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/.