As I write this, my son is at St. Mary’s in Altoona, loving every minute of his Totus Tuus week with one of three Diocese of Superior crews. It’s a school of sorts – without really feeling like it – and as he runs and plays and meets new kids, he’s also learning about his faith.

The program is great for parents as well. At 7, he’s going to be gearing up for first Communion next spring, but he’s a wild one. He’s always struggled to sit still in church – the toddler years were particularly active, so I pity every parent who chases a kid (or kids) down the aisle during the consecration or some equally inconvenient moment – and it seems like he hasn’t absorbed much. Piety isn’t his most obvious trait.

The closest Catholic school is a 20-minute drive, so we opted to send him to the public school one mile down the road. There’s also no children’s liturgy at our rural parish, and catechism classes are only once a month. Then, there was COVID, not to mention the surge of post-COVID illnesses last year (when we caught every bacterium and virus in circulation, including COVID yet again) and he missed several classes. I read him basic Bible stories and encourage him to pray, but I do not excel at teaching young children.

I’m guessing this is a pretty common tale. Our background is comparably familiar. For the past few decades, the U.S. Catholic Church has done a poor job of retaining young men. Thus, when many Catholic girls are looking to date, there’s no one in church, so we look elsewhere. Once married, religion becomes another matter for compromise. My two sisters and I all married Protestants, and we all manage our religious diversity differently. None of our husbands have expressed interest in converting, although we are all raising our children Catholic.

Basically, my son is one of a significant percentage of the current crop of young Catholics. Encouraged by only one parent to learn about his faith, he has little connection with other Catholics of his age and little exposure to religion beyond what he hears (or tunes out) at home and in church. For the many kids in similar situations, Totus Tuus helps close the gap. It’s fun and upbeat; most of all, it’s an environment that normalizes and promotes religion while gathering children into a vibrant, parent-free Catholic community with positive role models.

For the Totus Tuus team who came to St. Mary’s – and for the other two teams as well – plus the diocesan staff who do the legwork for the program and all the parishes/donors/funds that support it, my gratitude!

Members of the Diocese of Superior’s 2022 Totus Tuus teams are Aidan Jones, Superior; Lydia Sittlow, Hudson; Mackenzie Hollman, Waukesha; Allison Oman, Amery; Scott Pederson, Spooner; John Halberg, Hayward; Evan Kalsow, Hudson; Emma Jones, Superior; Lily French, Superior; Rita Bauer, Hudson; Aaron Arndt, Merrill; and Mitchell Klatt, Barron.