Week 4: Summer at Our Lady of Loreto in Foxfield

We’re runners

Two young adults—Brett Baeverstad and Summer Swisher—who are working as teachers in the youth summer program Totus Tuus being offered at parishes across the Denver Archdiocese, are writing a weekly blog about their experiences for the Denver Catholic Register. The week four column by Swisher is below.

When I hear the phrase “The Lord provides” often I get annoyed because I think it is so cliché. After this week, June 23-27, however, Jesus showed me the truth of this saying.

As week four of Totus Tuus approached, my team and I were excited but we were also tired. Filled with exhaustion we were faced with working with another team, which we had not done for the past few weeks, as well as work with the largest group of kids yet. Nearly 160 kids attended the daytime program and 30 attended the evening program at Our Lady of Loreto Church in Foxfield. With these big changes, the Lord showed us that with great trust and obedience, the Lord truly provides.

The daytime program this week was awesome. The energy given off by the kids was amazing. It was exactly what our team needed. Songs were loud, cheers were exciting and laughter filled the room. Joy filled my heart being with the kids.

Power learning sessions were lively and dynamic. Many times I heard the teachers comment on the great conversations they were having with the kids during these sessions.

The questions the kids asked were amazing. We had conversations about sin, redemption, hell, dignity and conscience. It is wonderful to be able to speak the truth to kids at such a young age. We should never underestimate their ability to wonder about, seek and understand truth.

During the week, the Lord blessed our team and the kids with a special time to discuss vocations to priesthood or religious life with them. Usually we have one power learning session on vocations, but this week, five different communities of religious brothers and sisters visited Our Lady of Loreto and talked about vocations with the kids. A few of the kids were also able to dress in habits. How beautiful it is that at such a young age these kids received the opportunity to see what it would be like to be a sister, priest, or brother. Each and every one of us is chosen by God to fulfill his mission. I pray that each and every one of those kids know that they are chosen by God.

The nighttime program with the teens was also really fun. I praise God for putting these teens in my life. It is amazing to see the way God works in building friendship with each one of the teens in such a short time. The week transitioned from being awkward the first night, to all of us being really comfortable with one another. I am grateful for the conversation and fun I had with all of them.

Nowadays my teammate Carter and I like to call ourselves “runners.” A few times a week two of my teammates and I go for a run (this is a lot for me, and the reason I call myself a runner!). It is the Lord, who gives me motivation and perseverance to keep serving my teammates and the kids I encounter and yet still have the energy to run. He knows exactly what each one of us needs and it is through him, that everything is possible. We were running out of energy this week but the Lord knew exactly what we needed—and he provided.

Summer Swisher is a recent graduate of the University of Colorado in Boulder. She earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology with a minor in dance and a minor in religious studies. She loves Jesus, people and dance. This is her first year teaching Totus Tuus, for which she feels honored and blessed. Summer Swisher

 

 

COMING UP: On Fathers and Christian Masculinity

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The Year of St. Joseph points us to Jesus’ adoptive father, Joseph, as the essential model for fathers. Joseph not only manifests genuine masculinity, he also images God’s own fatherhood, as Pope Francis makes clear in his apostolic letter, Patris Corde: “In his relationship to Jesus, Joseph was the earthly shadow of the heavenly Father: he watched over him and protected him, never leaving him to go his own way.” Jesus, though the Son of God, obeyed Joseph, learned from him, and worked with him, acknowledging Joseph as a true expression of God’s own fatherhood.  

God does not just use fatherhood as an image of himself, because he himself is Father, even within his own triune life. Earthly fatherhood comes forth from him and should manifest his life and love. St. Paul speaks of honoring the “Father, from whom all fatherhood in heaven and on earth is named” (Eph 3:15). God wants everyone to be able to see his own fatherly love and called certain men to share in his own paternal gift of bringing forth life and caring for others. Every father is called to be liked Joseph, “an earthly shadow of the heavenly Father” for his own family. 

Our culture, however, often denigrates masculinity, sometimes viewing even its proper expressions as toxic. We too often see maleness in its fallenness — dominating and selfish — rather than showing self-sacrificial service. In fact, later in Ephesians, Paul speaks of the true vocation of the husband and father: “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Eph 5:25). He also speaks of the role of fatherhood: “Do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Eph 6:4). Paul shows us the goal of fatherhood — sacrificing himself for the flourishing of the family by putting the good of his wife and children before his own desires.   

No matter what the contrary voices of our culture say, we need strong men and fathers. God created man and woman in complementarity, and they need each other to thrive, helping the other in relation to their own strengths and weaknesses. Children need the strong presence of a father to discipline and teach, as Paul reminds us. Study after study has shown that fathers have the largest impact on the faith of their children. Christian Smith explains in his sociological study, Young Catholic America, that “the faith of Catholic fathers is powerfully determinative of the future faith of their children (125). The same can be said for general wellbeing and success. When fathers are absent or refuse to exercise their role, a moral and spiritual vacuum appears. A strong majority of felons, for instance, grew up without fathers in the home.  

St. Joseph helps us to understand the strength of Christian fatherhood. First, like any good husband, Joseph listened — not just to his wife but also to God. Woken up frequently by angels, he demonstrated obedience and trust, quickly leaving everything behind to follow God’s instructions and to protect his family. We also know Joseph for his work as a carpenter and builder, content to live simply and to work hard. Importantly, he also taught Jesus how to work, showing that fathers model and teach by drawing their children into their life and work. And we can also learn from Joseph’s humility, serving the Incarnate God and his Mother without even a single recorded word in the Gospels.  

This humility points us to the essence of Christian fatherhood. Although living with two perfect people, Joseph was still called to lead. He quietly and humbly did what was needed for his family and taught his own maker how to share in his work. Fathers do not lead in order to be in charge or to get their own way. They lead because God asks them to care for and protect their families. Fathers and mothers share in the great and beautiful partnership of family life, although fathers cannot simply sit back and let mom take the lead in the spiritual life, as they are often tempted to do. Like Joseph, fathers should act firmly and lovingly to put God and the family before self, obeying God and leading the family in the right direction. They are called to model faith, work, and sacrifice to their children. 

On Father’s Day we can affirm that masculinity and fatherhood are not just good — they are essential to understanding God and his plan for human flourishing. If our culture turns around, it will be because, in large part, Christian men stand up and fight. As Christians, we cannot give in to the culture’s attempt to denigrate masculinity and fatherhood or to pit men and women against each other. We can use this celebration to affirm the essential role that our fathers play, leading their families like St. Joseph.