Catholic participants in the Celebrating Our Diversity Now event in February included, from left, Fr. Prakash Lohale, Monica Marcelli-Chu, Leslie Gyulay, Catherine Morley and Fr. Tim MacDonald. Photo courtesy Armenian Diocese of Canada

Youth celebrate religious diversity with their faith stories

By 
  • March 1, 2018

Monica Marcelli-Chu had to go halfway around the world to figure out her life path, and it led her right back home.

Marcello-Chu was one three young Catholics who related their personal faith journey as part of an five-day interfaith event called “Celebrating Our Diversity Now.

The young people who gathered for five days in early February at the Holy Trinity Armenian Apostolic Church represented a wide range of religions: Roman Catholics, Anglicans, Greek Orthodox, Coptic Orthodox, members of the Mar Thoma Church as well as representatives from the Jewish, Islamic, Sikh, Buddhist and Hindu faith.

The Toronto Ecumenical and interfaith event was part of a much larger initiative, involving people of many faiths in cities including Montreal, Calgary and Vancouver.

It was all part of the 2018 Year of Youth celebration proclaimed by His Holiness Karekin II, Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians. In Toronto, the event was initiated under the direction of Bishop Abgar Hovakimyan, Primate of the Armenian Diocese of Canada of the Armenian Holy Apostolic Church.

Group Celbrating Diversity NowParticipants at the Celebrating Our Diversity Now youth interfaith conference in Toronto, part of a multi-city project organized by the Armenian Diocese of Canada.
(Photo courtesy Armenian Diocese of Canada)

The three young Catholics at the event — Marcelli-Chu, Catherine Morley and Leslie Gyulay  — were accompanied Frs. Prakash Lohale, OP and Tim MacDonald, SA of the Archdiocese of Toronto Office of Ecumenical and Interfaith Affairs, and spoke about their faith experience as part of the dialogue.

Here is the story Marcelli-Chu told to fellow Diversity participants at the Armenian church:

Growing up, my understanding of my Catholic faith was always family oriented. It was about attending Church on Sundays with my parents and older sister, praying together at home — especially at meals and saying the rosary — receiving the sacraments after preparation at school, and celebrating First Communion and Confirmation with extended family. 

Faith and family (and food, coming from a Polish and Italian background), simply went together. Growing into the Catholic faith as a young adult meant discovering what this faith I had grown up with meant to me. I became involved in youth, and later young adult, ministry at my parish, and started connecting with other young people on their own faith journeys. 

Attending World Youth Day in Australia in 2008, and then returning and joining a young adult lectio divina prayer group, were two particularly formative experiences for me. These experiences of encounter and prayer called me to a deeper sense of myself and a desire to learn how to listen to the voice of God and discern God’s presence in my life.

As I approached the end of my undergraduate years, I discovered a growing desire to spend more time in prayer and service, in order to discern the next chapter of my life. While feeling confused about what I wanted to pursue, I knew that I didn’t want to simply choose a career. 

I wanted to know where God was in my life and where God was leading me. So after graduating, I found myself in Phnom Penh, Cambodia for seven months, volunteering as an English teacher at a school for young women run by the Salesian sisters. 

Overwhelmed by a completely new context and culture, challenged to find my way of connecting to the people and places around me, I soon settled into a daily rhythm that gave me a ground for my feet in the midst of so many new challenges. 

Within a daily routine of mass, teaching, meal times, grading and preparing, evening prayer, and extracurricular activities, I found myself constantly surprised by a faith both familiar and new. 

In moments of difficulty and inner struggle, I also discovered an inner freedom that found God in the midst of uncertainty. It was in this context, and in conversation with the person I would end up marrying, that I made the decision to do a Master of Divinity when I returned home. 

Six years later, I’m now in the middle of a PhD in moral theology alongside my husband who is also in theology, discovering and growing together in our vocation to marriage and to theology.

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