Epiphany Cathedral in Venice and Our Lady of the Angels in Lakewood Ranch.

Harkey said the praise from priests, religious education leaders and parents has been overwhelmingly positive. The only negative reaction was the request that the camp be longer than one week at a Parish.

“With the feedback we have received, we are going to bring the camp back for the summer of 2024,” Harkey said. “The enthusiasm is contagious and that is a good thing. After two summers, we now have an established program which directly engages young people, from kindergarten through high school, about their faith. That is very special.”

Totus Tuus continues to amaze

“My Lighthouse, my lighthouse; Shining in the darkness, I will follow You” is sung with great enthusiasm each morning during the Totus Tuus weekly program taking place this summer at 11 different host Parishes throughout the Diocese of Venice.

First and second grade students at Ave Maria Parish in Ave Maria performed the song (“My Lighthouse,” by Rend Collective), and its accompanying dance, during a classroom visit by Bishop Frank J. Dewane on June 22, 2023.

“It was so uplifting and enlightening to see these young children so full of energy and life,” Bishop Dewane said. The Bishop observed other classrooms at Ave Maria and was impressed with their knowledge and enthusiasm. He also celebrated Mass for the children.

“In each classroom everyone was so excited and alive about their love of the Lord. It is a strong reflection of the good work of the missionaries and the teen volunteers in getting this important message across; that is to grow in your relationship with the Lord, accompanied by the Blessed Virgin Mary.”

The missionaries, 12 trained college-aged men and women, teach the children of all ages to put a spotlight on sharing the Gospel and promoting the Catholic faith through evangelization, catechesis, Christian witness, and Eucharistic worship. The goal of the week is to help the children develop a true and lasting longing for holiness.

“Totus Tuus does a great job complementing and supplementing what the children learn from their parents; the first and best educators of their faith,” the Bishop said. “This is why Totus Tuus doesn’t stand alone. It is an additional program that is offered and makes available important components of the faith which are needed as children age and mature. In this, the Church can make a meaningful contribution.”

“Totus Tuus” is a Latin phrase meaning “Totally Yours.” It was a motto of St. John Paul II, taken from St. Louis de Montfort’s “True Devotion to Mary.” It signifies our desire to give ourselves entirely to Jesus Christ through Mary. The weeklong program are divided into two sessions, with the day component for students grades 1 – 6, and the evening session for middle school and high school students grades 7 – 12.

Carrie Harkey, Diocesan Coordinator of Family Life in the Office of Evangelization and a co-organizer of Totus Tuus, said the program is different than the traditional Vacation Bible School model.

“There is an intentionality about helping the children and youth live out a relationship with the Lord. It is really fostering those daily habits of discipleship that help with their relationship with the Lord. This is accomplished because there is a heavy emphasis on the Sacraments. Most importantly, there is daily Mass,” Harkey said. In addition, there is the opportunity for confession, holy hours, praying the rosary and much more.

The impact of the Totus Tuus program is widespread in the host Parishes, as local support is crucial for success, with teen volunteers helping during the day and adults in the evenings, and family events scheduled at key points in the week.

The example the missionaries are for not just the youngest children but for the faithful of all ages is readily apparent.

Father Jose Gonzalez, Pastor at St. Catherine Parish in Sebring, invited the missionaries to speak at Masses the weekend ahead of the program’s start (June 25-30) and the response was overwhelmingly positive.

“It is wonderful to see these impressive missionaries serve as examples for the children to learn from and to follow,” Father Gonzalez said.

So far, the program has taken place at the following Parishes: St. Katharine Drexel, Cape Coral; St. Francis Xavier Cabrini, Parrish; St. Agnes, Naples; St. Peter the Apostle, Naples; Ave Maria; and St. Catherine.

While many of the students are from the host Parishes, the reach of Totus Tuus is more regional. For example, at St. Catherine, children and youth also participated from St. James in Lake Placid, Our Lady of Grace in Avon Park, and St. Michael in Wauchula.

Missionary Abel Fernando Cordero said the positive experiences in the first four weeks of the program have been beyond his wildest dreams.

“It is an amazing opportunity. It’s most rewarding and allowing me to grow in humility before the Lord,” Cordero said. “At the end of the day, we are teaching faith and we are having fun doing it. It is showing everyone – the students, the missionaries, the volunteers, the Parish staff, and the parents – that the faith is really alive.”

The remaining Parishes hosting the program are as follows:

  • Our Lady Queen of Heaven in La Belle, July 9-14;
  • John XXIII in Fort Myers and St. Patrick in Sarasota, July 16-21;
  • Epiphany Cathedral in Venice and Our Lady of the Angels in Lakewood Ranch, July 23-28.

Several parishes still have limited openings for this program. To inquire, please contact the individual Parish religious education office by visiting https://dioceseofvenice.org/find-a-parish/. For further information regarding this program, please visit https://dioceseofvenice.org/totustuus2023/.

For additional reflections from Bishop Dewane about the Totus Tuus program, check out the June “Witnessing Faith with Bishop Dewane” radio program on Relevant Radio. The program can be heard at 8:30 a.m., June 30, on 106.7 FM and 1410 AM in Fort Myers and 93.3 FM and 1660 AM in Naples. The show can also be found at any time at https://dioceseofvenice.org/our-bishop/relevant-radio-podcasts/.

News Briefs for the week of June 23, 2023

Totus Tuus continues to share the love of Christ

Totus Tuus (a Latin phrase meaning “totally yours”) is a summer Catholic youth camp program dedicated to sharing the Gospel and promoting the Catholic faith through evangelization, catechesis, Christian witness and Eucharistic worship. During the week of June 18-23, 2023, the team was at St. Peter the Apostle Parish in Naples and Ave Maria Parish in Ave Maria. The weeklong Parish summer catechetical camp assists parents and parishes in evangelizing and catechizing the youth by complementing the work they are already doing at the Parish and at home. The program is offered at 11 Parishes throughout the summer in the Diocese of Venice with four sessions now completed. The week-long camps are divided into two sessions, with the day camp for students entering grades 1 – 6, and the evening camp for middle school and high school students entering grades 7 – 12.

The remaining Parishes hosting the program are as follows:

  • Catherine in Sebring, June 25-30;
  • Our Lady Queen of Heaven in La Belle, July 9-14;
  • John XXIII in Fort Myers and St. Patrick in Sarasota, July 16-21;
  • Epiphany Cathedral in Venice and Our Lady of the Angels in Lakewood Ranch, July 23-28.

Several parishes still have limited openings for this program. To inquire, please contact the individual Parish religious education office by visiting https://dioceseofvenice.org/find-a-parish/. For further information regarding this program, please visit https://dioceseofvenice.org/totustuus2023/.

Ordination to the Priesthood July 15

Bishop Frank J. Dewane invites the Faithful of the Diocese of Venice to attend the Ordination to the Priesthood of Transitional Deacons Alejandro Giraldo Roldan and Daniel Scanlan. The Ordination will take place at 11 a.m., Saturday, July 15, 2023, at Epiphany Cathedral, 350 Tampa Ave. W., Venice. All are welcome and encouraged to attend this important event in the lives of Deacons Alejandro and Daniel as well as the Diocese of Venice. A reception will follow in the Parish Hall.

Best practices for school development

Representatives from each of the 15 Diocese of Venice Catholic schools gathered June 12, 2023, at St. John XXIII Parish for a best practices and proven strategies meeting to maximize charitable giving from current parents. The gathering was presented by Partners in Mission which worked with Diocese of Venice Superintendent of Catholic School Education, Father John Belmonte, SJ. The gathering occurred in the wake of the passage of Universal School Choice legislation in Florida, which removed the income requirements for assistance, and opened the availability of scholarship to all families. To learn more about available financial aid at Diocesan Catholic schools, please visit https://dioceseofvenice.org/offices/offices-departments/catholicschools/finaicalaid/.

Youth raise money to attend conference

Parishioners at Our Lady of Grace Parish in Avon Park were greeted by smiling teens following each Mass the weekend of June 18, 2023. The youth were selling American flags to raise money so they can attend the inspiring Steubenville Youth Conference in Orlando in July. This conference is the largest youth gathering in the region. The sales of the flags throughout the weekend put a big dent in reaching the fundraising goal for the youth as the cost for weekend conference is quite high, which means any fundraising helps defer the costs for the teens.

Liberty Ball Gala a success

St. Columbkille Parish in Fort Myers hosted a Fourth Degree Knights of Columbus Liberty Ball Gala on June 17, 2023. This annual patriotic celebration honors all Knights who are veterans and first responders, as well as their families. The evening included a ceremonial posting of the Colors as well as dinner and live entertainment. Veterans from Lee County were honored during the event, and there was a ceremonial meal table honoring and remembering all veterans MIA (missing in action). Proceeds benefit veterans’ programs throughout Lee County.

Fire hose enhances water day at Naples camp

The St. Ann Parish and Catholic School summer camp concluded on June 16, 2023, with a water day courtesy of the Naples Fire Department. A ladder truck (Tower 2) was brought to the school and a hose laid out as the children excitedly waited in anticipation for the blast of water. Screams of delight came as a shower of chilly water soaked everyone. Inflatable pools were set up to help the water day last a bit longer. Everyone had lots of fun following a week of activities and art projects during the summer camp.

Totus Tuus – Faith is Fun!

What do you get when dozens of children gather for a special summer camp – a deeper understanding of their faith and lots of fun.

In just its first week, the Totus Tuus Summer Camp for children and teens is already a huge success as St. Katharine Drexel Parish in Cape Coral, and St. Frances Xavier Cabrini Parish in Parrish, hosted campers June 4-9, 2023.

The goal of the Totus Tuus Summer Camp is to help young people develop in their understanding of the faith and strengthen their relationship with Jesus Christ.

Totus Tuus is a Latin phrase meaning “Totally Yours.” It was a motto of St. John Paul II, taken from St. Louis de Montfort’s “True Devotion to Mary.” It signifies our desire to give ourselves entirely to Jesus Christ through Mary.

The week-long camps are divided into two sessions, with the day camp for students entering grades 1 – 6, and the evening camp for middle school and high school students entering grades 7 – 12. Led by two teams of six missionaries each, the camps also have the Parish staff and volunteers augmenting the team, together they make the week one to remember for all who participate.

Unlike in 2022, this year has two teams of six missionaries each to reach as many children as possible. This means 11 Parishes will host the summer camp in June and July. The missionaries are supported by two Diocesan seminarians.

Lessons build throughout the week as the children learn about the importance of prayer, and ways to pray, which includes the basics of the Our Father and Hail Mary through the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary.

By the end of the camp, it is anticipated that the children learn about the importance of the Eucharist and how Jesus walks with them all the time, explained Carrie Harkey, Diocesan Coordinator of Marriage and Family Life. The Totus Tuus summer camp is the work of several Diocesan offices, including Evangelization, Catholic Education and Youth Outreach.

The camp for the younger children begins with music to pump the children up and get them ready for the full day ahead with a focus on learning key lessons about their faith. In addition to dancing, music and prayer, the children have time for activities such as crafts and games.

A focal point of each day is participation in daily Mass. The Mass portion of the day is more than participating in the important celebration of the Holy Eucharist. It is at this time during the camp when the children not only learn the various hymns but also learn about the different parts of the Mass and why they are so key to this important celebration.

For example, when entering the Church, the children are brought to the Holy Water Font and taught how and why they are to respectfully dip their finger in the water and bless themselves. They also learn about the need to genuflect before entering and when leaving the pew as they face the tabernacle where Jesus is present.

Throughout the week, there is also quiet reflective time in Eucharistic Adoration and the opportunity for the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

The teen aspect of the summer camp is confined to the evenings and focuses on allowing the Totus Tuus missionaries and seminarians to share their stories and lead discussions on topics that are important to young people today. The teens also take part in Adoration and are offered the opportunity to go to confession. Throughout the week, there is a special focus on fostering a prayer life and deepening their relationship with the Lord.

Both day and evening camps conclude with fun and games.

Rose Talbot-Babey, Director of Religious Education at St. Katharine Drexel, which hosted the first week of Totus Tuus in 2022, said this year is building upon the success of 2022. “It is a great program for children of all ages as everyone gets something out of the week. These missionaries are great!”

St. Frances Xavier Cabrini Pastor Father Joseph Gates was pleased by the camp, viewing it as an opportunity to build up the religious education program at the Parish.

The 12 missionaries arrived in late May to begin a training regimen which prepared them for the Totus Tuus program and the rigors of teaching young children and teens for the entire summer.

Bishop Frank J. Dewane, who helped bring the Totus Tuus program to the Diocese in 2022, had lunch with the missionaries on June 1. He learned about their backgrounds and offered encouragement to them, stressing the importance of their work within the Diocese and how they needed to be guided by Christ in the work they are doing this summer.

The Parishes hosting Totus Tuus this summer are: St. Katherine Drexel, St. Frances Xavier Cabrini; St. Agnes in Naples, June 11-16; Ave Maria in Ave Maria and St. Peter the Apostle in Naples, June 18-23; St. Catherine in Sebring, June 25-30; Our Lady Queen of Heaven in La Belle, July 9-14; St. John XXIII in Fort Myers and St. Patrick in Sarasota, July 16-21; and Epiphany Cathedral in Venice and Our Lady of the Angels in Lakewood Ranch, July 23-28.

While many of the Parish Totus Tuus camps are full, some openings are available. To inquire, please contacting the individual Parish religious education office which can be found by visiting https://dioceseofvenice.org/find-a-parish/. For further information regarding this program please visit https://dioceseofvenice.org/totustuus2023/.

Totally Yours! Hundreds having fun with faith

The new Diocese of Venice Totus Tuus Summer Camp has been generating a lot of buzz as it moves from Parish to Parish each week. Hundreds of children and teens have been having fun learning about the Catholic Faith throughout the Diocese.

Totus Tuus (a Latin phrase meaning “totally yours”) is a summer Catholic youth camp program dedicated to sharing the Gospel and promoting the Catholic Faith through evangelization, catechesis, Christian witness and Eucharistic worship. The camp is directed by a team of four missionaries and two Diocesan seminarians. Parish staff and volunteers augment the team and together they make the week one to remember for all who participate.

Father Jiobani Batista, Pastor of Our Lady Queen of Heaven Parish in LaBelle – which hosted Totus Tuus the week of June 20-24, 2022 – said if he had his way, he would welcome a Totus Tuus Summer Camp every week, all summer.

“The enthusiasm and wonder of the young children have been great,” Father Batista said. “Then, the engagement and excitement from the teens was incredible. I am having young kids come up to me at each break asking me questions about everything. That is amazing. To see their interest and excitement about Jesus, the Mass and everything about their Faith is very exciting.”

The day camp program is for grades one to five, and is Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and evenings are for grades six through 12, is Monday to Thursday from 7:30 p.m.to 9:45 p.m. The camp opened the week of June 6 at St. Katherine Drexel Parish in Cape Coral, where 50 children, and 27 youth participated. Then the following week at St. Agnes Parish in Naples some 100 young children and more than 60 teens participated, with a group coming from Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish in Immokalee.

The Our Lady Queen of Heaven week engaged more than 100 children during the day and some 60 youth in the evening. This group also included children from St. Margaret Parish in Clewiston. This was followed by a week at St. Catherine Parish in Sebring, with participants (about 100 youth and 60 teens) also coming from St. James Parish in Lake Placid and Our Lady of Grace Parish in Avon Park.

Each day of the children’s camp, the participants learn lessons about the importance of prayer, and ways to pray, from the basics of the Our Father and Hail Mary to the Luminous Mysteries of the Rosary. They also learn about the importance of the Eucharist and how Jesus walks with them all the time.

Diocesan Seminarians Juan Contreras and James Gates are fully involved in the daily activities of the camp, taking charge of some classes of the younger campers and being team leaders for the older groups in the evenings.

“I think this camp is making a difference and it’s fun to see how much enthusiasm the little kids have and compare that to the teens and their questions, which are much more serious and profound,” Contreras said.

“It is great to see the reaction of the little kids when they learn something new,” Gates said. “The teens just like to hang out, but they are interested and that is important.”

Seeing the seminarians every day, in a relaxed setting, gives the campers of all ages a positive role model whom they can look up to and interact with, which is an opportunity they might not otherwise have. Some of their impactful actions by the seminarians are subtle: such as a compliment here, or a smile there, and perhaps a high five for a job well done. At other times, the seminarians teach the young children the basics of praying the Our Father and Hail Mary, or they are leaders in prayer, such as during the Liturgy of the Hours with the youth in the evening, or perhaps when they join in the crazy dancing and fun games.

“Having the young children and youth see the seminarians is really inspiring,” Father Batista said. “They are great with the little ones and can answer any question for the teens. In fact, I already have some inquiring to be a Totus Tuus missionary next year and others who are expressing an interest in a vocation to the priesthood or religious life. That is great. I wish we had all of the seminarians here.”

After the final evening prayer with the youth at Our Lady Queen of Heaven, many of the teens sought out the two seminarians, as well as the other four missionaries, to personally thank them, often seeking a high-five, fist-bump or even a hug, always with a big smile.

Angelica Pena, Director of Religious Education at Our Lady Queen of Heaven, praised the structure and focus of Totus Tuus. She was amazed at how well her students were picking up the most complex of topics and then remembering the next day.

“This is a whole year of religious education crammed into one week for the young ones, and they love it, and more importantly the parents love it,” Pena said. “They are learning, and they are remembering prayers and lessons in a way that just doesn’t happen when you see them for 90 minutes each week.”

Only one Parish hosts the camp each week. The Parishes hosting Totus Tuus for the rest of the summer are: St. John XXIII in Fort Myers, July 11-15; St. Joseph in Bradenton, July 18-22; St. Elizabeth Seton in Naples, July 25-29; and St. Patrick in Sarasota, August 1-August 5.

There are still some openings for this program. Please contact the Director of Religious Education at the Parish hosting the program or Anne Chrzan at chrzan@dioceseofvenice.org.

Faith Can Be Fun!

What do you get when upwards of 100 children gather for a special summer camp – a growth in Faith and lots of fun.

Part way into its second week, the inaugural Totus Tuus Summer Camp for children and teens has been a great success. The opening week, June 6-10, 2022, at St. Katharine Drexel Parish in Cape Coral, brought in 50 children each day and 27 teens each evening. The second week, June 13-17, is at St. Agnes Parish in Naples and there are more than 100 children and 60 youth taking part. Among the group at St. Agnes were also children from Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish in Immokalee.

The goal of the Totus Tuus Summer Camp is to help young people grow in their understanding of the faith and strengthening of their faith in Jesus Christ. The camp is directed by a team of four missionaries and two Diocesan seminarians. Parish staff and volunteers augment the team and together they make the week one to remember for all who participate.

Each day of the weeklong camp, the children and youth learn lessons about the importance of prayer, and ways to pray, from the basics of the Our Father and Hail Mary to the Luminous Mysteries of the Rosary.

They also learn about the importance of the Eucharist and how Jesus walks with them all the time, explained Anne Chrzan, Diocesan Director of Religious Education.

The day begins with music to pump the children up and get them ready for the full day ahead with all the time focused on learning key lessons about their faith. In addition to dancing, music and prayer, the children have time for activities such as crafts and games.

There is time for Mass each day with additional quiet reflective time in Eucharistic Adoration and three days when there is opportunity for the Sacrament of Reconciliation. The Mass portion of the day is more than participating in the important celebration of the Holy Eucharist. It is at this time during the camp when the children not only learn the various hymns but also learn about the different parts of the Mass and why they are so key to this important celebration. For example, when entering the Church, the children are brought to the Holy Water Font and taught how and why they are to respectfully dip their finger in the water and bless themselves.

Diocesan Seminarians Juan Contreras and James Gates are fully involved in the daily activities of the camp, serving as leaders in prayer and offering their discernment stories to the teens in the evenings. They serve as leaders when teaching about hearing the call of the Lord in one’s life, citing their own examples as a guide for others to follow.

The teen aspect of the summer camp is confined to the evenings and focuses on allowing the Totus Tuus missionaries and seminarians to share their stories and lead discussions on topics that are important to young people today. The teens also take part in Adoration and there is a special focus on growing their prayer life and relationship with the Lord.

There is a mid-week potluck during which families come and see firsthand what their children have learned as they perform skits or short plays about different aspects of their faith. The week concludes with a water day of outside fun and games.

Rose M. Talbot-Babey, Director of Religious Education at St. Katharine Drexel, sent a note to Chrzan about the week, saying she received lots of positive feedback from parents and children alike about how they enjoyed the Totus Tuus camp.

“In particular, the children were sharing what they had learned once they got home which is so encouraging and the parents were pleased with that,” Talbot-Babey wrote.

Only one Parish hosts the camp each week. The Parishes hosting Totus Tuus this summer are: St. Katherine Drexel; St. Agnes in Naples; Our Lady Queen of Heaven in La Belle, June 20-24; St. Catherine in Sebring, June 27-July 1; St. John XXIII in Fort Myers, July 11-15; St. Joseph in Bradenton, July 18-22; St. Elizabeth Seton in Naples, July 25-29; and St. Patrick in Sarasota, August 1-August 5.

The camp program, for grades 1-5, takes place Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and for grades 6-12, it is Monday to Thursday from 7:30 p.m.to 9:45 p.m.

Several parishes still have openings for this program. Please contact the Director of Religious Education at the Parish hosting the program or Anne Chrzan at chrzan@dioceseofvenice.org.