Erin Lefluer (third from left) at Totus Tuus Girls Camp is 2004. (Courtesy photo)
By Jacques Daniel
Guest Columnist & Director of Youth and Youth Adults
On an October day in 1978, the world held its breath, waiting. The Chair of St. Peter was vacant. Who would be the next to steer the bark of St. Peter? It was a surprise when Cardinal Karol Wojtyla was named — the first Pole to serve as the Bishop of Rome. He took the name John Paul II and chose for his papal motto Totus Tuus. Translated from Latin, it means Totally Yours. His love for Mary and reading of DeMontfort’s “True Devotion to Mary” inspired this motto.
St. John Paul II’s life, his priesthood and now his papacy followed this complete surrender of self to Jesus through Mary. He took to heart and put into practice Mary’s last recorded words in scripture, “Do whatever he tells you” (Jn 2:5).
The Diocese of Rapid City’s Totus Tuus summer vocations camp was born out of this same zeal and inspired by this holy pope. Now, twenty-five plus years in, surviving many moves, much growth and even a global pandemic, Totus Tuus continues to form our youth and transform our diocese and beyond. The camps — one for boys and one for girls — span two weeks during the beautiful Black Hills summers. Boys camp is run by seminarians and priests — a number of the priests now being camp alumni. Often, the testimonies they and the seminarians share with the middle and high school boys include a story or two of hearing the Lord at camp. The girls camp is run by religious sisters from around the country, sent here to teach and play and sing by their generous communities. The same thing holds true for the increasing number of religious sisters who come back and now can say, “I was a camper just like you!”
The time spent by our priests, seminarians and visiting sisters in games, in prayer, in adoration, and recreation provides a joyous example to the youth of what a life abandoned to Mary and lives for the Lord truly looks like. It challenges them to consider, What is it the Lord is calling you to? How can you be totally His?
After all these years of camp — countless hours playing and perspiring and praying — we are experiencing a harvest of faithful Catholics directly impacted by the experience of Totus Tuus. Yes, we have ordained men in the diocese, shepherding their sheep and fathering their spiritual children. We also have consecrated women, giving their lives to the mission of the gospel, whose hearts were awakened to the call through camp. But most prolific are the faithful families springing up, living out the call to be “Totally Yours” in their homes, workplaces and passing it on to their children.
Erin Litt (maiden name Lafleur) spent her time as a young adult assisting with camp from 2003-2006. Reflecting on her time at camp she shared: “When I think back to the summer weeks I spent at Totus Tuus, I see it now as the moment that I first understood that God had a particular plan for my life. The incredible combination of time spent with religious sisters — shared meals, insightful talks, hilarious games, and deep conversation, and time spent in prayer — Liturgy of the Hours, daily Mass, and Eucharistic Adoration — primed my heart to truly seek where the Lord was leading me. To share a summer camp with religious sisters who faithfully and joyfully lived out their religious vocations was an opportunity for me to say ‘Is this what you might want for me, Lord?’ Even though God didn’t call me to consecrated life — the time spent at camp helped me to say to the Lord ‘I am totally yours’ which led me to serving as a FOCUS missionary, and then to the vocation of marriage.”
As we head in to our 27th year we want to make Totus Tuus available to every youth in our diocese! We offer this camp to families at a fraction of the cost it requires to run it. We hope this year to invite generous donors to be part of the Totus Tuus Mary Magdalene Sponsorship program. Sponsorships can help us to take care of sister’s flights, lodging, and food while they are here, help us in defraying the cost to bus youth for our lake day, etc.
If you feel as if God might be calling you to say “Lord, I am totally yours” in helping sponsor the Totus Tuus camps contact Jacques Daniel at jdaniel@ diorc.org or 605-343-3541 or visit the website at: www.TotusTuus21.com.