Domenic Li, back row centre, will lead OCY’s Re:Generation program beginning in the fall. Photo courtesy of Domenic Li

OCY to launch urban missionary program

  • May 3, 2015

TORONTO - When discussing missionary work, it is easy to picture evangelization in small rural communities in remote corners of the world. However, there is missionary work to be done in big cities as well.

The Office of Catholic Youth (OCY) is launching a new youth missionary program in the fall to spread the message of the Theology of the Body to youth in the Archdiocese of Toronto.

The program is called Re:Generation. Program developer Dominic Li said the program’s name is a play on words. Like the email reply code “RE:,” the program is OCY’s reply to this generation to “respond, restore and regenerate our culture through an authentic proclamation.” The program will train a team of post-secondary graduates to visit Catholic high schools and teach students a more holistic idea of human sexuality.

“It’s more about let’s bring a fuller idea of what it means to be a whole person,” said Fr. Frank Portelli, director of OCY.

“Where does that challenging Gospel message come in?”

Portelli said that in developing the program, it is important that these concepts are presented by young people.

“It’s one thing for a grey-haired priest to come in and say one thing,” said Portelli. “For a young adult to come back and say, ‘Hey, have you guys heard about chastity? What is that? That’s crazy!’ ”

For the launch of its pilot year, the program is looking to recruit a team of six young people. The team will hold presentations with themes such as chastity, human dignity, having a discerning eye for media and authentic masculinity and femininity.

“What we want to do is get some people on board that can help us dove-tail the current curriculum with Theology of the Body,” said Portelli.

Last year, Portelli presented the idea of the program to the directors of religious education of the five Catholic school boards within the archdiocese.

“They said they were very interested in it,” he said. “They liked the homegrown idea of it. They liked a Catholic school grad coming back to evangelize a Catholic school.”

Li spent a year in the United States as a missionary for Generation Life before coming on board with OCY to develop Re:Generation. In 2013, Li lived in community with his fellow missionaries as they travelled around to talk about human dignity and sexual integrity in classrooms, auditoriums and youth rallies.

When he returned to Canada last year, Li came to OCY with the idea to bring the same missionary model to Toronto’s schools.

There are many other mission programs working within the archdiocese, such as the Catholic Christian Outreach (CCO) and NET Ministries of Canada. Li said that OCY’s program is not at all in competition with these programs. Rather, the program will help support the work of these groups.

“The focus of CCO ministry, for example, is on the campus level to talk about the Gospel message and I think their difficulties sometimes, too, is that by the time students are in their university age, they already carry with them some prejudice,” said Li.

“We can kind of be the one to first go in and loosen the soil so that it’s more fruitful for them, too. We’re all on the same team trying to build the Kingdom of God.”

OCY is hoping to train its team of Re:Generation missionaries this summer, starting in June. The mission will officially begin in October.

Portelli said there are no plans to expand the program to other dioceses, but adds that there has been a desire for the program in the Diocese of London.

“The first thing would be let’s see if we can exhaust the desire and demand here in the diocese first,” said Portelli.

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