20 years of mission for Catholic Christian Outreach

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  • November 9, 2008
{mosimage}TORONTO - Twenty years ago, one young man had a vision to evangelize other youth with the simple and clear Gospel message.

André Regnier, then a recent graduate of the University of Saskatchewan, answered what he believes was God’s call to start a university student movement, known today as Catholic Christian Outreach, with his wife Angèle. Although it began with a few students sharing the basics of the Gospel, as it celebrates this milestone year, the Regnier’s movement continues to touch the lives of nearly a thousand students across the country through weekly faith studies, Catholic prayer or social events and yearly mission projects in Canada and abroad.

“It’s amazing to think that all that time I was growing up, there were people praying for me — for future students to become involved in the movement,” said Marlena Loughheed, a CCO volunteer at Dalhousie University in Halifax. “So here I am, working and praying for CCO so that students 20 years from now can also get involved.”

Loughheed is one of five new volunteers for CCO’s VINE program (Volunteers In New Evangelization) which, originally confined to Vancouver, went national this year.

“For someone like me who wants to try out campus ministry, it’s great to take a year off to try it out,” she said. “It’s exciting to see new students rising to leadership. I noticed it brings a lot of joy to the students and the staff.”

Previously a student in Ottawa, Loughheed said it is interesting to see the different “flavour” each city brings to the movement.

CCO places importance on five tenets: focusing on university students; proclaiming the Gospel in a manner that is clear and simple; spreading the Gospel one person at a time; aiming to evangelize the whole world; and having great expectations

To ensure the message is the same from east to west, Regnier personally gave talks at the annual fall weekend retreats, held simultaneously this year in Vancouver, Saskatoon, Ottawa and Halifax, where CCO has a major campus presence (there are eight campuses with CCO in Canada, including Queen’s University in Kingston). Close to 400 youth attended the retreats — and Regnier attended all of them, giving his talk and flying on to the next city to speak to the next group. Regnier said he wanted to unite the young people by making sure they all got the same message.

Currently, CCO has 63 staff members, including those on VINE. This year has shown an exciting surge in missionaries willing to dedicate a year or more to evangelization, Regnier said. This fall, the movement saw 17 full-time staff and interns join the existing staff crew.

“There are so many young people volunteering to give their lives in a particular way with such great commitment,” he said. “To me, the sign that so many people are responding tells me the church is in good hands.”

With 20 years behind them, staff members are looking ahead to the next two decades with their “20/20 vision plan.” In the next 20 years, they hope to have a presence on 20 new campuses.

Jeff Lockert, CCO’s president, said that to achieve this, CCO would ideally need to hire another 100 staff to have at least four staff members at each campus.

“As we look over the past 20 years — where He has led us and invited us — He has never disappointed us,” Lockert said. “So we have no reason to believe He wouldn’t provide as we move ahead.”

While the Regniers had very little money and no ready resources when they decided to organize the very first faith study, today, young missionaries have a strong network of support, training in evangelization and many resources to fall back on.

CCO has marked its anniversary with a few things, such as a new web site launched this fall and a public invitation to supporters and friends at its yearly staff commissioning ceremonies held Oct. 18, the founding day. About 800 people attended the ceremonies, held in the campus cities. This year’s Rise Up Conference in Toronto takes place Dec. 28 to Jan. 1. Visit www.cco.ca for more information.

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