Children help carry the gifts during Mass to Fr. Peter O’Brien, pastor of St. Edward Parish in Lebanon, as part of the Totus Tuus weeklong summer camp. (Sarah Wolf/Catholic Sentinel)
Children help carry the gifts during Mass to Fr. Peter O’Brien, pastor of St. Edward Parish in Lebanon, as part of the Totus Tuus weeklong summer camp. (Sarah Wolf/Catholic Sentinel)

LEBANON — Walking through St. Edward Parish here July 17, one could hear sounds of laughter coming from a classroom. As one enters, kids are circled up squatting, kneeling, crossing themselves, saying prayers and then repeating — all at the direction of the young adult missionaries in the center of the circle. The Mass preparation, including some basic movements, calisthenics and prayers to get kids settled down before Mass, is a part of what the teams from Totus Tuus bring to what they call vacation summer school fun camp.

The Totus Tuus program is a collaboration between the Archdiocese of Portland, the Father Bernard Youth and Retreat Center and the Institute for World Evangelization — ICPE Mission. The program consists of two teams of young adults who give their summers to travel around the archdiocese leading weeklong summer camps like the one at St. Edward. By the end of the summer, the teams will have led camps in Portland, Eugene, Oregon City, Roseburg and here in Lebanon.

Totus Tuus is centered on the Catechism of the Catholic Church, said Efrain Razo, a seminarian missionary.

“It’s more like a school of learning,” he added.

The theme for the year is sacraments, so each day examines a different sacrament. The rosary is also incorporated every morning with a different mystery. This year, the teams are leading the sorrowful mysteries — a challenge and a blessing, says Razo.

There are no crafts here or stations. There are lots of activites, along with Mass and music, but the bulk of the day is spent in classrooms that are broken down by age group. The team members are trained to help kids with varying learning styles and are making efforts to help kids with specific needs such as attention deficit disorder.

During Mass, Razo sits next to a little boy who needs more help. Razo has a trick in his pocket — a toy to help the young boy channel his energy and better focus.

“For me, it’s been great working with Totus Tuus to see that reality within our diocese to continue working with different kids at different levels,” said Razo.

Marilyn Saether is the religious education coordinator for the preschool- and elementary-aged kids at the parish.

Totus Tuus has been great for everyone, she said. Wonderful results have been witnessed with the middle and high school aged kids who come for an evening program with the teams.

“They especially have been looking forward to it,” said Saether.

But the little kids, too, are learning about the faith and are excited to come for Totus Tuus. This is the second year that St. Edward has used the program. The parishes that bring in the volunteers are responsible for finding lodging and meals for the team of missionaries.

There have been wonderful spiritual benefits, said Saether. But the parish staff also have learned from the missionaries about how to do things and how to create small programs. Then there’s the example that the young adult missionaries set for the kids. Last year and this year, the kids in the St. Edward Totus Tuus program have had two seminarian missionaries. The kids may not otherwise have the opportunity to meet young men in formation for the priesthood.

Totus Tuus has been a game-changer for the parish, said Teresa Greenly, parish office manager.

“Yes, you have the fun element in it, but to learn the Catholic faith is huge,” she said.

sarahw@catholicsentinel.org