Totus Tuus Maria
It all started with one seminarian's yes. What started as the "Father Bernie Roadshow" now reaches tens of thousands of kids every summer.
From Our Founder, Fr. Bernard Gorges
The “Totus Tuus” (Totally Yours) Summer Catechetical Program came to be simply by accident in 1987. It was early summer, and I had just completed my first year of Seminary in Winona, Minnesota. I was in the wrong place at the wrong time: I was in the Chancery! Sr. Mary Frances Morris, who was then the Diocesan Director of Religious Education, received a call from Southeast Kansas asking for religious sisters to teach during the summer. After she informed them that there were none available, she sadly hung up the phone but perked up with a small grin and said, “What are you doing the third week in July?”
That first summer I taught for one week in July at St. Michael’s in Girard, KS. The pastor at that time, Msgr. Irvin Lampe, was an inspiration to me by his commitment to the youth. Each summer after that, through the same inspiration, I kept accepting more parishes from Sr. Mary Frances until my summers were filled.
As the number of predominantly rural parishes grew, I once heard a comment that somewhat shook me: “This is the first time we have seen a Seminarian.” Though I am not much to look at, I thought that the youth of the rural diocese should have a visible sign of religious commitment.
For many children and young adults the priesthood or religious life is not a likely option because of the age of their priest or sisters. “I thought you had to be old and fat to be a priest,” said one little boy. Though I was gaining in those two areas quite readily, I may have changed that boy’s image of a priest (or at least, of someone trying it out) by playing baseball and maybe an occasional water fight. I am convinced that youth need to see youth in love with God, the Church, and all that God has given us.
Because of this necessity, I encourage seminarians and college students to teach with Totus Tuus in the summer. Being witnesses of love, these teachers enliven the faith of the children and their own hearts as well. Since we cannot give what we do not have, we have placed time in the morning, late afternoon, and late evening to pray together and take time to reflect on the day. We strive to maintain these vital times, for we have all dedicated this summer to the youth of the church.
Though I am convinced that young people need to be active with their peers, I also recognize that Msgr. Irvin Lampe was able to reach the youth at St. Michael’s. Somehow he was able to keep the young people active in the parish and empowered them and their sponsors to be creative and dynamic in their parish structure. Yet, Msgr. realized that these youth needed fresh faces and new energy, and he continued to invite me, seminarians, and college students back to teach and play ball. “You have to make it fun, or they won’t come back,” he always reminded me.
Monsignor continued to encourage me to develop and fine-tune this program; he saw his limitations with the youth and empowered others to use their talent for the glory of God. It is to him that I owe this tremendous experience of teaching, working, and recreating with the young people throughout the Diocese of Wichita.