There was a time when I didn't know what Totus Tuus was. I had a vague conception formed by stories and descriptions from friends but stories were all I knew. Stories do not make a knowledge granting experience but merely an idea. Driving to Tulsa for training, all I knew was that I was going to be in churches across the state teaching children this summer. Beyond that it was just an adventure on the horizon.
The initial part of training was held at the wonderful new Catholic Charities campus in north Tulsa. Walking in that May 27th morning to a room full of people I mostly didn't know put me in an uncommon state of mind; quiet passivity. I'm used to, through the last several semesters' experience at the St. John's Newman Center being a leader, being in-the-know and being known at Catholic events. Here I was none of those things. It felt weird and uncomfortable at first, but I knew it was good for me. I knew that once I figured out what was going on I'd feel normal again. This, I discovered, was easier said than done.
We jumped right into training, getting to know each other by the same methods we'd be using this summer to get to know the kids. We also learned from previous teachers about how to and how not to teach. This was all well and good but it wasn't quite sticking yet. I didn't have an overall view/understanding of the program. It felt like trying to pack without a suitcase; you can kind of get stuff ready but can't do anything with it.
Also, I was making a deliberate effort to get to know the people on my team of 16. We would later be broken up into team of 4 so I wanted to get to know everyone so that no matter who was on my team I would be ready. I knew some of the other team members previously with varying degrees of familiarity; Beth and Yasmin from Stillwater and Pamela and Matt from Tulsa. I tried really hard to avoid gravitating to those I already knew without totally ignoring them. Certain things made this easier: Wayne had hired a lot of extroverts who didn't mind talking and opening up. Also they're all really into their faith which tons of common ground to from which to work. (Hooray for the universality of Catholicism!)By the middle of the second day I was becoming more comfortable with the people, even the introverts. Trying to get to know them forced me to be very purposeful with my interactions. It was difficult but I knew it was good for me.
After a few days in Tulsa we went to Wichita for the more official training with teams from all over the country. Here we began to learn the curriculum and more about how the program worked. I was finally getting a feel for what the weeks might be like. Looking back now I realize that had I paid better attention I would've been even more well informed. Training was structured just like the weeks in the parish were going to be. Oh, well. I got it eventually.
When we got our 4-person teams mid-week, I have to admit that I was disappointed, although not surprised. The people on my team were not those that I had connected best with in training so far. I wrote in my journal that evening, "It feels like my friends have been taken away against my will; I have been left with no one in which to confide." At the same time however, I knew I was being ridiculous. I would still be seeing other members of the group of 16 that weren't on my immediate team. Yes these weren't the people I wanted to be with but I couldn't argue that they were probably the people I needed to be with. After all, the boss-man had spent 2 hours in Eucharistic Adoration picking our teams. Work done in the sight of God is probably done right.
That night I decided to trust that things would work out despite that way I felt at the moment. I decided to put myself aside, my wants and desires, to trust that God had put me with these people for a reason. Seen in the light of the next day and the following weeks things did work out more beautifully than I could have imagined. I love my team now and wouldn't trade them for any other people. (Team Ciao' Bella!) How this came about I'll get into during the next post lest this one become a novel.
It was a trying first 10 days from meeting everyone in Tulsa to finishing training in Wichita but I learned a lot about myself and was looking forward to our first week in a parish.