Week 1: Brett at St. Anthony’s in Sterling

Totus Tuus totally full of joy, blessings, teacher says

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

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.

 

COMING UP: Q&A: USCCB clarifies intent behind bishops’ Eucharist document

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Last week, the U.S. bishop concluded their annual Spring meeting, during which much about the Church in the U.S was discussed. In particular, the bishops voted to draft a document on the meaning of Eucharistic life in the Church, which was approved by an overwhelming majority.

Since then, speculation about the nature of the document has run rampant, the chief of which is that it was drafted specifically to instigate a policy aimed directly at Catholic politicians and public figures whose outward political expressions and policy enactment do not align with Church teaching.

The USCCB has issued a brief Q&A clarifying the intent of the document, and they have emphasized that “the question of whether or not to deny any individual or groups Holy Communion was not on the ballot.”

“The Eucharist is the source and summit of Christian life,” the USCCB said. “The importance of nurturing an ever
deeper understanding of the beauty and mystery of the Eucharist in our lives is not a new topic for the bishops. The document being drafted is not meant to be disciplinary in nature, nor is it targeted at any one individual or class of persons. It will include a section on the Church’s teaching on the responsibility of every Catholic, including bishops, to live in accordance with the truth, goodness and beauty of the Eucharist we celebrate.”

Below are a few commonly asked questions about last week’s meeting and the document on the Eucharist.

Why are the bishops doing this now?

For some time now, a major concern of the bishops has been the declining belief and understanding of the Eucharist among the Catholic faithful. This was a deep enough concern that the theme of the bishops’ strategic plan for 2021-2024 is Created Anew by the Body and Blood of Christ: Source of Our Healing and Hope. This important document on the Eucharist will serve as a foundation for the multi-year Eucharistic Revival Project, a major national effort to reignite Eucharistic faith in our country. It was clear from the intensity and passion expressed in the individual interventions made by the bishops during last week’s meeting that each bishop deeply loves the Eucharist.

Did the bishops vote to ban politicians from receiving Holy Communion?

No, this was not up for vote or debate. The bishops made no decision about barring anyone from receiving Holy Communion. Each Catholic — regardless of whether they hold public office or not — is called to continual conversion, and the U.S. bishops have repeatedly emphasized the obligation of all Catholics to support human life and dignity and other fundamental principles of Catholic moral and social teaching.

Are the bishops going to issue a national policy on withholding Communion from politicians?

No. There will be no national policy on withholding Communion from politicians. The intent is to present a clear understanding of the Church’s teachings to bring heightened awareness among the faithful of how the Eucharist can transform our lives and bring us closer to our creator and the life he wants for us.

Did the Vatican tell the bishops not to move forward on drafting the document?

No. The Holy See did encourage the bishops to engage in dialogue and broad consultation. Last week’s meeting was the first part of that process. It is important to note that collaboration and consultation among the bishops will be key in the drafting of this document.


Featured photo by Eric Mok on Unsplash