For the past three summers, St. Mary’s Catholic Church has hosted the Totus Tuus program, in which the Springfield Diocese sends college students around the state, to teach children and …
For the past three summers, St. Mary’s Catholic Church has hosted the Totus Tuus program, in which the Springfield Diocese sends college students around the state, to teach children and teenagers.
“Totus Tuus means Totally Yours. It’s about us giving ourselves to these kids,” said David Spillman, one of the teachers. “Throughout the whole week, we’re totally there for the kids, and teach them about the faith.”
“It’s a four-day program,” added teacher Catherine Cottrill, “There’s a daily Mass, five total classes, with skits, breaks and snacks as well.”
Another teacher, Amber Robinson, contrasts this with the program they run simultaneously with teenagers in the evenings that focuses on witness talks, teaching the sacraments and the teachers sharing their personal stories of faith.
Students seem to love their time with Totus Tuus. The organizer, Pat Catanzariti, explained one youth asked her in January the date for Totus Tuus and that same boy is now one of the student leaders. Observing the classes, it is easy to see the enthusiasm.
When Robinson asks about the Eucharist, every hand goes up for every question.
Teacher Maylee Brown takes everything her students say in stride. When one girl mentions her father taught her Latin prayers, Brown offers to have her lead their closing prayer.
When Spillman wrangles his class together, he gets them all chanting “Pray-er, Pray-er,” before the class begins. During her class on the Eucharist, Robinson leads a circle of the children telling each other, and God, why they’re faithful.
Student leader Luke Sullivan likes working with the adults as well as younger kids. “They’re really rowdy, rowdy and fun,” said Sullivan. “We also have really good teachers, fun and very educational.”
As much as the students are enraptured with their teachers, the students have impressed their teachers.
“We were blown away how much kids actually know,” said Robinson.
Spillman agreed, adding, “There’s a wide variety of knowledge between parishes. And a lot of times when we start to teach these kids something, they’ll already know it all. And we just have to say: ‘well, onto the next lesson then.’”
The teachers have different goals both for themselves and their students. Cottrill said the common goal is for Totus Tuus participants to learn the sacraments and rosaries.
“I consider this successful if they walk way knowing God loves them,” said Cottrill. “It’s important kids see faith as something fun. It’s very strong to have kids have that faith, and have it energized.”
Robinson, who wants to become a teacher, had a slightly different take on the program’s value.
“What I love about the program is that by giving myself to these kids, I can also give myself to God,” said Robinson.
Though the program is over for the local youths, it’s barely the beginning for the visiting teachers.
“This is only our second parish of the summer,” said Spillman. “The Springfield Diocese sends us to a different parish each week. We’re together for the whole summer.”
Signups for next year’s Totus Tuus are available in St. Mary’s office, as well as information for parents or prospective teachers.