Youth in Motion Catholic Christian Outreach

By  Sara Loftson, The Catholic Register
  • January 5, 2007

QUEBEC CITY - Instead of ringing in the New Year partying at a club at the stroke of midnight, about 450 young people from across Canada broke out into song praising God.

These young people flew, bussed and drove to Quebec City from across the country for "Rise Up," a Catholic conference sponsored by Catholic Christian Outreach held Dec. 28 to Jan. 1.

For the past half dozen years Catholic Christian Outreach, a Catholic lay movement, has been throwing these New Year's parties in different Canadian cities.

CCO is a Canadian movement for university students, founded in Saskatoon, Sask. 18 years ago by André and Angèle Regnier, which trains young people to become Catholic leaders and evangelists through Bible studies, international and national pilgrimages and mission projects, music and prayer. Primarily, the movement tries to reintroduce fallen away Catholics to the faith again after having drifted away or rejecting it. However, it's not uncommon for the movement to reach the unchurched as well.

Jeremy Rude, 26, converted from atheism to Catholicism to and is now a full-time campus missionary team leader at the University of Saskatchewan. His conversion started after accepting an invitation from a coworker to do a CCO Bible study.

The emphasis of the Bible studies and the movement in general is guiding people into a personal relationship with Christ.

Before Rude's conversion he was mainly interested in partying, excelling in his studies and career as an auditor with an accounting firm and his girlfriend of eight years. He has since left that life behind and says now nothing compares to seeing people find their freedom in Christ to freely be loved.

One of the challenges Rude said he faces is "recognizing God's God and I'm not. Recognizing His place in my work that He's the source in my work."

As a missionary it's important to lead a balanced life in order to minister from prayer and not personal strength, said Rude.

The movement has grown from a single Bible study in 1988 to 700 Bible studies last fall with a 44-person staff.

Students like Auravelia Colomer, 21, would like to see the movement expand. Since CCO didn't have a presence on her campus she set up an unofficial CCO group at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ont. She brought nine students with her to this year's Rise Up conference.

She was first attracted to the movement through its solid church teachings and believed that the message it presented was the truth.

Currently, Colomer is discerning whether she will apply to join CCO staff.

"I don't think faith, you should keep it to yourself. You should challenge yourself."

Students across the country have tried to persuade CCO to set up on their campus, but after 18 years it's only expanded to seven campuses in five cities: Vancouver, Regina, Saskatoon, Ottawa and Halifax.

"We had to build a good foundation in order to build for the future. If we wanted to expand too much we would have a short lifespan," said André Regnier. "Now we know we can sustain growth, so we can attract new people and care for the staff so that they can be lifetime missionaries."

Regnier said he plans to expand again very soon, but declined to give any details.

Hosting New Year's conferences in different parts of the country gives the host diocese a chance to become familiar with the movement for future expansion possibilities.

"It's so uplifting. I invited them to come again to the Eucharistic Congress. We need to share in the hardened faith and their enthusiasm," said Cardinal Marc Ouellet, archbishop of Quebec City.

Ouellet gave a keynote presentation at the conference about the origins of Catholic faith in Canada, which originated in Quebec.

"The heart of the church is in Quebec and we know the heart has been struggling and we want to do our part in reviving (it)," said Regnier.

During the conference the students brought their faith out into the streets, making a eucharistic procession through the streets of old Quebec.

"This is nation building because even within the church there is a division... between French and English Catholics."

Regnier hopes to bridge that gap even more with a six-week evangelization mission in Quebec City leading up to the Eucharistic Congress in June 2008.

"A renaissance, a revolution is upon us and the effects are going to be far reaching," he said.

"Culture can change quickly if there is enough young people who have strong conviction and are wanting to lay their life down for it."

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