‘Totus Tuus’ made for a grace-filled summer for youth at 22 sites in diocese

Totus Tuus participants take part in an exercise of trust led by team member Jacob Martini in this 2017 file photo from St. Patrick Church of Merna in Bloomington.

BLOOMINGTON — During her college career at Bradley University, Caylee Kennedy’s summers have been spent spreading God’s love to youth throughout the diocese as a team member of the youth faith formation program known as Totus Tuus.

Wearing crowns they created at Totus Tuus to show they are Jesus’ princes and princesses, Ruth Ziemer and other first graders promise to always uplift Jesus’ kingdom and love God and their neighbor. (The Catholic Post/Tom Dermody)

“The kids and teens I work with inspire me and give me so much hope for our Church,” Kennedy told The Catholic Post at the conclusion of a weeklong program that drew 150 participants to St. Patrick Church of Merna in Bloomington July 16-21. “I have encountered so much love and joy throughout my summers teaching, but I have also been stretched in my understanding of Totus Tuus (Latin for “Totally Yours”) and how I fully give my heart to God.”

The Bloomington week was the fifth of six sessions of the summer for Kennedy, who is in her first year as a team leader. Four teams comprised of four college students or seminarians conduct the sessions. This year, 22 sites in the diocese hosted Totus Tuus. In addition to study and prayer, the sessions — during the day for elementary school students and in the evening for those in junior high and high school — feature games, skits, and music all with the goal of helping the youth grow in holiness and better understand the Catholic faith.


The week at St. Patrick Church of Merna drew enough participants in its first year that two teams were required. More than 100 took part in the day sessions and more than 50 during the evenings, representing every parish in Bloomington-Normal.

“To be able to show God’s love to each kid, every week, from first grade through 12th grade is why I enjoy being involved,” said Jacob Martini, leader of the other team serving the Bloomington parish. “We may never see the fruit of our work, but every teacher imitates Mary’s trust in God by trusting that our work will bear fruit,” added Martini, also a Bradley University student and a member of St. Patrick Parish in Ottawa.

Fun is a “huge aspect” of Totus Tuus, according to Mary Liz Purcell, who helped coordinate the week at St. Patrick Church of Merna in conjunction with the parish’s Vocation Apostolate. There are water fights, silly skits, and many shaving cream pies-in-the-face among team leaders and even priests. But the focus is on Jesus in the Eucharist, Marian devotion, catechetical instruction, and vocations awareness.

Team member Antonia Rupert leads Totus Tuus participants in a practice of music before Mass on July 19 at St. Patrick Church of Merna in Bloomington. (The Catholic Post/Tom Dermody)

“Getting to witness these kids fall in love with Jesus and watching these college students grow as they share their faith are some of the greatest gifts of being involved with Totus Tuus,” Purcell told The Catholic Post. She should know, she was active in Totus Tuus for two summers of her college years.

“It’s a grace-filled summer,” said Purcell.


Parishes and regions hosting Totus Tuus this summer also included St. Mary, Canton; St. Matthew, Champaign; St. Edward, Chillicothe; the Danville Vicariate; St. Anne, East Moline; St. Mary, Kickapoo; the LaSalle Catholic Parishes; Our Lady of the Lake, Mahomet; St. Mary, Metamora; Immaculate Conception, Monmouth; Marquette Academy, Ottawa; Holy Family, Peoria; St. Jude, Peoria; St. Mark, Peoria; St. Vincent de Paul, Peoria; St. Thomas, Philo; St. Mary of the Woods, Princeville; St. Louis, Princeton; St. Mary, Pontiac; St. Michael the Archangel, Streator; and St. Patrick, Washington.

Team leaders in addition to Kennedy and Martini were Tom Anderson and Daniel Dionesotes. Team members included seminarian Michael Olsta, new seminarian Ben Schoonmaker, Kayley Koch, Bradley Bach, Sam Meismer, Lydia Martens, Alberto Vargas, Melissa Jenkins, Riann Kennedy, Bobby Schopp, Jensen Anderson, and Antonia Rupert.

Totus Tuus in the Diocese of Peoria is coordinated by the Office of Priestly Vocations.

EDITOR’S NOTE: More photos from Totus Tuus in Bloomington have been posted to The Catholic Post’s site on Facebook.


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