Totus Tuus and summer camp missionaries share the joys of loving, serving God unconditionally


One day, the children were so wound up that all Anna Schubert could teach them was the first of the five Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary.

And, as it turns out, that was enough.

“It’s really God who’s going to cultivate those seeds,” said Miss Schubert, who served as a Totus Tuus missionary in this diocese last summer.

“So, you have to surrender and say, ‘God, I gave you my best, and maybe this is what they needed today,’” she stated.

Surrendering is a big part of being a Totus Tuus missionary (, and that’s an important skill for the journey not only through this life but into the next.

“How can you expect to grow if you’re not willing to do something out of the ordinary?” said Miss Schubert, who is from Livonia, Michigan.

And then, there are the days when you can actually see the seeds taking root and blossoming all over the place.

“Those are the moments that really help us keep doing what we’re doing,” Miss Schubert stated near the end of last summer’s Totus Tuus season.

Totus Tuus is a summer Catholic youth program dedicated to sharing the Gospel and promoting the Catholic Faith through evangelization, catechesis, Christian witness and Eucharistic worship.

Groups of college-age missionaries travel to participating parishes throughout the summer to conduct week-long catechetical programs that help build up families and parishes.

It’s much more than teaching about God and the doctrines of the Church. It’s about promoting an ongoing encounter with Christ and fostering a deeper relationship with him.

The missionaries sign up for the whole summer and go through a period of training and formation together before being sent out in teams to parishes all over the diocese.

“I’m not going to lie: signing up for this is one of the scarier things I’ve ever done,” said Nico Keegan, a member of St. Thomas More Newman Center Parish in Columbia, who’s been a Totus Tuus missionary for three summers in a row.

“But, I have given and received more authentic love in these past three summers than I think I could have anywhere else,” he said.

“All in”

The diocesan office of Youth/Young Adult Ministry is accepting applications for Totus Tuus missionaries to serve this summer.

Totus Tuus which is Latin for All Yours, was the papal motto of Pope St. John Paul II, who served from 1978-2005 and inspired many young people to trust God fully and aspire to great things as adults.

“This is a terrific opportunity for someone who wants to solidify the foundation of their faith with service, camaraderie and rock-solid fellowship with people seeking to know, love and serve the Lord,” said Maureen Quinn, diocesan director of religious education and youth/young adult ministry.

Mr. Keegan signed up to be a missionary at the request of Father Paul Clark, diocesan vocations director.

“My initial response was one of reluctant surrender,” Mr. Keegan recalled. “I kept trying to remember a saint’s quote, ‘God will not be outdone in generosity.’”

By the end of his third summer, Mr. Keegan never felt more at peace.

“Going to school and trying to figure out what you’re going to do with your life, it can be hard to be certain about anything, let alone that you’re doing what you’re supposed to be doing at this very moment,” he stated.

“But, when you’re giving up your summer as a college student, when you’re giving of your time and your knowledge and your energy to these kids who are desperate to hear the message we’re giving to them, you know that you’re doing what you’re supposed to be doing,” he said.

“Yes!” said Miss Schubert. “I love the peace and clarity of knowing that what you’re doing in the moment is what God wants you to be doing.”

She likened God’s will to stepping into the wilderness.

“You intellectually know, ‘I have a map, and I’m gonna’ go from Sand Point to Rainbow Lake’” she said, “but the in-between is kind of sketchy.

“And yet, there’s peace in the reality that ‘okay, my mission is to go from Point A to Point B’ — so you live very much in the moment,” she said.

Miss Schubert is convinced that God wants people to be decisively “all-in” when it comes to making a commitment.

“He wants us to be free in giving ourselves to him, totally and completely,” she asserted.

Laughing, she added: “I’m still working on that!”

Surrendering to love

Mr. Keegan pointed out that Totus Tuus is really two programs that happen within the same week.

“There’s a catechetical, theological education program that’s also sort of like a day camp for kids who are entering first through sixth grade,” he said.

“Then, for the older kids in seventh through 12th grade, the goal is to try to help them know God on a personal level,” he stated.

Mr. Keegan likened this progression to the process of getting to know a person.

“You can’t ever start a relationship without figuring out how someone reacts to something or what they love or how they live,” he stated. “You have to ask them, ‘What is your name? Where are you from? What do you do?’ and so-forth.

“It’s that way with God,” he asserted. “You start out by learning about him. Then you can start to get to know him.”

Mr. Keegan said the missionaries, especially those who have been around for several summers, have seen how sharing these simple truths can lead to greater things in the years to come.

“I certainly would not be here in the spot that I am today in my faith without having done this,” he noted.

“Because being able to live and make sacrifices for it, you start to love it more.”

Miss Schubert said the work of Totus Tuus is challenging but very much worth it.

“You need to consider, is God asking you to surrender?” she said. “Because allowing someone else to write a portion of your life, so to speak, is a step toward surrender,” she said.

Mr. Keegan called to mind St. Teresa of Kolkata’s description of herself as “a pencil in God’s hand.”

“A pencil is an inanimate object,” Mr. Keegan noted. “It has no concept of about what is being drawn. So it sits there and lets its master, the artist, use it to its potential.

“Compared to God, I am an inanimate object, and I’m being used to do something for him,” he stated.

Camp missionaries

The Youth/Young Adult Ministry Office is also hiring college-age young adults to serve as missionaries for several Catholic camp experiences in the diocese.

Among these are Camp Lolek ( for middle-school-age boys and girls, Camp Siena ( for high-school-age girls, and Camp Maccabee ( for high-school-age boys.

“It’s one of the best things I’ve ever done,” said Allie Mathews of Glasgow, who served as a diocesan camp missionary last summer.

“A lot of people think you’re just here to work, but the camp is for you, too,” said Luke Dalton of Rolla, who has been a camp missionary for several summers.

Camp missionaries work in teams to guide campers through their daily experience and to keep things running smoothly.

Mr. Dalton, now a seminarian at Conception Seminary College in Conception, spoke last summer of his experience as a missionary.

“If you’re a boy and it’s a boys’ camp, you’re front-end, doing team-lead stuff,” he said. “So, you’re helping these kids and young men learn to be disciples.

“And then, say, if you’re a boy and it switches to girls’ camps, then you’re doing back-up stuff,” including behind-the-scenes set-up and take-down, he said.

The missionaries pray intentionally throughout each camp for each other and for the campers, he noted.

“Spilling over”

Miss Mathews spoke of being spiritually present to the campers.

“You get to experience all the joy and some of the sorrow that they have, especially when camp begins and when it ends,” she said.

“Because they build such a community within it and you get to be a part of that community and send them out to build that community in their parishes,” she stated.

Miss Mathews attended Camp Siena as a camper in 2019. She became a camp missionary in the summer of 2023.

“It is a lot of work, but it’s very rewarding and fulfilling,” she said. “Because you’re there with incredible people who share the same love and desire for the Lord.”

Together, the missionaries get to show the young people how to put that same love and desire for the Lord into action.

“And from there, you send them forth, and then you go forth yourself and continue to do that work,” she said.

Mr. Dalton said being a camp missionary helped him learn how to give himself up to God and minister to the campers.

“It’s not of myself but of God,” he said. “As Fr. Clark says, ‘It’s what’s overflowing from us — not just pouring out of our own chalice but pouring out of what’s overflowing from our chalice.”

Being a camp missionary has helped Miss Mathews learn to serve in a deeper manner.

“The call to serve and love was very overwhelming to me,” she stated. “So this was fulfilling in every sense of that.”

She resolved to take what she learned into her first year of college and into discerning what God has in mind for her.

Miss Mathews and Mr. Dalton both said people noticed the change in them when they were home on weekends and after they completed their time as missionaries.

“That compassion and joy and happiness that we as a team would spend so much time sharing — people could see that spilling over into the rest of my life and being shared with others,” said Miss Mathews.

“The amount I’ve grown in my faith has been huge,” Mr. Dalton noted. “Going home and seeing that people notice something different about you, tells me that we’re doing something right.”

Both said they’d recommend the camp missionary experience to anyone seeking to grow stronger in their relationship with God.

“It’s very rewarding because you get to help the young people of the Church grow in their faith and grow in their knowledge and grow in their life,” said Miss Matthews.

“There’s nothing I’d rather do in the summer than summer camps if I want to grow closer to God,” Mr. Dalton stated.