Young adult missionary devotes summer to running parish-based camps

Morgan Morano is spending her second summer traveling the Diocese of Phoenix as a Totus Tuus missionary who helps run faith-filled camps for kids and teenagers. (Ambria Hammel/CATHOLIC SUN)

After nearly a lifetime of playing soccer, Morgan Morano began moving toward a different goal, literally.

“At first I didn’t know why God was calling me to quit soccer,” Morano said.

After all, she had a proven track record that already crowned her a national champion before leaving high school. She had a scholarship to continue kicking the ball in college too. What’s more, her prayer life was pretty solid and even increasing while at Notre Dame Preparatory in Scottsdale.

Finally, after her third concussion, Morano surrendered everything to God saying, “If it’s your will, let it be done.”

“I realized I was putting my identity in soccer. If I didn’t do well, I was worthless,” Morano explained. The St. Bernadette parishioner and member of the All Saints Catholic Newman Center in Tempe permanently corrected her self-talk. “My identity was not in what I do, but in whose I am. I am God’s daughter.”

Now, this marks the second straight summer that God called her to help children and teenagers across the Diocese of Phoenix know they wholly belong to God too. She’s one of eight young adult missionaries leading 12 Totus Tuus camps at as many parishes throughout Arizona, an increase from five last year.

Totus Tuus

Young-adult led camps focused on catechesis and genuine fellowship. Daytime sessions (Mon-Fri) for elementary aged children and ­evening ones (Sun-Thurs) for teenagers.
  • June 18-23 at Corpus Christi in Ahwatukee
  • June 25-30 at St. Henry in Buckeye and St. Gabriel in Cave Creek
  • July 9-14 at St. Agnes in Phoenix and St. Mary Magdalene in Gilbert
  • July 16-21 at St. Margaret Mary in Bullhead City and St. Helen in Glendale
  • July 23-28 at Our Lady of the Lake in Lake Havasu City and St. Peter Indian Mission in Bapchule

Latin for “Totally Yours,” — and the episcopal motto of St. John Paul II’s pontificate — Totus Tuus camps are aptly named. For the campers, it means creating that desire to dedicate their lives to Christ. The same applies for the camp counselors with an extra layer of dedication involved.

As missionaries, they dedicate every hour to the greater good of the camp. That means that even though 99 percent of them live in the Diocese of Phoenix, for the duration of camp season, they don’t return home. The missionaries rely on the generosity of host families near each parish they serve to offer nightly meals and lodging.

“We’re just completely giving of ourselves for the Church and for the world,” Morano said. “It’s a really intense giving, but you have to be willing to receive.”

A huge part of that means allowing the Lord to humble you and pull you out of your comfort zone, she said. That courageous step, like Peter’s out of the boat, is about trusting in God and His divine but individually customized plan, Morano said.

The missionaries, who count three seminarians among them, continually build that trust through prayer. They offer the Liturgy of the Hours three times a day, attend daily Mass and Adoration plus offer a Rosary and the Divine Mercy Chaplet daily.

And when a reporter shows up to interview one of them, they pause at lunch asking the Holy Spirit to inspire and guide the conversation. Morano said the prayer life of a missionary exponentially strengthened hers the other 10 months of the year. Her earthly relationships especially with peers have deepened, too.

“To be on a team of those authentically pursuing holiness … I didn’t really know I was missing that in my life,” Morano said.

Now, the missionaries from this summer and last year are her closest friends. Miguel Soto, a seminarian from Blessed Sacrament in Tolleson, is among them. The duo is coordinating Totus Tuus this summer. Soto described Morano’s leadership style as one who watches from the sidelines, interferes when necessary and, while “holding her fierce spiritual sword, the Rosary,” always prays with and for those she serves.

She is also loving and able to meet the kids where they are, Soto said. Sometimes that means not being afraid to be silly for the sake of the kids, LilyCatherine Arama said. The missionary from Corpus Christi Parish in Ahwatukee and fellow member of the ASU Newman Center noticed those traits early on.

“Morgan is probably one of the most sincere, humble servants I’ve ever met. She is just loving, not only through acts of service, but also gentle words of affirmation,” Arama said.

That’s because Morano knows exactly whose team she’s on and the heavenly goal she’s headed toward. Totus Tuus is a way of bringing others along on the adventure.

“I’m excited to be a coworker with the Lord to help Him plant the seeds and water them and know that he ultimately will produce the growth,” Morano said, “even though I won’t see the fruit.”

Missionary Spotlight

Q: What does being a Catholic missionary mean to you?

As missionaries, we’re called to show the kids what it’s like to be holy through how we live our lives.

— Miguel Soto, seminarian, Blessed Sacrament, Tolleson

I really wanted to be of service in the Lord, spread the gospel and His love and have fun with the kiddos.

— Maddy Vitale, St. Bernard of Clairvaux, Scottsdale

It’s part of everyone’s call to be a missionary in some sense and spread the Gospel in that way. It’s building relationships with others that’s founded on Jesus.

— Nathan Blanchard, seminarian, San Francisco de Asís, Flagstaff

Being a missionary is every moment of the day choosing to give your everything to the Lord every day for the greater good and trusting that He’ll give you everything you need.

— LilyCatherine Arama, Corpus Christi, Ahwatukee; All Saints Catholic Newman Center, Tempe

Really being all in for Christ and loving Christ for others. To see Jesus in all the little children and really give our best to them, especially in the poorer communities … to love them as if they were Christ.

— Arom Burgueño, seminarian, Immaculate Conception, Cottonwood

It means spreading the love of God because I received so much from Him, so I’m compelled to go forth and put other people in relationship with Jesus. Pretty much any age, it’s just loving people and letting them know they’re loved by God.

— Julie McConnell, Basilica of St. Michael the Archangel, Loreto, Penn.

It’s finding my own relationship with Christ first and then spreading the love I find through prayer with others no matter how old or young they might be.

— Sef Norton, St. Timothy, Mesa