Totus Tuus 2024 – Faith is Fun!

As the song “My Lighthouse” rang out in the Parish Hall at St. Frances Xavier Cabrini Parish in Parrish on June 4, 2024, Totus Tuus missionaries led young children in singing and dancing, energizing everyone to be alive in the faith!

“This is so much fun,” said one young girl. “I love Jesus,” said another girl. “God loves me,” said one boy.

In the evening, teens gathered to hear the missionaries share their faith and lead discussions on topics that are important to young people today. Evenings consist of icebreaker activities, moments of deep reflection, heartfelt prayer, and, most importantly, shared joy in the Love of God.

“This was so much fun,” one teen boy said at the end of the week. “The missionaries made the faith fun, and that was cool,” noted a young lady.

St. Frances Cabrini was one of two Diocese of Venice Parishes to host the first week of the Totus Tuus program which will eventually take place at 12 Parishes this summer. St. Frances Cabrini and Our Lady of Grace Parish in Avon Park hosted campers June 2-7, 2024, and then Ave Maria Parish in Ave Maria welcomed the program from June 9-14.

The Totus Tuus program, in its third year, is the work of several Diocesan offices, including Evangelization, Catholic Education and Youth Outreach. Bishop Frank J. Dewane brought the pilot program to the Diocese in 2022 and the positive feedback has led to yearly expansions to reach more Parishes.

So far, in its first two weeks, the Totus Tuus summer program has reached more than 300 children and teens with hundreds more expected to take part as the missionaries visit more Parishes each week through July.

The goal of the Totus Tuus program 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.

Missionary Natalia Abrams said the energy and enthusiasm from the younger children is infectious, while being able to reach the teens is inspiring. “It is a lot of work, but the reward, seeing the transformation of everyone from chaos to praise of God, is great.”

The week-long program is 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 missionary teams, the program has the Parish staff and volunteers augmenting the team, together they make the week one to remember.

Lessons for the younger children build upon one another during the week as they learn about the importance of prayer, and ways to pray, which includes the basics of the Our Father and Hail Mary through the Glorious Mysteries of the Rosary. This year, there is also a special emphasis on learning the key lessons of the Apostles’ Creed. In addition to dancing, music and prayer, the children have time for activities such as crafts and games.

A focal point of each day for the young children 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 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.

Throughout the week, there is also quiet reflective time in Eucharistic Adoration and the opportunity for the Sacrament of Reconciliation. By Friday, the children have learned about the importance of the Eucharist and how Jesus walks with them all the time.

The teens also take part in Eucharistic 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. On the last evening, the teens gather around a bonfire and have a more informal group talk about what they learned throughout the week and how to carry that knowledge in their spiritual life going forward.

St. Frances Xavier Cabrini Pastor Father Joseph Gates said the support of the Parish and participation by the youth was a great opportunity to strengthen the Parish community. The last night of the Totus Tuus visit coincided with a Parish picnic, where more than 200 gathered in the Parish Hall.

“Everyone is so happy to see our younger parishioners learning about building up their faith,” Father Gates said. “The boys and girls go home and tell all about their day, and the excitement is infectious not just for the families but for everyone.”

The missionaries arrived in late May to begin a training regimen at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Retreat Center in Venice which prepared them for the Totus Tuus program and the rigors of teaching young children and teens for the entire summer.

During their training, Bishop Dewane had dinner with the missionaries, and offered encouragement, 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.

In addition to Our Lady of Grace, St. Frances Xavier Cabrini, and Ave Maria, already hosting Totus Tuus this summer, the program continues at the following Parishes: 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). To register, please contact the hosting Parish directly. Parish contact information can be found at