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Chaplaincies embrace bishops’ youth evangelization plan

By  Joshua Ben Joseph, Catholic Register Special
  • December 15, 2023

Catholic chaplaincies across Toronto are looking at ways to incorporate the Canadian bishops’ new template for youth evangelization into their campus work.

“We have actually talked about a possibility of us as a group maybe talking about this at our next meeting,” said Nathan Gibbard, the director of the Catholic chaplaincy at Toronto Metropolitan University (TMU).

The chaplaincy at TMU is part of a GTA-wide campus ministry network that includes chaplaincies from York University, several from the University of Toronto and Ontario Institute of Technology in Oshawa, Ont.

The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops recently released a template titled Praedica Verbum (Preach the Word). Developed by the Episcopal Commission for Doctrine, it is intended as a resource for active members of the Church who work with youth and focuses on “the initial proclamation of the Gospel.”

Gibbard said the work undertaken by the chaplaincies is already in accordance with many of the themes in the template, including “the recognition of God’s love” and “an invitation to a relationship with Jesus Christ.” It specifies that individuals working with youth should work on instilling these themes by building person-to-person relationships and through the action of the Holy Spirit.

“We are using quite a bit of it already in fact. Especially things that are pertaining to celebration of joy and peer-to-peer relationships while also recognizing that Jesus has died and risen for the salvation of all and that we haven’t necessarily done anything to merit it, but it has happened out of this free gift,” said Sr. Sonal Castelino, xmcj, director of campus ministry at the University of St. Michael’s College at the U of T.

The chaplaincies have student leaders who work towards creating relevant programming that reaches students, creating experiences for students to engage and go deeper in their faith.

“I think it’s just kind of goes back to the fact that in my faith if I really believe it’s true, then I should want to share it with other people,” said Victor Buklis, a student leader at the St. Michael’s chaplaincy. “I kind of go about my daily life. I find it very important in the sense that faith is an important part of my life. But also, in in my capacity as a student.”

Gibbard said chaplaincies often run into roadblocks on the journey of youth evangelization. Young people have placed an emphasis on skepticism and cynicism that’s often seen as cool or interesting. However, this cynicism is often a mask for fear.

He stressed that there is a dire need for young people unafraid of proclaiming their faith and willing to show their faith legitimately makes them happy.

Gibbard added building relationships with youth is the road to youth evangelization.

“Oftentimes there’s an emphasis on programs over people and especially for this younger generation. They can smell inauthenticity a mile away,” he said.

Castelino also said that owing to the diversity of students in campuses, it is necessary to ensure that the campus ministry is open for students of all faiths. The chaplaincies have weekly Bible study sessions and Mass where all are welcome.

“We’re celebrating all these things that are important to culture so that it gives students this realization and almost a framework to think,” she said. “Like how does celebration and that sharing of joy in fact create an opening in their lives for spirituality and for faith.”

While the chaplaincies continue to spread the faith, Gibbard urges youth to unceasingly pursue truth in the matter of their faith. He said most people are hesitant to pursue questions about their faith, as they’re scared of the potential answers.

“Really pursue it. Don’t go like half. Don’t say I’m good enough here,” he said. “Really pursue it and pursue it with joy.”

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