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.