Weakness in us is strength in Christ
By John Stang
Seminarian, Diocese of Dodge City
“Find your own Calcutta.”
These are the wise words of St. Mother Teresa. She knew that we do not have to travel across the globe to be missionaries of Christ; it usually starts in our own communities.
I found my Calcutta. The last two summers, I served on the Totus Tuus and Prayer and Action teams, respectively, for the Diocese of Dodge City. Seminarians frequently are assigned to these missions. I discovered these programs to be very spiritually rewarding and a great opportunity to serve Christ in others. I encourage all college students, particularly those who grew up in the Catholic Diocese of Dodge City, to apply for team member positions.
Totus Tuus, Latin for “Totally Yours,” is a Catholic vacation Bible school that started in the Wichita diocese 31 years ago. From 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., the team of four teach lessons to children, first through sixth grade. Usually, those lessons cover a mystery of the rosary, biblical history, and Catholic saints, with fun activities incorporated.
In the evening, the middle and high school portion of the program begins. Team members play games with the youth upon arrival and give testimonials about how their Catholic faith has shaped their lives. The team moves to a different parish each week, staying with host families, along with eating with a different family each evening.
Prayer and Action, which began in the Salina Diocese over a decade ago, is for high school and college students. The team works in two parishes, often painting houses, doing yard work, and other manual labor tasks requested by community members in need. The missionaries, the team and participants, usually stay at the parish center. During the day, everyone goes to the worksites and then returns in the evening to cook meals. The night portion, called Collatio (latin for ‘come together’), is when the team performs skits and each team member rotates in giving a talk. For instance, I gave talks about prayer and discernment.
Initially, upon hearing the news that I would serve on these teams, I was a little nervous about my perceived weaknesses. I don’t have a background in teaching nor am I a handy person. Moreover, I was assigned to managing the kitchen for Prayer and Action, despite the fact that I was barely able to cook for myself, and I became a team leader for Totus Tuus without participating in the program beforehand. Growing up in the Dodge City Diocese, I had not experienced either of these programs. So, I did not know much about the structure of either one.
I’m guessing that concerns about one’s weaknesses are probably a stumbling block for most applicants.
However, if we are called to serve, we must trust in God’s providence that He will provide. This summer, I reflected on the words of St. Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness. I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses, in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me.” (2 Cor. 12:7-10).
Our weaknesses are where Jesus can give us the most strength to complete the task at hand. You might pleasantly surprise yourself at what you can do. Sometimes, it takes others to notice what we don’t see in ourselves. Parents, encourage your children. Grandparents, ask your grandchildren. Previous team members, tell your friends about the experiences you had. We must be like Jesus and invite others to serve.
Certainly, there will be long hours, moments of frustration, and other challenges. But it was worth it for all the amazing moments. Witnessing a child be excited about learning a new piece of the faith, noticing the smile of a homeowner who is excited to see their house reshaped into something new and beautiful, talking to teenagers about discerning their vocations, or seeing a kid have the time of their life during a water fight, I will always treasure these moments. If you feel the call to serve as a missionary, God will show you your own moments of joy that you can cherish for the rest of your life.