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Totus Tuus: Understanding Christ through the gift of the Church

Nearly 40 youth attend week-long event in Sharon

By David Myers
Southwest Kansas Register

SHARON -- After an absence of several years, the Totus Tuus experience for youth has once again made a splash in southwest Kansas, taking nearly 40 children and youth on a week-long adventure, examining and empowering their faith in, and understanding of, Jesus Christ.
There was prayer – intense prayer; the Rosary, a study of the Apostles Creed, and Adoration. There was instruction: the Sacraments, Marian devotion, the Mass. There was song, there was celebration …
… and there was chocolate syrup.

Totus Tuus is Latin for “Totally Yours,” and is borrowed from Pope John Paul II’s apostolic motto. The event was hosted by St. Boniface Parish in Sharon June 10-15, and included youth and volunteers from Sharon, Holy Rosary Parish, Medicine Lodge, and St. John the Apostle Parish, Kiowa.
“It was wonderful,” said Terry Deokaran, pastoral minister at St. Boniface. She was one of the primary organizers of the event, along with Kathy Dohm and a host of volunteers. “The Totus Tuus team members that came were full of energy, enthusiasm and love for Christ, love for our Catholic faith. I saw commitment to their own spiritual growth and how they worked together as a team.”
The week provided for two age groups – first grade through sixth, and seventh grade through twelve. Four team members oversaw the event: Daniel Skinner from Wichita, Alex Rausch and seminarian Brian Bergkamp, both of Garden Plain, and Melissa Baalmann of Colwich.
“It’s really what the name says it is,” Deokaran said. “’Totally Yours.’ Giving ourselves entirely to Christ through Mary. They offer the youth catechesis. It revolves around the Mass and the Sacraments and prayer. The full focus is Christ. There are talks and small group activities. It’s about showing deep reverence; how to genuflect; what Adoration is. The program encourages young people to begin to discern God’s calling in their life.”
According to Deokaran, the experience was the first time in Totus Tuus history that participants given the highest ratings for behavior and participation only half way through the week. Their reward?
“The team members got to become human sundaes.”
On the final day, a day of popsicles and games and fun in the sun, the four team members huddled together as the participants poured chocolate syrup, cool whip, sprinkles and cherries on top of them. A little while later, a fire truck showed up to give the team members and the youth a good shower.
Bishop John B. Brungardt and Fathers Wesley Schawe and Firmin Kyaw attended at least part of the week-long event.  Father Kyaw, pastoral administrator at St. Boniface, heard confessions each day before Mass. Friday, June 22 was a celebration of the Feast of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, a large celebration in his home country of Burma. During his homily, Father Kyaw made a drawing of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, which Deokaran made copies of and presented to the participants.
“I told them that Jesus says to forgive your enemies whether you are right or wrong,” Father Kyaw said. “As Christians we win by losing. Then I told them a story. The nature of the scorpion is that it is always striking others. We will be stung sometimes, but we will forgive; that’s our nature as Christians, as Catholics.”
Alyssa Boyce, mother of Brooke Boyce, 6, said she could hardly believe the changes in her daughter after the experience. The children attended the event from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Monday through Friday, while the youth attended from 7:30 p.m.-9:45 p.m. Sunday through Thursday.
“She really did love the whole week,” Boyce said. “She was up and ready to go every morning.
“More than anything, I noticed the change in her when she went to Mass, how excited she was. It had an all new meaning to her. When we went to Mass last Sunday, she followed along with the missal on her own. She’s never done that without me. She followed along with every reading, every song. It was amazing what Church meant to her.”

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