May 20, 2022

Evangelization Supplement

Totus Tuus’ focus on Eucharist ‘lays foundation’ for lifetime of faith

A visiting priest distributes Communion during Mass in St. Mark Church in Perry County during Totus Tuus in 2018. (Submitted photo)

A visiting priest distributes Communion during Mass in St. Mark Church in Perry County during Totus Tuus in 2018. (Submitted photo)

By Natalie Hoefer

Melissa Fronckowiak sees a problem.

“There’s a crisis in the Church with a lack of belief in the true presence [of Christ] in the Eucharist,” says the director for religious education, youth ministry and communications for St. Gabriel Parish in Connersville.

“We need to get that idea in our youth from the beginning, that Jesus Christ is truly present in the Eucharist—body, blood, soul and divinity.”

Fronckowiak has found a resource to help accomplish that goal: the Totus Tuus five-day Catholic summer program.

Eucharistic devotion is one of the program’s three main themes—as well as prayer and Marian devotion—according to the Totus Tuus website.

That theme is highlighted by daily Mass for youths and an evening of adoration for teens.

“It gives this hope and renews an enthusiasm among the older generation when you see these young people truly understand and grasp the Eucharist through Totus Tuus,” says Fronckowiak.

‘Like none other’

Totus Tuus has been available in the archdiocese for several years, says Ken Ogorek, archdiocesan director of catechesis.

“For years, I was on the lookout for vacation Bible school [VBS] resources that highlighted the sacraments as well as the link between sacred Scripture and sacred Tradition,” he says. “Of all the Catholic VBS resources that have made good strides in that direction, Totus Tuus incorporates the Eucharist like none other.”

Now that the archdiocese has had its own Totus Tuus team for a few years, Ogorek has been pleased with the program’s consistent focus on the Eucharist.

“I’ve seen Totus Tuus place the Eucharist in its rightful place as a key component of every disciple’s journey—from the first day of training for the Totus Tuus teacher-missionaries, to the daily encounters with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament … to the very end of summer when the teacher-missionaries are invited to reflect on how their intimacy with Jesus has grown through the Eucharist and additional ways.”

‘They get more excited to go to Mass’

Fronckowiak and Megan Rust, parish catechetical leader for St. Paul Parish in Tell City, agree with Ogorek.

“Traditional vacation Bible schools are great, I love them,” says Rust. “But they put more of a focus on a Bible story or a theme than on the Eucharist.”

Totus Tuus was first brought to her parish in 2017, the same year she started working at St. Paul.

“I started work on a Friday, and Totus Tuus started the next day,” she says. “We’ve run it every year since then except 2020.”

She is drawn by the program’s emphasis on the Eucharist.

“It’s the focus,” says Rust. “It’s got a place of pride in the program. Not only do we teach the kids about other things, but we really talk about how the Eucharist and the holy sacrifice of the Mass are the source and summit of our faith.”

From her view behind the children at the daily Masses—which include youths in kindergarten through fifth grade from St. Gabriel and St. Bridget of Ireland Parish in Liberty—Fronckowiak says she can “tell the progression from the beginning to the end of the week, just their overall understanding of what’s going on, their appreciation and just that faith and joy of a child.”

Rust has had the same experience in observing the kindergarten through sixth-grade students throughout the Tell City Deanery who participate in Totus Tuus at St. Paul.

“For kids to see people outside of their parents and teachers on fire for Mass, you see them change through the week,” she says. “They get more excited to go to Mass. It’s a neat transition to witness.”

The program focuses on the Eucharist beyond going to Mass, Fronckowiak adds. She says the college-aged teacher-missionaries “try to help [the kids] see that connectivity, how praising God in this song, seeing this skit, playing this silly game, how it all does connect back to what is the central part of our faith.”

‘Such a powerful moment to witness’

After leading the youths during the day, the teacher-missionaries offer a program for high school students in the evening. The pinnacle of the high school program is an evening of adoration.

“The team does an excellent job preparing the teens for it,” says Rust. “It’s such a powerful moment to witness because [the participants] have a better understanding of what’s happening.

“To see teens fall to their knees in front of the Eucharist, to see their complete faith—as an adult, that is staggering. It’s such a powerful moment to witness.”

Fronckowiak says for many of the teens who participate from St. Gabriel and other nearby parishes, it’s “their first introduction to adoration with Liturgy of the Hours. That has helped them realize how it’s not just our church, it’s not just Connersville and Bright and Richmond and Liberty. It’s all the same Church, the same Christ, the same Eucharist, the same prayers wherever you go.”

Many teens have told Rust “how much they love the [Totus Tuus] program, and a lot truly love the night we have a holy hour and eucharistic adoration. They told me how much they appreciate that time, and I’ve seen them return when we have adoration events [at the parish].”

‘An effect on the parish as a whole’

Both Rust and Fronckowiak have seen the ripple effects of the program’s emphasis on the Eucharist.

“So many kids are not regular church- goers,” says Rust. “Any way we can get them enthusiastic about the Eucharist is a great day.”

She has seen “kids come to Mass after Totus Tuus with their parents, and they can explain to their parents why we do what we do. [Totus Tuus] has a long-lasting impact.”

Fronckowiak agrees.

“When the kids get it, it affects the adults, and that has an effect on the parish as a whole as well,” she says.

“We can allow the Blessed Sacrament to be infused in our life because it is what unites us together and makes us the body of Christ.

“[Totus Tuus] is that connection and time together with the Eucharist as the body of Christ and the Eucharist as us as the body of Christ. It lays that foundation for a faith they’ll cling to the rest of their life.”
 

(For more information on Totus Tuus, go to evangelizeindy.com/totus-tuus or call Sam Rasp at 317-236-1466 or toll free at 800-382-9836, ext. 1466, or e-mail him at srasp@archindy.org.)

 

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