Some University of Dallas students spent their summer relaxing at home, taking summer courses or working. But other students spent their summer teaching young people about the Catholic faith.
“We love our faith, and we want to share it with kids so they, and we, can fall more in love with the Church and Christ,” senior Sarah Scheider said.
Senior theology major Emma Chaplin has spent the last three summers working as a missionary for Totus Tuus, a Catholic youth program in her home diocese of Joliet, Ill.
Her summer began with training, where groups from all over the area came together for a week-long retreat, followed by a week of classroom work.
“It is so important that we start with a retreat,” Chaplin said. “You have to evaluate your relationship with Jesus before you can do His work.”
Then, the missionary groups, usually two males and two females, headed out to spend six weeks on the road, visiting a different parish every week.
On a typical day, the missionaries arrived at the church at 7:30 a.m. for morning prayer and setup.
During the day, they taught classes, played games and performed skits for children in grades one through six. After this session concluded, the missionaries prayed together again, and then they had a break before eating dinner with a host family from the parish. In the evening, they ran a second session, this time for those in grades seven through 12.
Chaplin noted that her summer job related to her UD education, especially to her theology major.
“I have had a lot of theology classes here and it is incredible to me how, when I’m teaching, I can help first graders understand the same concepts I study,” Chaplin said, adding that Totus Tuus has also helped her understand how much she still has to learn.
Schneider also participated in Totus Tuus in the Chicago area over the summer months.
“The difficult kids were probably my favorite part [of the job],” Schneider said. “They helped me grow so much in patience and in love. And of course I had fun with the kids and I enjoyed being part of the skits.”
Schneider said that teaching Totus Tuus has helped her prepare for a potential post-graduate teaching career.
“I want to go into education for science, which is obviously very different from what I was doing over the summer, but at the same time it was still good to do,” Schneider said. “It showed me that I could be very tired at night after everything but still be so ready to get up the next morning and do it all over again.”
Senior Rachel Parkey, a counselor at The Pines Catholic Camp in Texas for two years, said that working at a summer camp had helped her learn different models of teaching for different age groups.
“You sort of were different things to [the kids],” Parkey said. “So for the elementary school kids you were sort of like a mom – helping them get their things together in the morning, getting them to activities, helping them with homesickness because many of them are away from home for the first time, helping them with spiritual development. For the middle school kids, you were like the cool older sibling … and for the high school kids you were a kind of role model or mentor.”
Parkey said that she enjoyed working with high school students the most.
“This is an important time in their lives when they’re figuring things out, what they want to be involved in. And for the seniors, they’re thinking about college and what they want to do,” Parkey said. “And some of them have really rough lives, so you’re helping them through that and being there for them … you have a group of campers in your cabin and those are really your campers for the week. You get really close.”
Parkey said that she considers teaching an excellent and natural calling for many UD students.
“I think our UD education helps us learn to think more critically and work with people and have good conversations,” Parkey said. “Seeing so many students being willing to basically give up their summers says a lot about the student body. UD students are intelligent – they see the opportunity to teach others more about the faith and have some fun along the way – it’s an attractive thing in the mind of a UD student, whether you’re a theology major or all the theology you’ve had is from the Core.”
Even though programs like Totus Tuus or The Pines may seem outside the box to some, they are perfectly in line with UD’s mission. There is a tradition of UD students participating in summer programs geared towards teaching young people and handing down the Catholic faith.
As Chaplin put it, Totus Tuus, at its core, has the same spirit as the university.
“Both are a microcosm of the Church as a whole,” Chaplin said.