Silver anniversary of Totus Tuus vocation camps coming next summer
This WRC archive photo was taken in 2009. It shows the Boys Totus Tuus Camp held at Storm Mountain. Zane Pekron of Milesville throws a frisbee past Vocations Director Fr. Brian
Christensen during a game of ultimate frisbee. Adam Hofer in the yellow bandana and David Cordes, both of Rapid City, and Joseph Syman, from Spearfish, are also on the field. Today,
Fr. Adam Hofer is a parochial vicar at Blessed Sacrament Church, Rapid City, and Deacon Zane Pekron is a Theology IV student at St. Paul Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota.
(WRC photo by Becky Berreth)
Fr. Mark: Next summer, the Diocese of Rapid City’s Totus Tuus (“All yours”) Vocation Camps will be celebrating 25 years of bringing together middle school and high school youth from across the diocese. This is a way to help our young people hear the voice of Jesus and to encourage them not to be afraid to ask this question of the Lord: “Lord, what do you want me to do with my life?”
Totus Tuus has been a great blessing for our diocese in building and promoting a culture of vocations, and it has borne much fruit — not only in the number of priestly and religious vocations, but simply by helping our young people to seek a living and personal relationship with the Lord.
As we begin to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Totus Tuus, I asked Father Tim Hoag, founder of the camp as we know it, to share a bit of the history of this remarkable gift.
Fr. Tim: Totus Tuus Vocations Camps developed mostly through trial and error. Bishop Steven Biegler and I, while we were in seminary, recognized a need to develop a community of young men who were interested in priesthood.
We held our first vocations camp in 1989 at Camp Rimrock. Fifty-six middle school boys and girls attended. It was a great retreat. However, we took a four-year hiatus as both of us went off to theology school.
The summer of my diaconate year I sought permission from and the support of Fr. Arnie Kari, who was the vocation director at the time, to put on a vocations retreat. He gave us his blessing. Bishop Steven Biegler and Father Peter Kovarik, who were newly ordained, other diocesan seminarians and I put on a retreat at St. Martin Monastery.
It was a weekend retreat (Friday through Sunday) and was offered for high school and college-aged men. Father Tony Grossenburg attended this retreat and has shared that it was instrumental in his decision to go to the seminary the following year.
We learned from this retreat that the age spread of high school through college was too big, plus we thought a camp atmosphere would work much better than a retreat format. Also, the research provided by the National Conference of Diocesan Vocation Directors highlighted that the first time a young boy begins to think about being a priest is in his middle school years. So, we decided to start with middle school boys with the hope of building the camp by later adding high school boys and young men as leaders.
From 1996 – 2011 it was held at various Protestant camps throughout the Hills because, at the time, we did not have our own retreat center. Camp was held at Camp Rimrock, the Wesleyan Camp, Atlantic Mountain Ranch and Camp Bob Marshall. Eventually, we settled on a permanent place in the schedule at Storm Mountain Camp. In 2012, we moved to our diocesan retreat center at Terra Sancta Retreat Center in Rapid City.
In those early years we had to prepare our meals and snacks for the camp. These were largely put together through volunteers from the cathedral parish where I was assigned as an associate pastor.
When the first sixth grade group had attended Totus Tuus for three years and were moving into high school we realized we needed to have a leadership camp to continue to build a community for these young men who were interested in seminary. We developed the high school leadership camp which was held two days prior to the middle school camp. Alongside diocesan seminarians, the boys from the leadership camp helped run the middle school camp.
When Father Brian Christensen became vocation director in 2002, we realized there was a need to encourage young girls to consider religious life. Thus, we developed Totus Tuus Girls. Father Brian and I really did not know how to put a camp like this together. Therefore, we turned to the Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious to find young women religious who were willing to assist us.
Not knowing any better, we set the schedule for the first girls camp exactly as we had run the boys’ camp. About a half a day into the first camp, the sisters who had come to assist us met with Father Brian and me to revise the schedule. They wanted to add things we would never have dreamed of adding with boys.
For instance, they suggested an hour of preparation time to get ready for breakfast and an hour for lunch, allowing the girls to have time to visit. They also wanted to give the girls time for crafts. We would never have included crafts with the boys. Putting things like sharp objects (scissors), glue and the like into the hands of the boys didn’t seem wise.
In time, the sisters, in coordination with the vocations office, were designing the schedule and the talks for the girls’ camp During this time, the first fruit of Totus Tuus was received. Father Grossenburg, who attended that first retreat, was ordained.
Under the direction of Father Brian and Susan Safford, at that time a newly consecrated virgin, as well as Father Kevin Achbach who succeeded Father Brian as vocations director, the camp’s numbers increased. We also began to see more fruit from the camps.
Men who had attended the camp as middle school and high school boys were beginning to be ordained including Father Tyler Dennis, Father Jonathan Dillon and Father John Paul Trask. We have also seen the fruit of the girls’ camp with Rachel Wilhelmi (Sister Familiae) and Giovanna Julian (Sister Poveri) with the Servants of the Lord and the Virgin of Matará, and Audrey Blankartz (Sister Lucia Christi) with the Nashville Dominicans. We also have three seminarians who were Totus Tuus campers: Deacon Zane Pekron, Andrew Sullivan and Robert Kinyon.
This trend continues under vocation director Father Mark McCormick. Last year, the camps served 95 middle school and 38 high school young people.
Fr. Mark: If you or your children have any stories to share about the blessings of Totus Tuus in their lives, I would love to hear them. We can see the fruits of those who have chosen priesthood or religious life and have shared with us the impact Totus Tuus had on their decision, but it is harder for us to see how the camps have assisted young people in general to draw closer to the Lord and to listen to his call.
We are planning several events this summer to celebrate the gift that Totus Tuus has been to our young people, families, parishes and diocese. Help us to celebrate and live Totus Tuus in our lives.Back in the Day