What is Totus Tuus?
Totus Tuus is a Catholic youth program for students from 1st through 12th grade dedicated to teaching the Gospel and deepening love for the Church through catechesis, prayer, Christian witness, and the sacraments. The program’s strong emphasis on devotion and love for Christ in the Eucharist and for Mary, Mother of the Church, leads participants to an exhilarating encounter with the timeless treasures of the Catholic Faith. Through age-appropriate, dynamic, and faithful content presented each day, young people are motivated and equipped to live the radical call of the Gospel in today’s world.
The mission of Totus Tuus is to inspire in young people a true longing for holiness, a deep desire for daily conversion, and openness to their vocation by constantly challenging them to give themselves entirely to Christ through Mary and by strengthening their prayer lives in imitation of Her.
“Totus Tuus ego sum et omnia mea tua sunt.” Thus begins the episcopal motto of the late Holy Father, John Paul II:
“I am totally yours, and all that I have is yours.” With these words, John Paul II inspired and continues to inspire men and women from all over the world to entrust their lives completely to Jesus Christ through the Virgin Mary. Mary’s total devotion to the will of the Father is the model for Totus Tuus, as it seeks to respond to John Paul II’s urgent call for a “New Evangelization.” We hope to instill these virtues in the young people.
Totus Tuus draws upon the energy and dedication of faith-filled college students and seminarians from Maine and across the United States to witness to this mission. Teams of four (two men and two women) are hired each year through a rigorous selection process and spend the first two weeks of the summer in training to carry out the program. In collaboration with local pastors and parish coordinators, the Teaching Team spends the remainder of the summer traveling throughout the diocese, conducting the Totus Tuus program at six separate parish locations.
In addition to communicating the faith and translating it into daily life, the Totus Tuus teaching team strives to increase a deeper awareness and desire among young people to give their lives in service to Christ and his people. The concepts of discernment, vocation and radical service of Christ are themes taught in catechesis and powerfully witnessed to in a concrete way by the Teaching Team, a seminarian for the Diocese of Portland and three college students who have generously chosen to dedicate long hours over the course of the summer to building up the Church. In a secular society whose icons obsess over self-fulfillment and worldliness, the witness of a group of young men and women on fire with Jesus Christ is uniquely inspiring.
THE FIVE PILLARS OF TOTUS TUUS:
The Eucharist has pride of place in the Totus Tuus schedule, for both teachers and youth. Other prayers – the Liturgy of the Hours, the Rosary, the Angelus, the Chaplet of Divine Mercy and Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament – provide a great deal of nourishment, but the celebration of the Mass is the “source and summit” of our faith.
The Teaching Team works to lead the youth to Jesus for a week, but Mary will lead them to Jesus for a lifetime. The team brings them to Mary by helping them dialogue with her as they meditate on the mysteries of the Rosary. Praying with her and through her, we hear her say to us, “Do whatever He tells you” (John 2:5).
An authentic catechesis, rooted in an orderly and systematic explanation of God’s self-revelation through the person of Jesus Christ, provides the foundation of the program’s teaching. We instruct the participants in the truths of the Catholic faith in accord with the Tradition of the Church to cultivate both a firm intellectual grounding and a solid relationship with Jesus. All of our teaching is directed toward helping the youth deepen their understanding of God, strengthen their faith in Him and, most importantly, cultivate a more intimate union with Him.
Totus Tuus strives to foster Christian vocations by encouraging the youth to begin discerning God’s call to the married life, priesthood, or consecrated life. Because the teachers are striving to live an authentic Christian life and are actively discerning their own vocations, they can better help the youth to do the same.
Totus Tuus demonstrates that one can be a faithful Catholic and have a lot of fun doing so! Morning pump up, skits, songs, recess, a water fight and sundae-ing the teachers make the program come alive! (Just don’t tell the kids about the last two – they’re surprises!)
TOTUS TUUS CURRICULUM
The Totus Tuus curriculum is an orderly and systematic initiation and explanation of God’s revelation of Himself through the person of Jesus Christ. Each year participants explore this revelation by delving into a new aspect of the Catholic Church’s sacred tradition and scripture, and her continued magisterial teaching and sacramental life.
The methodology, content, structure, and approach of Totus Tuus is not limited to religious classroom instruction. It embraces a holistic and communal approach aimed at setting the hearts and minds of participants on fire with the joy of the Gospel. Catechesis is therefore dynamic, engaging, high energy, and action oriented.
Totus Tuus catechesis is based on the structure and content of the Catechism of the Catholic Church and divided into a six-year cycle. Each year participants explore one of the following themes:
The Mysteries of Salvation
The Apostles Creed
Prayer and the Our Father
The six-year catechetical cycle is complemented by a four-year cycle reflecting on the mysteries of the Rosary:
FROM WICHITA, KANSAS TO PORTLAND, MAINE!
Totus Tuus started in 1987 when Father Bernard X. Gorges taught a catechetical summer program to elementary grade students as a seminarian with the Diocese of Wichita. Because of the remarkable success of the program, Fr. Gorges received many requests to bring what was then known as the “Summer Catechetical Program” to neighboring parishes, which he did in the coming years with the help of college students hired for the summer. By the summer of 1993 the program had expanded to four teams of 4 college students and spread into the neighboring diocese of Dodge City, Kansas. In that same year, the program took the name of “Totus Tuus” from the motto of Pope St. John Paul II. By 1998, 10 teams of 4 college students were serving 52 parish sites over the summer in Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and Georgia. By 2017, Totus Tuus had spread across the country to over 25 dioceses and reached over 60,000 children.
At the request of Fr. Seamus Griesbach, the Director of Vocations, in May of 2017, Bishop Deeley approved the introduction of the Totus Tuus program to the Diocese of Portland under the direction of the Office of Vocations.
After a successful first summer in 2018, Totus Tuus is excited to be expanding to two teaching teams and 12 parishes in the summer of 2019!
DIOCESE OF PORTLAND LEADERSHIP STRUCTURE
Director of Vocations
At the direction of Bishop Deeley, the Director of Vocations oversees Totus Tuus in the Diocese of Portland. This responsibility includes the oversight of all program budgeting, funding, communication, organization, and staffing in the Diocese of Portland. The current Director of Vocations is Fr. Seamus Griesbach.
In collaboration with the Director of Vocations, the Program Director chairs a Totus Tuus Leadership Committee composed of between three and five members. The team meets regularly throughout the year to aid in program scheduling, communications, Teaching Team interviews, and other aspects of program operations.
A Teaching Team is composed of one seminarian and three Catholic college students. College students apply in late fall and interviews are conducted by the Leadership Committee after Christmas. After considering the recommendations of the Leadership Committee, the Vocation Director determines the applicants who will be offered positions on the team. The Director of Vocations consults with the Director of Seminarians in determining which seminarians will be available to participate each summer. The Totus Tuus Teaching Team reports directly to the Vocation Director, who oversees their performance.
In consultation with the Director of Vocations and Program Director, local pastors invite Totus Tuus to their parish(es) and appoint a Parish Coordinator to oversee necessary on-site promotion, preparation, program logistics and support.
Parish Coordinators are appointed by their pastors and serve as the primary liaisons between local parishes and the Totus Tuus Program Director and Teaching Team. Parish Coordinators are responsible for working with the pastor, parish staff, and volunteers to ensure that all communication, promotion, preparation, and support for Totus Tuus is carried out as needed and on time.