The Totus Tuus program in the Archdiocese of Toronto has concluded for another summer, but the memories and experiences are still alive and fresh for many – missionary leaders included.
Each year, 20 young Catholic leaders act as missionaries in parishes throughout the archdiocese as they facilitate week-long summer camps that bring children and teenagers closer to God.
In this interview, Christina Daly of Maple, Ont., shares with us her experience of being a Totus Tuus missionary this past summer.
1. What brought you to the Totus Tuus program as a missionary this year?
My first involvement with Totus Tuus was as a volunteer in 2011. It left a lasting impression on me. I remember wishing I was young enough to be a camper, but I also wished I was old enough to be a missionary. For the next three summers, I volunteered for the day camp program and participated in the high school night program. With each year, I had the opportunity to meet some amazing missionaries whose conversations inspired me to learn more and fall deeper in love with Jesus. Totus Tuus has influenced me in many ways and I actively supported the program because of its fun and interactive approach to teaching children about the Catholic faith.
Seeing Totus Tuus in action really spoke to me, but I never quite felt the call to apply until this past year. As each year of my undergrad passed, I always had Totus Tuus in my heart. Each year I spent time in prayer and reflection, discerning whether God was calling me to serve in this capacity. When the time came to apply for the summer 2019 program, I felt a strong "pull" in my heart; I felt it was God's time for me, that He was calling me to take that next step as a Totus Tuus missionary and to share the story of His ongoing love and mercy.
2. Tell us about your experience this past summer.
Every moment of the summer – from the training to the closing retreat — was so memorable and beautiful. Getting to know my fellow missionaries throughout the walking pilgrimage was an amazing way to kick-start our training. I remember feeling overwhelmed with emotions and gratitude for the Christ-centred friendships that were forming so naturally. Being able to learn and grow so much in such a short period of time, through my fellow missionaries, inspired me even more to be a witness of faith and love to each camper I would encounter during the program.
Being able to serve as a Totus Tuus missionary also made me put into perspective how important it is to truly live in and embrace the present moment. While it can be tempting to overthink and over-plan life, my experience this summer made me realize the importance of taking each moment as a learning opportunity and as part of the process that God has laid before me for this mission. Having this perspective each day gave me a peaceful mindset and heart throughout the summer; and it helped me to truly appreciate each moment and individual that I encountered.
3. What surprised you the most throughout the program?
As part of the program, I was away from home for three months. I had never been away from home that long. I thought it was going to be a difficult adjustment to be away from the comforts of home and not being able to spend much time with family and friends. However, as the summer went on, I found that I very rarely experienced homesickness. This made me realize the power of the Holy Spirit, who bestowed on me the gifts of courage and piety. It also taught me to be firm in knowing that I was called to do good works through mission and to totally rely on God throughout the process. It's really amazing to look back and reflect on how much God supports and guides us through our mission when we give Him our "YES."
4. How has your time as a missionary changed your idea and understanding of the church?
My time as a missionary has made me realize how crucial missionary work is to the continued growth of the Church and spreading the Gospel. Jesus once said, "Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me" (Matthew 25:40). While being a missionary begins with giving one's "YES" to God and surrendering to His will for the mission, which may not be for everyone, but it is a decision that I believe everyone should discern.
Through the bonds one forms with campers, volunteers, host families and coordinators, missionary work is an opportunity to see Jesus in every person you meet and to plant the seeds of a deeper faith formation through your witness of love and good works.
5. What lies ahead for you post-Totus Tuus?
In the upcoming school year, I will be continuing my education by pursuing my Master of Social Work. My studies and experience in this field have broadened my mind and heart to the unjust realities that children and youth face in our social systems and I hope to use this role as a means to bring the light of God into the lives of as many children and youth as possible. With respect to my personal faith formation, I will continue to prayerfully discern how and where God is calling me to be the best disciple I can be, and I will more deeply discern my vocation.
For more information on the Totus Tuus program with the Office of Vocations, visit www.totustuustoronto.ca.