Totus Tuus: From student to teacher
Totus Tuus is a summer Catholic youth program dedicated to sharing the Gospel and promoting the Catholic faith through evangelization, catechesis, Christian witness and Eucharistic worship. It deals not only with teaching the faith but also with igniting the hearts of the team members and young people it serves to dedicate themselves to the Church’s mission of evangelization.
With programs for elementary and high school students, Totus Tuus again will be offered this summer throughout the Diocese of Burlington.
Some of the teachers have been student participants.
Kayla Poginy, 22, of Most Holy Trinity Parish in Barton, Orleans and Irasburg, is part-time director of religious education for the parish. This summer, she will be teaching Totus Tuus for the fourth time. She participated in Totus Tuus as a high school student.
“The part of Totus Tuus high school night that impacted me the most actually wasn’t the talks or the games, it was the fact that the missionaries [teachers] would take turns leaving high school night to go pray,” she said, noting that a that point in her life, she recited the Our Father before bed and went to Mass every Sunday, but other than that did not have much of a prayer life. “I remember sitting there during the talks just thinking about how these missionaries were making it a priority to spend long periods of time praying by themselves. I was completely fascinated by it and realized that I wanted to love prayer as much as they did, so I decided to apply so that I could learn to pray like them.”
Jack Lyons, 19, of St. John Vianney Parish in South Burlington who is studying theology and journalism at the University of Notre Dame, was a Totus Tuus student in high school and then became a high school helper for the younger students’ program and last summer was a Totus Tuus teacher, serving at parishes in Colchester, South Burling-ton, St. Albans, Bristol, Rutland and Bennington.
“I loved Totus Tuus high school night, and that is what originally drew me to teaching Totus Tuus,” he said. “I really saw the Totus Tuus team members I interacted with as role models and thought to myself, ‘I would love to be like them and teach Totus Tuus someday.’ When I was planning my summer after my freshman year of college, I knew that I had to apply to Totus Tuus and I am so grateful that God gave me the opportunity to do what I had wanted to do ever since my first night of Totus Tuus.
Totus Tuus has helped form him as a disciple of Christ by teaching him how much Jesus calls people to give of themselves to spread the Gospel and follow Him. “Totus Tuus taught me not to just give myself to Christ when I feel like it and have the energy, but to give of myself all the time, especially when that is most challenging,” he said. Bethany Anne Hojnowski, 21, of Sacred Heart St. Francis de Sales Parish in Bennington, attended the high school nights of Totus Tuus in Bennington from 2012-16. After her first year of college she was a volunteer for the day program for children and was a Totus Tuus teacher last summer serving in Colchester, South Burlington, St. Albans, Bristol, Rutland and Bennington.
Now a student at DeSales University in Center Valley, Pennsylvania, she said she “loved attending the high school nights as well but seeing the whole program filled me with an indescribable joy and made me dream that I could be one of them.”
Totus Tuus, she added, made her an “unafraid and unapologetic disciple of Christ” because it set her on “fire with love for the faith and desire to share this joy with others.”
For those who think they might like to be a Totus Tuus teacher, Hojnowski advises they pray about it. “And if that is what God is calling you to, don’t be afraid to say yes! You’ll find that the work of a Totus Tuus teacher is very demanding, both physically and mentally, but it is so rewarding,” she said. “Some advice that helped me beginning the program was remembering that ‘God doesn’t call the equipped, He equips the called.’”
—Originally published in the Summer 2019 issue of Vermont Catholic magazine.