The GTA Catholic youth group at one of their pre-pandemic rosary-making events. Photo supplied

Movie nights help cure the isolation for Catholic youth in the GTA

By 
  • March 27, 2021

With few options for things to do on a Saturday night during a pandemic, some Catholic youth are still finding ways to go to the movies together.

GTA Catholic, a non-parish-based social group, has been creating outlets for young people to meet new friends and stay connected, and they’re doing it all online.

With the group consisting of mostly singles in their 20s and 30s, Danielle Gonsalves says the online events in many ways have been the antidote to isolation. Over the past couple of months, they’ve been watching the popular television drama The Chosen together via Zoom. The multi-season series, which is the first ever based on the life of Jesus Christ seen through the eyes of those who met Him, has been a hit with participants.

The highlight of their nights watching back-to-back episodes of the series, which Gonsalves jokingly calls “binge Jesus,” has been the group discussions that take place after each episode. With the links to watch the series with GTA Catholic posted online and shared among group members, it hasn’t been unusual for complete strangers  from different parts of the world to pop in to join in the chat.

“Some people even watch the episodes beforehand so that they can really enjoy the discussion that happens afterwards,” chuckled Gonsalves. “To me that’s saying that to be able to fellowship with other young people about something you like and that is also connected to our faith really kind of invigorates them. People are already interested in enjoying the next season.”

With many young adults missing church services and with fewer outlets to unwind from stresses with gyms still closed, the group provides a safe space for spiritual fellowship outside of church. Preethi Mascarenhas, an IT consultant who has been with GTA Catholic for several years, has enjoyed the opportunity to connect with Catholics from parishes across the GTA.

“It’s nice because typically events like these are tied to a parish, so this gives a different and broader perspective,” said Mascarenhas, who attends St. Basil’s Church. “It’s good to get to know people from other parishes. I don’t know other events out there like this.”

Jeffrey Fernando has been a part of the group for the past year and says GTA Catholic has given him an outlet to relax and get his mind off things. Working in the hard-hit tourism industry, he’s had difficulty finding work. 

“Being a part of the group helps relieve the stress,” said Fernando, who attends St. Thomas More Church. “Sometimes you’re just in your room not doing anything. Engaging with a group really helps to relax your mind and body.”

Gonsalves felt the call of God seven years ago to create a safe space for young Catholics to socialize and grow spirituality. Over the years she’s led GTA Catholic in everything from group dinners to pilgrimages, and with the ministry shift to the online platform over the past year, she has organized rosary events and movie nights that are helping to keep young people faith-filled and connected.

“We’ve found that people are enthusiastic to be able to join something where they feel like their needs are being met,” said Gonsalves. “You can pray on your own, but we know that there’s a benefit in doing things together.”

GTA Catholic has also been doing the Divine Mercy Chaplet during Lent on Fridays in addition to their ongoing rosary night. Pre-pandemic, the group had done pilgrimages to Quebec in past years, giving young adults a space to journey with others within their age demographic. Closer to home, members volunteered with St. Francis Table, Good Shepherd Ministries and have done Christmas caroling for patients at Providence Healthcare.

Gonsalves has been busy planning several events for Holy Week including a Good Friday screening of The Passion of the Christ. While she’s made the best of a challenging situation, she can’t wait to get back to planning in-person group dinners, pottery events and volunteer opportunities.

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