It was a day of blessings, abundant warmth, and thanksgiving on Friday, July 14. Bishop Rhoades held Mass celebrating Christ’s glory as well as the spiritual fruits stemming from the Totus Tuus summer youth program at St. Jude Catholic Parish in Fort Wayne on the feast day of St. Kateri Tekakwitha.
Totus Tuus trains college-aged missionaries to shepherd students from the first grade through high school in intentional exercises that focus on contemplative prayer, daily conversion, and God’s Word through the Blessed Virgin Mary. Totus Tuus is a Latin phrase that means Totally Yours, and was the motto of St. John Paul II. The motto extends from St. Louis De Montfort’s total and unbounded devotion to Mother Mary, a true and guaranteed path to Jesus Christ, her Son.
Four Totus Tuus missionaries are selected by the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend each year to spend their summer serving six parish sites within the diocese. Missionaries work with parish staff to aid in liturgical ministry and teach catechesis synchronized with Totus Tuus curricula. This year’s missionary team leaders were Laura Delgado, Iván Miranda, Maria Solis, and Isaac Schneider. Totus Tuus is set up in two separate programs serving middle school and high school students in the evenings from Sunday through Thursday and the elementary program for students in 1st through 6th grade during the day. Each missionary team is trained at Central Catholic High School in Bloomington, Illinois, where purposeful and dedicated time in daily prayer is emphasized.
Keeping true to the Totus Tuus mantra to Our Lady, the missionary team’s arrival at St. Jude begins by praying the Rosary at 7:30 a.m. The missionaries continue in steadfast prayer as they teach the parish’s children the foundations of Christian Scripture and Sacred Tradition.
“Where is Jesus?” was a question for Iván Miranda from a 2nd grade student pointing to the Eucharist. Miranda explains Jesus’ Ascension into Heaven and His full presence in the Eucharist is a gift we receive as Christians through God’s divine plan, perfectly followed by Mary, the mother of God. He further explains Our Lady’s consent in the message delivered by the Angel of the Lord in the Annunciation, and from there, she conceives the Christ child through the Holy Spirit. The children learn Mary’s total trust in God’s plan leads the only Son of God, in unity with the Holy Spirit, to start His ministry, enter in His passion, and ascension into Heaven. These teachings are further applied in prayer through the recitation of the Angelus, thoughtfully printed in prayer cards for each child. Rich experiences like these move Totus Tuus missionaries toward prayerful contemplation so that appropriate explanations align to each student’s grade level. Thus, the intentional selection of words in ministry between the missionaries, and the responses from their students, establish a dynamic Christian experience steeped in Catholic tradition. Miranda encourages students to ask questions about Jesus’ presence. This invitation bears spiritual fruit as Miranda, and the Totus Tuus missionary leaders, witness the joy in the children’s faces agape in Christ’s call to become saints.
Children remain in a state of wonder in Bishop Rhoades’ homily, where he expounds upon the communion of saints by way of St. Kateri Tekakwitha’s Christian life. He talked of his experiences during the beatification of St. Kateri and enveloped the homily in a historical background of the diverse tribal nations who were Christian and non-Christian, which inspired St. Kateri Tekakwitha’s resolute faith in Jesus Christ. When Bishop Rhoades was 22 years old, he said he had just finished his first year of theology in Rome. That same year, on June 22, Bishop Rhoades attended Mass at St. Peter’s Basilica, in the Vatican. Pope John Paul II held a large Mass to beatify the first Native American, Kateri Tekakwitha. Bishop Rhoades instructed those sitting in the front pews, “… and ‘Blessed’ Kateri Tekakwitha is what we called her, as this is the last step before becoming a saint.” Bishop Rhoades recalled that very special day in which a deacon at the beatification Mass wore his cultural headdress and garb while proclaiming the Gospel. Many Native Americans from the United States came to the [Pontifical] North American College to share in a Mass of thanksgiving. By 2012, Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha was canonized.
Bishop Rhoades’ homily delivered the permanence of God’s plan fulfilled in Christ through Mary, Queen of All Saints. We walk in Christian diversity inclusively charged in trinitarian unity amidst imminent trials that come from living the Gospel with our lives. This brings comfort as it only emphasizes the call to stay rooted in Christian faith, even in hostile environments. The Lord is God of all nations, and in the accordance of living in the communion of saints, we remember stories of St. Kateri Tekakwitha. Even more, we can trace the very first Apostle of Christ, His mother, Our Lady, the Seat of Wisdom and Queen of Heaven and Earth.
For more information about serving in the Totus Tuus summer program, please visit diocesefwsb.org/totus-tuus.
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