by Bob Hart
KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Call it “Catholic Summer Bible School.” Or better yet, call it by its alliterative sobriquet: Totus Tuus.
A Latin term meaning “totally yours,” Totus Tuus was adopted by Pope John Paul II as his papal motto, as a means of expressing his strong Marian devotion. It’s also the name of a summer program for children that was first offered eight years ago in the archdiocese and is run by Father Jerry Volz.
“It’s a catechetical outreach to youth,” explained Father Volz. “This summer, we’ll travel to 18 different parishes for one week each, and we’ll involve somewhere between 800 and 900 kids.”
Each team that goes out to a parish is comprised of three college students and a seminarian, all of whom receive a small stipend for their work, but are essentially volunteering their time and talents. There are two different programs, distinguished by grade level — one for children in first through sixth grades; another for kids in seventh through twelfth.
Although there’s plenty of time for fun, including songs and skits, there’s also an emphasis on learning. This summer’s emphasis is on the luminous mysteries of the rosary, said Father Volz.
Father Andrew Strobl, who’s in charge of recruiting team members, comes by the position honestly. In an article in The Leaven, he recalled his team member participation from a few years back and said “teaching Totus Tuus” was “the best job” he’d ever had.
Parish workers, kids and parents alike, feel that same sort of enthusiasm from team members.
“This was my first personal experience with Totus Tuus,” said Barbara Berg, director of religious education for St. Dominic Parish, Holton. “I was just extremely impressed with the awesome team members and the way they interacted so well with both the kids and the adults.”
One of St. Dominic’s younger parishioners, 7-year-old Olivia McAsey, seemed to agree.
“We did a lot of things in class that we had fun with,” Olivia said. “We learned how to pray the rosary. We learned a lot about Jesus and the saints, and how they helped people.”
Rita Boller, a parishioner of St. Leo, Horton, sent both her fourth-grader, Kinsey, and her eighth-grader, McKenna, back to the program this summer and said she’d highly recommend it to other parents.
“We’ll be taking part in Totus Tuus as long as they come to our parish,” Boller said. “It’s a way for the kids to get in touch with their faith in a completely different way. And the team of leaders — what a great example they set! It’s an opportunity for the kids to think about how they might choose to be more active in their faith as they get a little older, like the team members are.”