A summer of love
Totus Tuus, Prayer and Action, bring youth closer to Christ and each other, all while providing a powerful witness
By Carleigh Albers
Special to the Catholic
It has been one year since Kade Megaffin last served the Diocese of Dodge City as a summer missionary. Each year was different; one summer he was bouncing from town to town allowing small children to dump chocolate syrup on his head, and the next summer he was whipping out paint buckets to paint stranger’s homes with high school students.
This year? He’s entering as a seminarian for the Diocese of Salina.
“I would not say that the summer mission programs played directly into my discernment, but at the same time, they really did impact my discernment greatly,” Megaffin said as he reflected over his time in southwest Kansas. “There was never really an ‘Aha!’ moment during these programs, but these programs gave me an opportunity to teach the faith (which means I had to learn it), to serve the Church, and to grow immensely in my personal relationship with Christ through the sacraments, prayer, and good virtuous friendships.
“I have now served three summers of mission, two in the Dodge City Diocese and one in the Salina Diocese, and I can say with confidence that my spiritual life grew to a level of strength capable of properly discerning seminary greatly because of these summer mission programs. God only knows where I would be without these summer mission programs.”
Totus Tuus and Prayer and Action have been striving to bring youth to Christ in the Diocese of Dodge City since 2015. The diocese has had 41 young adults serve as team members on the summer missions program. Twenty-seven of the 41 have been natives of the diocese with outsiders serving from Paraguay, Wyoming, Indiana, Nebraska, and neighboring dioceses. There have also been six seminarians who have served on summer missions.
“Summer missions are two programs used for evangelization for people in the Diocese,” said Adam Urban, Director of Youth Ministry for the Catholic Diocese of Dodge City. “It is mission work that brings college students into the diocese. The missionaries get a lot more out of serving than the kids who participate in the programs.” Urban served as a missionary in 2015 and 2016 on the first summers of Prayer and Action.
“Summer missions affected my decision to enter ministry full time,” Urban said. “It was very fulfilling and I knew nothing would fulfill me as much as serving other people. It affected my vocational discernment; working for Prayer and Action that summer introduced me to the diocese and got my foot in the door. I think it is where movement in the church is happening right now.”
The reasons why people serve vary from person to person.
“I decided to apply for summer missions in the Dodge City Diocese because of the need,” Megaffin said. “I have several friends in and around the diocese and they let me know that Dodge was looking for people to work their summer programs. I almost call Dodge my home. Even though I had spent time in other places, I call Ulysses my hometown. So, working for the diocese was like going back home for the summer.”
Megaffin and Urban aren’t the only young adults who have been deeply affected by serving over the summer. Missionaries have formed deep friendships with those who they serve alongside, while also growing in their faith and developing their prayer.
Totus Tuus consists of teams made of four college aged students; two men and two women. Each team travels to a different parish within the diocese each week to teach youth about the Eucharist, Marian devotion, vocations, and other topics of the Catholic faith, while infusing high energy and joy into all that they do.
The program originated in Wichita 31 years ago. Last summer the teams reached out to 590 youth. This summer the two teams reached out to 700 youth across the diocese.
A Totus Tuus tradition is that on Fridays, the kids get to end the week with a “human sundae” by picking a teacher to become the “ice cream” that they can pour toppings onto.
“We do it for the kids’ enjoyment,” said Megan Seamaan, a Nebraska native who served this summer on a Totus Tuus team. “For us, it is a humbling experience to simply sit and allow ourselves to become a human sundae. There is beauty in the mess; sitting there not being able to see because there is chocolate dripping into your eyes, and listening to the laughter, seeing the joy that it brings the kids.... That’s why we do it, for the kids.”
Krysten Brake, a native of Kinsley who served on Totus Tuus in 2017, feels similarly. She served for four summers of Totus Tuus; three with the Diocese of Wichita and one with the Diocese of Dodge City. Brake emphasized the importance of the parish priest being involved with these programs and being a witness.
“The priest has more influence than he knows on the youth,” Brake said. “The priests that are involved in the whole Totus Tuus program throughout the week are the ones that have the most impact. This sounds weird, but I know it has much more impact on me when the priest is willing to put on regular clothes and be involved in the water fight. This shows everyone that priests are human, too, and like to have fun just as much as we all do. Priests have great opportunities to impact everyone throughout the week by saying Mass every day for us, hearing confessions, allowing us to have Adoration, but I think seeing the human side of the priests are some of the most memorable impacts.”
Nick Hernandez, a college student from Hays, learned more about hands-on ministry while serving on Prayer and Action. Prayer and Action is a mission trip designed to serve our neighbors in need. High school students work on painting homes and other various projects while growing in fellowship and diving into the sacraments in a deeper way.
Prayer and Action
Prayer and Action began in 2015 and has since served the communities of Garden City, St. John, Ness City, Meade, Fowler, Jetmore, Scott City, Sublette, and Satanta. This year, there were 51 youth who attended, 14 adult chaperones, and eight college students. They completed 26 projects this summer.
“The biggest take-away was learning about other people’s stories and hearing how God has been working through their lives to get where they are at right now,” Hernandez said.
Not only do the missionaries grow in friendship with one another, but also in practicing virtues with one another. For most missionaries, they are searching for an opportunity to grow closer to God.
“Was it worth it to spend my summer in Southwest Kansas? Absolutely!” Seamann exclaimed.
“The environment that comes with these programs will expose your flaws and weaknesses,” Megaffin added. “The beautiful thing about it though, is that you are so close to the sacraments and prayer that you have the opportunity to take it all to God almost immediately. I have personally grown in patience, spiritual endurance, kindness, humility, charity, and more virtues than I probably even realize. Plus these programs have helped to foster in me a deep love for the Dodge City diocese.”
Often, missionaries are recruited through their friends who have previously served for the diocese. Their experiences propel them to desire the same growth for their friends. The missionaries highly recommend college students to serve, but for different reasons.
“I would say to future missionaries to always keep an open mind no matter what mission work you are doing,” Hernandez advised. “Remember to always keep God at the center of your life.”
“I think that summer missions have brought new life to the diocese,” Brake said. “There has always been some youth programs within the diocese, but there has been no change or newness in approach to the youth until recently. The summer missions have been a new and exciting way for the youth to get involved in the diocese and in their personal faith life. Kids from here should serve their own diocese to give the youth an example and to give their own faith experience. The youth in the Diocese need people to share their experiences with their faith and how important faith is.”
“I would recommend serving on the summer mission programs for the Diocese of Dodge City to anyone because I firmly believe there is no greater way for a college aged Catholic to grow in their own faith, lead others in faith, and further the Kingdom of Christ in their own diocese,” Megaffin insisted. “This diocese needs servers and young adults to set the example in both deed and word so that we can rekindle the flames of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of our people. Our summer mission programs are the perfect place to do that.”
Applications are currently being accepted for the summer of 2019. If you or someone you know would be interested in serving on summer missions for either Totus Tuus or Prayer and Action, visit www.dcyoungadult.com/summer-missions to learn more or apply today. Check out more on Facebook at www.facebook.com/prayerandactiondcd/ and www.facebook.com/TotusTuusDCD/.