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 first column is below.
Today, (June 6) I am writing from Sterling, Colo., at St. Anthony of Padua Parish. We are wrapping up our first week of Totus Tuus (Latin for “Totally Yours”) this summer. It’s amazing how many blessings the Lord has already sent down on our team. This week we had three teams working together, totaling 13 teachers. We worked with more than 60 elementary students and around 35 middle and high school students. Sterling was so hospitable and everyone thoroughly enjoyed our time there.
Our day program was filled with excitement! It was amazing watching the students grow throughout the week. Every day, we taught the group a new song for Mass. The first day, singing was very timid and reserved. As the week progressed, the children sang with confidence and zeal. Their joy was so inspiring. In the mornings we were instantly sparked by the kids’ enthusiasm and excitement to learn about their faith. It makes the long days so worth it when every morning you are attacked by all the kids excited for what you have to teach them. One of our teachers, Sean Whitley, took on the name “Mr. Shrek” because he taught in a Scottish accent and ran around acting like Shrek on our breaks! The genuine happiness the kids possess is such a blessing. We called our classes, “Power Learning Sessions” to get the students more excited about their curriculum. We taught the luminous mysteries of the rosary and the Ten Commandments.
Our older kids in the night program taught us a lot as well. My favorite experience with them was a night we spent talking about chastity. We had a Q-and-A session where the ladies could ask the male teachers any question and vice versa. I was paired with the middle school girls. I was so impressed by their great questions. The question I can’t get out of my mind is, “What is beauty to you?” This is something I later challenged all of our team members to think about because we should be aware of true beauty and be able to recognize it when we see it.
On Wednesday afternoon we were blessed with another amazing experience outside of teaching. Deacon Ron Michieli from St. Anthony’s invited us into his home. He shared with us a collection of relics he has in the chapel in his house. He has a piece of the True Cross, a relic of the Cincture of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and first class relics of St. Francis of Assisi, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, St. Nicholas and St. Theresa, just to name a few.
Teaching Totus Tuus has been so much more than I thought it would be. I look forward to all that the Lord has planned for us this summer! Totus Tuus, Maria!
Brett Baeverstad, 21, is a native of Fort Collins who is studying biomedical engineering at Colorado State University. This is his first summer teaching Totus Tuus. When he’s not studying, he enjoys spending time on the golf course, shooting hoops, skiing and doing anything outside where he can enjoy beautiful Colorado.