Summer of Youth

Summer of Youth

Steubenville Conference 2022, Photo by Grace Tamburro

In 1963, singer Nat King Cole released the song, “Those Lazy-Hazy-Crazy Days of Summer,” and while I agree about the hazy and crazy, I do not agree with the lazy. The summertime here in the Diocese of Springfield -Cape Girardeau is a busy time with all the programs directed toward the youth of our diocese.


We are blessed with two mission teams this summer, four young adults each, that have been going through the diocese evangelizing our youth through the Totus Tuus Program. Totus Tuus is a Catholic summer youth program dedicated to sharing the Gospel and promoting the Catholic faith through catechesis, evangelization, Christian witness and Eucharistic worship. The goal of Totus Tuus is to help young people grow in the understanding of, and strengthen their faith in Jesus Christ. Each Totus Tuus “missionary” is trained, and in our diocese, they spend six weeks, —three weeks in June and three weeks in July—in different parishes reaching hundreds of youth and teens. We average about 600 kids every year. This year the camps were held at St. Eustachius, Portageville; Sacred Heart, Salem; St. Vincent de Paul, Cape Girardeau; St. Lawrence, New Hamburg; St. Ann, Carthage; St. Joseph the Worker, Ozark; Ste. Marie du Lac, Ironton; St. Canera, Neosho; St. Teresa, Glennonville; Holy Trinity, Aurora; St. John, Leopold, and Sacred Heart, Mountain Grove.


Of course, no explanation is needed for Camp Re-NEW-All! It has such a stellar reputation deeply rooted in the history of the diocese, offering faith formation in a traditional camp setting (no air conditioning!) at two locations. I am always amazed at the number of adults and counselors who schedule their summer vacation around this experience. For many of the counselors and campers, it has become a family tradition and they would not miss it for the world. It is always a highlight for me to go and celebrate Holy Mass and Reconciliation at the camps. Camp Re-NEW-All at Camp Smokey is held in Cassville’s Roaring River State Park. The campers from the Cape Girardeau area utilize the Vincentian property, Camp St. Vincent, near Fredericktown. This year, 538 were “happy” campers.


Finally, we just finished the Steubenville Midwest Youth Conferences, held two weekends in a row on the campus of Missouri State University in Springfield. The entire conference is administered through the Archdiocese of St. Louis. We simply put on a smile and say welcome! This year we had 29 parishes participate with a total of 636 high school-age youth and adult chaperones. It is always my hope that every high schooler in the diocese gets to experience at least one of these events in the course of their high school years. It would be ideal if every one of our high school kids could attend these events every year.

When you step back and look at all of these activities held during the summer, you can understand better that these days of summer may be hazy and crazy, but they are not lazy!

All of this cannot be accomplished without the leadership of Lynn Melendez, Director of Evangelization, Family Life, and Youth Ministries, as well as Katie Newton, who is now the diocesan coordinator of special events. I am grateful for the priests that give of their time at Camp to provide daily Mass and Confessions. I’m grateful for the youth ministers and parent volunteers who accompany our youth to the Steubenville conferences. I am so grateful to the pastors and parishioners who provide lodging, food, and meals for those who participate in the Totus Tuus Catholic summer camps. It is often said that the youth are the future of the Church. Pope St. John Paul II disagreed. He said that the youth are part of the Church now. They have a vitality and energy that can help build up the Church now. If we wait until they are in their 20s to acknowledge their membership or gifts they bring to our communities, we have waited too long! That in and of itself is justification for all these programs.


As I go around celebrating the Masses of Thanksgiving, marking the end of our Diocesan Capital Endowment Campaign, I remind people that finances should never be an obstacle to any of our youth attending the above-mentioned youth events. The Youth Endowment portion of the Diocesan Capital Campaign is already supporting so many of our youth financially who may not be able to pay the full cost of attending these programs see the story on p. 7 of this issue! Money should never be an obstacle—let me repeat—money should never be an obstacle to a young person who wants to attend one of our programs.

Be a Beacon of God’s Hope & Optimism

Be a Beacon of God’s Hope & Optimism


The readings from this reflection: Gn 18:20-32; Ps 138:1-2, 2-3, 6-7, 7-8; Col 2:12-14; Lk 11:1-13


We read in Genesis of God growing tired of wickedness and the poor choices being made by the people of Sodom and Gomorrah. However, Abraham repeatedly intercedes on their behalf, asking God to look for goodness in the city. Abraham goes so far as to ask, “What if there are at least 10 there?” We see through the conversation that he searches for the slightest sign of goodness within Sodom and Gomorrah. Abraham is persistently looking for a bright spot where, at first glance, there is only darkness.

We need that reminder to look for the good in everyone we meet. Sometimes, it can feel like there is nothing but darkness, and everyone is only looking out for themselves. Yet, there is also an invitation to see with the eyes of Abraham. He displays such hope and dedication for the people of God. That is a quality we can incorporate into our own lives. Persistence will always give way to the discovery of light and goodness. After all, light cannot hide in the dark for very long. There is goodness in each of us, so we ought to search confidently for it in those we meet.

Life is Victorious!

Life is Victorious!

In a recent homily, I cited 139 attacks on Catholic Churches in the United States in the past two years, saying that these events are going to get worse depending on the Supreme Court decision regarding Roe v Wade. After Mass, a lady approached me and asked me if I ever preach on gun control and banning AK47’s. My response was from the heart – there are 23 elementary and three high schools in our diocese and along with our various parish-based PSR programs. I am sure that all parents send their children to the parish school with the expectation that while they are at the parish, they are safe. And, we do our best to provide a safe environment for religious formation and education. At the same time, we all read the headlines and know of the recent devastating loss of 19 young lives and two adults at Robb Elementary in Uvalde, TX, along with the broken families. Am I wrong to say that all parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles want a safe environment where students can grow in the faith and learn?

And it is not only in schools. Recently just going to the store for groceries or anywhere in public can expose us to violence. Bishop Shawn McKnight, the Bishop of the Diocese of Jefferson City, Missouri, in his column in The Catholic Missourian, the Catholic paper of the Diocese of Jefferson City, stated, “While the root causes of these recent tragedies are legion, society has every obligation to improve gun safety as prudence would dictate.” Does anybody disagree with that statement? If you do, you probably don’t have children or grandchildren. And while I don’t have children or grandchildren, I have just under 7,000 students that come to our parishes on a weekly basis for religious formation, to say nothing of the families who come to a parish on weekends for Holy Mass and other events.

With the various shootings in our country, people have begun to criticize the Hollywood entertainment industry for glorifying the use of weapons in movies. When we see so much violent carnage on film, we can easily become desensitized. Then, when we see the actual devastation of war in Ukraine, or hear of actual acts of violence in our own country, we become so immune that it does not affect us. It is very easy to see the images of war in Ukraine and think it’s a video game. It is not a video game! This is real life—life and death—played out in the lives of people who were devastated at the loss of loved ones.

The same can be said about abortion. Over the past 49 years since the 1973 Roe v Wade decision legalized abortion, we have become desensitized to this loss of life. It is not a “health care” procedure – it is the taking of a human life. And I am reminded on a regular basis of the quote of Ronald Reagan on a billboard along Highway 55 in southern Missouri, “All of those for abortion have already been born.” When we fail to see the dignity of human life in the womb, and when we fail to protect life when it is the most vulnerable, we will continue to go down the slippery slope where we all lose our dignity, all of us become impoverished and human life — whether in the womb, or special needs, or the elderly—is all the more vulnerable to being part of a throwaway culture.

The Diocese of Springfield – Cape Girardeau does so much to help women in need. In a recent column, I outlined the many programs throughout southern Missouri such as LifeHouse Crisis Maternity Home in Springfield, LifeHouse being built in Cape Girardeau, Mother’s House in the Bootheel, Whole Family and Whole Kids Outreach and Casa Guadalupe in Ellington, and more. I have challenged our parishes to be “islands of mercy” to respond to women in need. And, regardless of the decision of the Supreme Court, we will continue to offer not just services and goods to those in need, but more importantly, the dignity and respect that all humans deserve. Life is victorious!

Photo Source: Getty Images

Be a Beacon of God’s Hope & Optimism

At the Feet of Jesus



The readings from this reflection: Gn 18:1-10a; Ps 15:2-3, 3-4,5; Col. 1:24-28; Lk 10:38-42

So much food to cook!
And the house to cleanse!
It wouldn’t have been so bad,
But the Lord brought 12 friends!
Martha worked so hard,
Close to coronary,
Please, I need some help.
Where’s that lazy Mary?
She finally found her.
Well, don’t that beat!
She’s all stretched out at Jesus’ feet.
“Jesus, I’m working hard,”
Martha began to wail.
“Mary, she’s just lounging.
Tell her to get off her tail!”
“Martha,” Jesus said,
“I admire your heart.
But leave Mary be.
She chose the better part.”

Some of us are more like Martha while others lean toward Mary. My father is a “Martha.” I don’t think he would be ashamed of me saying that. He was never one to sit around, but he sure knew how to work. Dad was a carpenter. His daily prayer was a swing of the hammer. Under a burning sun or in freezing temperatures, day after day, year after year he swung a hammer. And each swing of the hammer was a prayer, a father’s prayer that those he loved would have the food they needed and a home to go home to.

Be a Beacon of God’s Hope & Optimism

The Parable of the Good Samaritan


The readings from this reflection: Dt 30:1014; Ps 69:14, 17, 30-31, 33-34, 36, 37; Col 1:15-20; Lk 10:25-37


As we begin our Gospel reading today from the Gospel according to St. Luke, we read that Jesus was on his journey to Jerusalem when He was approached by a Jewish scholar of the law who had decided to test Jesus and possibly trap him in a legal entanglement. The lawyer began with the question, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus responded to the question with yet another question, asking, “What is written in the law?” The lawyer who had conceived himself to be the legal entangler now found himself legally entangled as he searched for a logical legal answer. His response was to quote Deuteronomy 6:4-5, which was and still is one of the most important prayers in the Jewish faith. Twice a day, every good Jew would quote this Scripture:

“Hear O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.”

The law scholar also added:

“And with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.”

Deuteronomy 6 is a reminder to God’s people of who God is, all that he has done, and the amazing opportunity that the people of God have to respond to him with love and adoration. The addition by the law scholar also affirmed the Jewish teaching to treat others as you yourself would want to be treated. Jesus affirmed the lawyer’s answer quite simply by saying “Do this and you will live.”