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.

News briefs for the week of Aug. 4, 2023

New Mooney athletic director named

Rafael Fernandez has been appointed as the new athletic director at Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School in Sarasota. Fernandez is a 1991 graduate of Mooney having played baseball at the school. He comes to Mooney from the same post at Lake Howell High School in Winter Garden. Previously he was dean of students at South Seminole Academy in Casselberry, and before that at Lancaster Elementary School in Orlando. He has a degree from the University of Central Florida and is fluent in Spanish. Much of his family still lives in the Sarasota area as he returns to his roots to take on a program that has seen great success in recent years.

Knights support school

Two Knights councils, Ponce De Leon Council 8074 in Punta Gorda and Our Lady of Victory Council 3358 in Sarasota, recently presented gifts to St. Mary Academy in Sarasota. Council 8074 generously gifted $4,000 to support the school during a July 26, 2023, reception in Punta Gorda. Council 3358 presented a check for $5,000 on July 27. St. Mary offers an exceptional education for children with learning differences. For more information, please visit https://www.stmarysarasota.org/.

Children participate in summer camps

St. Michael Parish in Wauchula hosted two different summer camps, one for girls the week of July 10-14, 2023, and another for boys the week of July 17-21. These camps were all day and included fun activities but also had a strong component of faith, which included the participation in the Mass, prayer, adoration and taking part in Eucharistic processions. The camps were led by the religious women of the Servants of the Lord and the Virgin of Matará, who serve at the Parish, as well as many volunteers.

Scam Alert

There have been recent incidents where parishioners have been contacted supposedly by their pastor and/or parish staff to send gift cards, cash or money orders via email or text. These requests are a scam and under no circumstances should you reply to these emails or comply with these requests. Nor should you divulge any personal information to anyone that is not a trusted source. If you are contacted with a request for money via email or text, and the message appears as though it is from a Diocesan priest or employee, do not reply. Instead, make direct contact with the person by calling the Parish and asking to speak with the priest or employee.

Summertime and the Giving is Easy Appeal

Every day, Catholic Charities, Diocese of Venice, Inc., serves in the 10 counties that constitute the Diocese of Venice the most vulnerable population by feeding, housing, empowering, and helping all in need. This summer, you can be the one that makes a difference. Your acts of kindness have the power to transform lives and leave a positive impact in our community. The Catholic Charities Summertime and the Giving is Easy Appeal is asking for your support. The giving is easy! Your gift will make a positive impact on our less fortunate brothers and sisters! Please visit https://catholiccharitiesdov.org/ or mail a check to Catholic Charities, 1000 Pinebrook Road, Venice, FL 34285.

Retreats Returning to OLPH

Beginning this Fall, Our Lady of Perpetual Help Retreat Center, 3989 South Moon Drive, Venice, will be offering a variety of retreats. There is available a single-day Youth Retreat for grades 6-12. The following group retreats are open for registration: Matt Talbot Men’s Retreat scheduled for Oct. 15-17, 2023, and the Can You See Me? Retreat scheduled for Oct. 27-29. Interested in a 3-night, 5-night, or 7-night private, directed retreat schedule? Fall dates are now available. To learn more or to register for a group or private retreat, please visit https://www.olph-retreat.org/, or call 941-486-0233.

Surviving Divorce

If you or someone you know is navigating the challenges of a separation or divorce, consider participating in the Surviving Divorce Program developed by Rose Sweet, a well-known Catholic author, and speaker.  The twelve-week program begins at 6:30 p.m., Aug.17, 2023, at St. John the Evangelist Parish, 625 111th Avenue, Naples. Contact Michael Dana at mgdana@gmail.com or 301-332-9055 to register.

Day of Reflection for Sacramental Marriage

The Office of Marriage and Family Life will be hosting a Day of Reflection for couples preparing for the Sacrament of Marriage in the Catholic Church.  A specially prepared team will share their experiences and information enabling couples to be more aware of the privileges and responsibilities of marriage.  This event will be held from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., Sept. 9, 2023, at St. John the Evangelist Parish, 625 111th Avenue, Naples.  The cost of $50/couple covers all retreat materials and lunch.  Pre-registration is required at https://dioceseofvenice.regfox.com/marriage-preparation-seminar-2023.  Should you have questions or require additional information contact Carrie Harkey at harkey@dioceseofvenice.org or 941-484-9543 ext. 4748.

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/.

2023 Camp Mercy in Sarasota

By Sue Thompson, Special to the Florida Catholic

From June 19 – 23, 2023, the Church of St. Patrick Parish in Sarasota rang with the laughter and song of more than 120 campers (kindergarten through fifth grade), youth counselors, adult volunteers and Parish staff who all tried to emulate Christ by serving not only one another, but also those in need in the community.

Camp Mercy, an alternate to a traditional Vacation Bible School, was founded by five St. Patrick parishioners in 2017. The camp concept is based on the premise that we are all “Called to Serve” and the Corporal Works of Mercy serve as the core of the program.

Each summer the children perform service projects that either feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, visit the imprisoned, shelter the homeless, visit the sick, or bury the dead. As Christians, we are called to perform these works and as Camp Mercy continues to grow each year, it is obvious that the kids love to help others!

Kami Yaegers, who has taught Bible Study at Camp Mercy since its inception, said, “I am so thankful to be a part of Camp Mercy. It gives me so much joy to see these children learn about Jesus, scripture and how to be examples of God’s love for all of us.”

This summer the camp’s theme was “All Aboard with Jesus,” where the campers were taken back in time aboard a train and learned about four of Jesus’ miracles: the wedding feast at Cana, healing the 10 lepers, feeding the 5,000 and healing the paralyzed man.

The high school skit crew taught one miracle each morning and showed how Jesus used these opportunities to demonstrate his love for us and to give an example of how we can perform the works of mercy. Campers were taught that they too can give back to those in need and help each other to grow spiritually.

Ryan Yaegers, who started with Camp Mercy as a camper and helped as an adult volunteer this year, said that “This camp really helps to further the next generation of young Catholic believers.”

Through skits, Bible study, crafts (making necklaces for a local nursing home and rosary boxes), games (loaves and fishes basket relay, carrying your friends to Jesus), praise and worship (learning songs about Jesus’ miracles accompanied with sign language). Importantly, were the service projects (making 200 lunch bags for local homeless children, decorating and potting flowers for nursing home residents and cleaning the Siesta Key beachfront), when the youth were given the opportunity to share the gift of themselves in service to others.

The camp culminated in a concert for parents and a Knights of Columbus sponsored cookout where the children presented the results of their service projects. Each camper made placemats for the cookout and drew pictures and wrote about their favorite part of camp with many focusing on meeting new friends and feeling good about helping someone else.  The campers and their families also attended Sunday morning Mass together to praise the Lord, perform a few of the camp songs for the faithful and to start dreaming about camp next summer!

Sue Thompson is the Director of Religious Education at the Church of St. Patrick in Sarasota and can be reached at sue@churchofstpatrick.org.

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.

News briefs for the week of June 16, 2023

Where is Totus Tuus this Week?

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 12-16, 2023, the team was at St. Agnes Parish in Naples. 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. This summer the program is offered at 11 parishes in the Diocese of Venice with three 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:

  • Ave Maria in Ave Maria and St. Peter the Apostle in Naples, June 18-23;
  • 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/.

Students work to protect Everglades

A dedicated team of 12 seventh grade students from the National Junior Honor Society of St. Andrew Catholic School in Cape Coral, participated in a community service project to protect the Everglades. Our “Everglades Champions” worked for several months earlier in 2023 to understand issues involving water quality and seagrass habitats, learn about policies and practices associated with water quality, and implement goals and strategies to affect positive change in the community. Their goal was to promote healthy water quality and seagrass habitats by educating the community about the harm posed by fertilizer run-off and encourage the community to NOT fertilize lawns during the rainy season. To reach their goal, the students implemented a multi-faceted strategy. They created informational posters and artwork which is on display at the Cape Coral Library through the end of June. They delivered letters and flyers to local hardware stores, and they posted their message on social media. The students were recognized by the Everglades Foundation during a virtual celebration event on June 2, 2023.

Knights on Bikes begin evangelization efforts in Collier County

On Sunday, June 4, 2023, the Knights of Columbus Knights on Bikes rode from Ave Maria to San Marco Parish on Marco Island to participate in Mass as a Knight honor guard. The Knights on Bikes in the Diocese are under the leadership of Chair Pete Battle, whose mission is to evangelize to the Catholic community and to those willing to listen to the message of Christ, as they live and witness faith as motorcyclists. Their motto is “In God we trust and ride.” The Knights on Bikes are involved in charity rides, toy drives, fund raising rides for vocations and local Knight’s councils. The Knights on Bikes will next be participating in Mass will be at Our Lady of Light Parish, 19680 Cypress View Drive, Fort Myers, at 10:30 a.m., on July 23. Any Parish interested in hosting the Knights on Bikes can reach out to Pete Battle at 239-601-6061.

Independence Day Bike and Golf Cart Parade

The Knights of Columbus Ave Maria Assembly 3862 is hosting the 6th annual “God Bless America” Independence Day Bike and Golf Cart Parade, at 10 a.m., July 4, 2023. The ceremony starts in the Piazza of the town and will include a reflection from an Ave Maria veteran on the “Blessing of Freedom,” then patriotic songs, prayers for our country, then a “Blessing of the Bikes.” The parade, which will include bikes, trikes, golf carts, skateboards, strollers (decorated or not), will be led by a fire truck and pass through several neighborhoods, ending approximately 2 miles later back in the Piazza where there will be treats available. All are welcome. For more information, contact Dominick Micillo at 904-536-1480.

Summertime and the Giving is Easy Appeal

Every day, Catholic Charities, Diocese of Venice, Inc., serves the area’s most vulnerable population by feeding, housing, empowering, and helping all in need. This summer, you can be the one that makes a difference. Your acts of kindness have the power to transform lives and leave a positive impact in our community. The Catholic Charities Summertime and the Giving is Easy Appeal is asking for your support. The giving is easy! Your gift will make a positive impact on our less fortunate brothers and sisters! Please visit www.catholiccharitiesdov.org or mail a check to Catholic Charities, 1000 Pinebrook Road, Venice, FL 34285.

Ordination to the Priesthood July 15

Bishop Frank J. Dewane invites the faithful to 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.

Free counseling services available

Did you know that Catholic Charities offers FREE counseling and Psychotherapy? If you or someone you know is ready to take the first step towards healing and wellness, call 888-249-9296. Catholic Charities serves ALL that come to us for help, regardless of race or religion.

Support pregnant mothers in need

Looking for a way to help pregnant women in need?  Your tax-deductible donation will help with rent, utilities, or other necessities.  Give to the Catholic Charities Pennies for Babies Fund, 1000 Pinebrook Road, Venice, FL 34285 where no administrative fees are taken from any donations. Questions?  Contact Jeanne Berdeaux, Berdeaux@dioceseofvenice.org or 941-374-1068.

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/.

News Briefs for the week of June 9, 2023

Students learn about how corporation operates

Members of the Bishop Verot Catholic High School Scholars Academy learned about color, fabric quality, lab testing, trends, concept design, visual merchandising, and technology while touring the Fort Myers campus of Chico’s headquarters in May 2023. These students had a front-row seat to see how a large clothing retail company operates, as the students learned how to connect their academic paths to future career opportunities.

STREAM summer camp in Bradenton

St. Joseph Catholic School in Bradenton is hosting a summer camp which focuses on learning STREAM (science, technology, religion, engineering, arts and math) skills. The first day of the camp was June 5, 2023, and activities included making morphing creations, enjoying books, and participating in “Math and Movement.”

Young adult outreach opportunity

St. John XXIII Parish in Fort Myers hosts a once a month gathering for young adults called Rooted, in the church at 4 p.m. on the second Sunday of each month (June 11, 2023). This includes praise and worship, along with Eucharistic Adoration. In addition, the outreach program is looking to expand it’s offerings to young adults, such as for college students, those 20-30, young adults who are married with/without children (children welcome), and older adults aged 30 years and up. If you are interested in helping to organize, lead, or participate in this effort, please contact Kelly Evers, St. John XXIII Coordinator of Youth and Young Adult Ministry, at kelly@johnxxiii.net or 239-561-3022.

Day of Reflection for Sacramental Marriage June 17

The Office of Marriage and Family Life will be hosting a Day of Reflection for couples preparing for the Sacrament of Marriage in the Catholic Church on two separate dates. This day of reflection will be 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., June 17, 2023, at St. Katharine Drexel Parish, 1922 SW 20th Ave., Cape Coral. A specially prepared team will share their experiences and information enabling couples to be more aware of the privileges and responsibilities of marriage. The cost of $50/couple covers all retreat materials and lunch.  Pre-registration is required at Marriage Preparation Seminar 2023 (regfox.com).  Should you have questions or require additional information contact Carrie Harkey at 941-484-9543 ext. 4748, or harkey@dioceseofvenice.org.

Summertime and the Giving is Easy Appeal

Every day, Catholic Charities, Diocese of Venice, Inc., serves its most vulnerable population by feeding, housing, empowering, and helping all in need. This summer, you can be the one that makes a difference. Your acts of kindness have the power to transform lives and leave a positive impact in our community. The Catholic Charities Summertime and the Giving is Easy Appeal is asking for your support. The giving is easy! Your gift will make a positive impact on our less fortunate brothers and sisters! Please visit www.catholiccharitiesdov.org or mail a check to Catholic Charities, 1000 Pinebrook Road, Venice, FL 34285.

Ordination to the Priesthood July 15

Bishop Frank J. Dewane invites the faithful to 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.

Volunteers Needed for Prison Outreach

Join the team of Diocesan volunteers who enter county jails and state prisons within the 10-county Diocese of Venice to do pastoral outreach, distribute the Eucharist and facilitate programs. Priests, Deacons, and lay volunteers are encouraged to assist in this ministry. Volunteers will first participate in an orientation program before entering the facility and will “shadow” experienced volunteers until you feel comfortable. Times and days vary by facility. Please contact Joe Mallof at 224-217-7139 or Bob Hiniker 863-558-0407 to learn where you can fit into this joyful opportunity.

 

TOTUS TUUS – Summer Camp returns to Diocese

Making a triumphant return to the Diocese of Venice, the very successful Totus Tuus summer camp will soon be taking place at a Parish near you.

There are 12 missionaries fervently undergoing final preparations as the first two Parish camps start June 4, 2023. Ultimately there will be eight separate weeks with 11 Parishes serving as hosts through the end of July. Hundreds of young children and teens will be impacted by this special outreach.

The 2022 pilot program garnered rave reviews, with host Parish priests and catechists describing how the children’s love for Christ reached heights in a single 5-day period more than in an entire season of religious instruction.

Bishop Frank J. Dewane authorized bringing the pilot program to the Diocese in 2022 and agreed that in 2023, there would be a recruitment of even more missionaries and more host Parishes for these camps.

“The Totus Tuus format allows the participants to learn a great deal in such a short time. It was very impressive and was something I realized that we needed to bring to as many of our young people as possible,” Bishop Dewane said.

The Totus Tuus program aims 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.

The week-long camps (9 a.m. to 3 p.m., Monday to Friday) are divided into two segments, with the day camp for students entering grades 1 – 6, and the evening camp (6:30 p.m.to 8:30 p.m., Monday to Friday) for middle school and high school students entering 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, prayer and fellowship.

The goal of the Totus Tuus Summer Camp is to help young people grow in their understanding of, and strengthen of their faith in Jesus Christ, explained Marthamaria Morales, Diocesan Youth and Young Adult Director, and co-coordinator of the Totus Tuus program this summer. Each day of the weeklong camp, the children and youth learn lessons about prayer, from the basics of the Our Father to the Luminous Mysteries of the Rosary.

The 12 Totus Tuus missionaries (six men and six women) gathered at Epiphany Cathedral from May 25 to June 3, 2023, to prepare for the summer. Morales said key to this year was ensuring at least half of the missionaries were Spanish speakers, as this is a large segment of the young Catholic population in the Diocese.

The missionary training focused on what is needed from the missionaries and what they can expect to take place each week. This included how the daily camp will follow a basic structure with lessons, games and activities, each building up throughout the week. Part of the training included team-building exercises and the sharing of their personal stories, which is an important component to Totus Tuus camps, as these college-age leaders provide an authentic witness to the students.

From Diocesan staff, the missionaries learned about classroom management skills, public speaking, Christian character, nurturing Catholic life and much more.

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 Parishes hosting Totus Tuus this summer are: St. Katherine Drexel in Cape Coral, and St. Frances Xavier Cabrini in Parrish, June 4-9; 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.

Morales said that while many of the Parish Totus Tuus camp slots 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/.

The concept of this unique outreach was started in Wichita, Kansas in 1987 as a summer catechetical program and has grown into a weeklong summer camp which is now active in more than 50 Dioceses. The program has a proven track record of inspiring active stewards, fruitful vocations and a lifelong love for the Church.

The 2023 Totus Tuus missionaries are Kyle Elsner of San Diego, California; Andres Jimenez of Miami, Florida; Juan Hurtado of Miami, Florida; Abel Cordero of Silver Creek, Georgia; Nolan Fitzpatrick of Naples, Florida; Conner Bradley of Corona, California; Mairin Dulin of Warrington, Pennsylvania; Stephanie Salazar of Atlanta, Georgia; Natalia Cassata of Lombard, Illinois; Lorraine Gordan of Naperville, Illinois; and Victoria Cardona of Warrington, Pennsylvania. Additionally, two men, James Gates and Michael Courville, who were studying to be seminarians for the Diocese will be assisting the missionaries. Gates is a returning missionary from 2022.

Gates and Courville are both excited to offer their personal “Call of the Lord” to the missionaries and to all the young people they will encounter throughout the summer.

These missionaries were selected for their energy, enthusiasm, love of the Faith, commitment to spiritual growth, ability to work with a team and a desire to work with youth.

Parish helps youth reach for the stars

The parishioners of St. Leo the Great Parish have developed a strong bond with Catholic Charities programs in Bonita Springs.

The Parish hosts Catholic Charities in the Juan Diego Center and supports the good works provided by the staff and volunteers, many of whom are their own parishioners.

The faithful provide donations for the St. Leo Food Bank, as well as annual holiday food and gift drives at Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter, explained Anne Bellows, Assistant to the Pastor.

Of particular focus is support for the Positive Youth Development Program, which offers an after-school tutoring program and summer camp for underprivileged children in the area.

This summer, each of the 46 children who participated in the Program’s Summer Enrichment Camp received scholarships from parishioners of St. Leo, explained Jose Perez, Positive Youth Development Program Manager.

During the summer, the youth received tutoring in math and reading, as well as enjoying enriching activities during their seven weeks on campus including a number of day trips.

Perez works to ensure the children have a well-rounded experience. In 2021, for the first time, the campers finished the summer by taking a magical trip to Disney World in Orlando. This was something none of the campers had experienced as the price was too much for the participating families. When the call went out for support, St. Leo parishioners responded with love and kindness, covering many of the costs for each student to have a wonderful experience in Orlando at the conclusion of the camp.

“We know this is a really wonderful program and opportunity for these kids,” Bellows said. “Our parishioners are so generous in supporting it every year.”

When looking at the end of summer trip this year, they wanted to do something a bit different than returning to Disney.

“This summer turned out to be, in a sense, themed on Florida, from the native wildlife to the historical places in our state,” Perez explained. “Most of our guest speakers and field trips were related to Florida in some way. This year, however, was about what kind of mark you want to leave behind. When speaking with the youth in our program about this topic in our afterschool program, one thing that came up a lot was discovery, space, and the future. We knew then where we were headed – the Kennedy Space Center.”

With an “out-of-this-world” trip in mind, Perez worked tirelessly to put the pieces together to make the adventure happen within budget and without a hitch.

Once again, Bellows said St. Leo parishioners stepped up and generously covered many of the costs for the trip such as food, t-shirts, money for souvenirs and more. One parishioner generously covered the admission costs.

“It is a joint effort of love and outreach to underprivileged kids in Bonita Springs,” Bellows said.

Boarding a bus, the campers and their chaperones spent the early part of the day travelling to the Space Center, being immersed in the history of exploration of outer space and getting a glimpse into the future. The group even had the opportunity to talk with NASA Astronaut Steven Smith who has travelled to outer space four times.

Perez said the trip was a fantastic experience, “getting to see the kids in our program be in awe of the sheer size of the rockets and shuttles that have been launched into space. We had many moments of wonder. One was getting to ‘experience’ the first launch of Apollo 11 from the original control room.”

Two of the younger kids (Gael and Abraham) wondered if what they were seeing was real. “They were awestruck, and the look of amazement in their eyes and their smiles told me that it was the perfect choice for a trip. After that, they had so many questions about how they could be astronauts which were answered by an actual astronaut!”

Perez said the best part is that he and his team are blessed for the opportunity to be part of expanding a child’s world beyond what they know or have experienced, showing them that they are not limited or bound to their zip code.

“We would not be able to do this without the support of remarkable individuals such as St. Leo’s parishioners and staff,” Perez added. “They have supported us and have helped us make these fantastic experiences possible for the youth of the community.”

To learn more about the Catholic Charities Positive Youth Development Program please contact Jose Perez at 239-390-2928 ext. 2302 or email Jose.Perez@catholiccharitiesdov.org. To support the Program, visit www.catholiccharitiesdov.org.

To learn about St. Leo the Great Parish in Bonita Springs, please visit www.stleocatholicchurch.org/ or call 239-992-0901.