By CJ Kallevig
Over this past summer, I was a Totus Tuus missionary for the Diocese of Superior, Wisconsin.
What does that mean you may ask? Good question!
It means that I spent two months of my life traveling around Wisconsin, teaching kids about the rosary and the catechism, living in and eating at many different people’s homes, and spending 14+ hours per day with 3 other people.
It was an extremely tough summer, but it was also the best summer of my life.
But let me rewind and introduce myself. My name is CJ, which stands for Constantina Jerusalem or Cybil Jo. I’ll let you decide which one is the real one. I am 21 years old, from Kandiyohi, MN, and I just graduated from Winona State University with a degree in English Language and Literature.
I got involved with Totus Tuus as I was looking for a service type thing to do after I graduated. I had heard friends talk about it before, so I looked into it for myself. But… I wasn’t looking at the Diocese of Superior. I was actually planning on applying to the Diocese of Winona-Rochester, as that is my home diocese.
But CJ, how did you end up in the Diocese of Superior then? Another great question! This is how: I asked my friend Bryn about Totus Tuus because I knew she had done it before. The minute the words ‘Totus Tuus’ came out of my mouth, she got excited and told me that I was going to apply for the Diocese of Superior instead. I went along with it because I didn’t really have a plan. I just wanted to serve God, and this seemed to be an open door.
So, I applied, I got accepted, and I got excited. I was so ready to go out, to teach and, to live in community with people. Then I got to training.
Training is one of the best weeks of the entire summer, but it is also one of the most difficult. Early to rise and late to bed does not a good sleep schedule make. But training is awesome not just because you learn all of the curriculum, sing all the silly songs, play all the games, and eat amazing food. It is amazing because you are doing it in community with approximately 40 other missionaries from Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan. The friendships you make at training are invaluable to your growth as a missionary and as a person.
Training is also where you meet your teammates for the first time. You don’t get to know who they are right away, so you can bond with everyone before you are divided up.
My team consisted of two awesome guys and one other amazing girl. And we were from all over the country, from as far away as Los Angeles and from as close as the Diocese of Superior itself.
Your team is your family during Totus Tuus, and these three teammates definitely became mine. We laughed together, we cried together, we were there for each other.
The relationships you form during Totus Tuus are extremely powerful, but none are more powerful than the relationships you have with your teammates.
I don’t want to say too much about the teaching weeks, but just know that these weeks are both very difficult are also absolutely amazing. You will have some of the greatest times playing silly games with the kids or singing the “Baby Shark” song 15 times in five days. There will also be those kids that you didn’t think were listening or were just difficult in class who will come up to you after the program is over, give you a hug, and say, “Thank you for being my teacher.” Those are the moments where even if you feel like you had a terrible week, everything goes away, and you know you planted a seed in that child’s life.
You will also grow in ways that you did not expect. For me, I grew so much in acceptance and in trust. Acceptance in the way that everything is provided for you, and if you are a giver like me, it can be hard to receive. I learned how to accept people’s love even though I couldn’t give back in the way that I was used to giving.
I also grew in trust. Trust in God and trust in the people around me. Over the summer, I realized just how much I did not trust God and his provision. Through this struggle of not trusting God, I also learned about my hardships with trusting other people. When you are on a team for eight weeks, if you do not trust each other, it will be a difficult time. Honestly, I struggled with trusting my team at first. However, as God led me to a deeper trust in him, I also began to trust my team more as well.
And then the summer was done.
Eight weeks as a team flew by, and I was packing up to go home. Goodbyes were said, tears were shed, and I didn’t know if I would ever see these people again in my life.
For me, saying goodbye at the end of the summer was extremely difficult. I cried saying goodbye to my team. However, I held on to these two pieces of solace that had been given to me before: we will see each other in the Eucharist at every Mass we attend; and even if we do not see each other in this life, we will see each other in the next.
God bless you all, and I will see you in the Eucharist.