When Lindsay Rigby hears her phone beep in the wee hours of the morning, she knows it isn’t a work e-mail or a friend messaging her about going out for lunch. The little beep indicates that the rich tradition of the 2,000-year-old Catholic Church is being delivered to her iPhone.

Published in Youth Speak News
December 21, 2012

Hope for homeless youth

Family abuse, prostitution, teen parenthood, rejection because of sexual orientation and aging out of foster care without family — these are just a few reasons why 1.6 million young people are homeless in North America.

Published in Youth Speak News

Last week I went out to do a bit of shopping and, to my dismay, found myself at a store early in the morning surrounded by too many people. I had difficulty manoeuvring my shopping cart around shoppers, strollers and the odd employee re-arranging displays. Occasionally, I would overhear a grumble of frustration from another shopper. The experience was so overwhelming that I returned home with a headache.

Published in YSN: Speaking Out

OTTAWA - Motion-312 may have been shot down in the House of Commons, but Stephen Woodworth hasn’t given up.

Published in Youth Speak News

Catholic Christian Outreach will open up its annual Rise Up conference to more people this year by hosting events in two locations.

Published in Youth Speak News

Crushes are all consuming when you’re a teenager. It’s all you can think about; it’s all you can talk about.

Published in YSN: Speaking Out
November 30, 2012

Fortitude and faith

It is all too easy for young people seeking acceptance and recognition to be attracted by the glitz and glamour of a pleasure-seeking lifestyle. The idea of sainthood or even martyrdom at a young age seems unfathomable and difficult to comprehend. Why suffer for an idea?

Published in YSN: Speaking Out
November 23, 2012

God is the key ingredient

In the summer of 2011, I spent at least three hours each day trying out new recipes that I found online. Baking, frying, steaming, roasting, barbecuing, and most of all, enjoying the food that I cooked.

My summer menu included simple dips like guacamole to more complicated dishes like Shepherd’s Pie, fettuccini alfredo, biryani and desserts like cakes and crepes.

Most of the time, I compromised the ingredients necessary for making a dish to prevent the grocery list from becoming too long. I substituted yogurt for sour cream, Nutella for sugar icing. But some ingredients are so vital, they should not be substituted.

I made mistakes with virtually every recipe and the worst was my pizza dough mishap. This ordinary recipe for a homemade pizza was ruined with an accidental reach into the wrong bag of flour.

I used whole wheat instead of all purpose flour. It was only after the pizza came out of the oven that I realized my mistake.

The pizza looked extra crispy and a little burnt. But even then, it still tasted delicious after I topped it with tomato sauce and cheese.

We are not unlike my pizza dough. Just as the pizza did not turn out as I expected, the mistakes that we make in our lives can make us feel overwhelmed and imperfect.

But God is like the cheese on the pizza. We all need God as our “topping” to enhance our taste, to bring out the best qualities in each one of us, to keep life more interesting. God is that crucial ingredient in our lives.

Having God in my life has helped me to make right choices. I have come to understand that when things don’t go as well as planned, God’s presence makes life beautiful. God gives me a positive attitude and gives meaning to everything. Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move” (Matthew 17:20). With faith in God I can overcome any obstacles, in life and in the kitchen.

He is the icing on the cake that makes life sweet and smooth. God is the seaweed on the sushi that holds us in one piece when our lives seem to be falling apart. God completes who we are. He is the curry on the dosa, the ketchup on the hot dog, the corn beef with the rice, the sauce on the spaghetti. God is the cheese on the pizza.

(D’Souza, 16, is a Grade 11 International Baccalaureate student at Blessed Pope John Paul II in Toronto.)

Published in YSN: Speaking Out

Do the laundry, finish research assignment, clean the kitchen, read chapters 10, 11 and 12, Skype Tessa, meet with my drama group, prep faith study and write my Youth Speak News column. This was my to-do list for one day.

I am chronically busy. If I ever lose my day planner, I don’t think I’ll be able to survive. Every hour of my day is accounted for by one commitment or another, and my situation is not unique.

Being busy seems like an inescapable part of being a young person today. I didn’t have to scroll very far down my Facebook news feed to find someone complaining about being “stressed.”

We’re a generation that “gets things done,” and society tells us that’s a good thing. Accomplish a lot. Keep moving. Don’t stop.

But what does God think?

While reading the Letter of James, I was struck by this verse: “In the midst of a busy life, they will wither away” (James 1:9).

Wither away? At first, I drew back from this verse. Maybe some other, weaker person might wither away, but not me. I have everything together. I may be busy, but I’m doing just fine.

I soon realized how wrong I was. While bussing home at 7 p.m. after a particularly busy day, my mind was filled with all the things I had to do that night. I was overwhelmed.

Then I felt the Lord gently prompting me to pray. He was asking me to set aside my list and spend an hour with Him first. He was saying to me what He had said to Martha when she was distracted by and frustrated with her hostess duties while her sister merely sat at the Lord’s feet: “You are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing” (Luke 10: 41).

So when I arrived home, although my “Martha duties” cried out for attention, I went to the Lord. In His arms, the burden of my many commitments didn’t seem so overwhelming. I was restored by His grace and love.

Chronic busyness is not His plan for me or for any of us. There’s a reason that old saying is “busy as a bee”; we, as humans, weren’t designed for that kind of life. He has something much better in store for us: a life of reliance on Him.

He showed me that I don’t need to accomplish more, I need to receive more; I don’t need to succeed more, I need to rely more.

This constant mindset of “get things done” is detrimental to our relationship with God. We often use our busyness as an excuse to shut Him out of our lives. Our other priorities, which are not bad in themselves, take precedence over Him. But He’s crying out for us.

The world tells us that we need to squeeze everything we can out of this life, but Jesus tells us that “only one thing” really matters: a relationship with Him. We need to rely on Jesus and let Him carry us.

In doing this, I have discovered the peace, joy and comfort of living a life in total reliance on God. Now, when I feel the weight of my responsibilities causing me to wither, I remind myself that God is with me and He’s ready to help.

So let’s approach the Lord in prayer and ask Him to help us live, not according to lists and calendars, but according to His Spirit within us.

(Brown, 19, is a second-year journalism student at Carleton University in Ottawa.)

Published in YSN: Speaking Out

During elementary school, my smile was a dental nightmare. The question was not whether I needed braces, but when I would get them. The answer to that was Grade 10. And although I was afraid and uncertain about how this would all play out, hindsight has shown me that dental treatment complemented my faith life.

As soon as I received my braces, I was slapped with a list of things that I could and could not eat, and habits I would have to pick up to make sure my teeth were taken care of properly. After appointments with my orthodontist, my teeth and mouth would ache for at least a few hours, sometimes for days. On top of that, I was told that I would have to wear braces — and all the rules and pain that came with them — for at least two years.

As time passed, luckily for me, things became easier to bear, and I began to notice that my dental work shared similarities with my faith. Sometimes people think that being Catholic restrains you because of all the different rules you’re asked to follow. I knew these rules were far from restraining; they were guiding principles that led me towards goodness and God, the greatest good. I realized that, like the commandments, the rules given to me with my braces were there for my benefit, to prevent me from hindering the treatment. Unless I followed them, the braces would leave scars or be ineffective.

I better understood St. Paul when he wrote, “You are not under law but under grace” (Rom 6:14). That’s not to say that we can disobey the commandments, but it means that by grace we can live a faithful life within the boundaries they set. Realizing this changed my prayer life, as I began to pray often for the grace to make certain good actions habitual.

Reflecting on the pain I sometimes felt because of my braces, I understood that suffering in my life ultimately made me a stronger person. Just as my teeth were only straightened after enduring pain, my virtues were tested and strengthened by trials and suffering. I could only trust in God’s wisdom during these times, and this trustful surrender to Divine Providence became a source of great peace for me.

Having braces also taught me that change comes slowly. It may have taken two years, but God definitely made my crooked teeth straight. As St. Francis de Sales said, “Have patience with all things, but chiefly have patience with yourself.” Growing in patience, in my prayer life, in my trust in God and in any virtue takes time to accomplish. I won’t be able to make good habits and positive change without a continual effort, but “Patience obtains all things,” said St. Teresa of Avila. “The crooked shall be made straight” (Lk 3:5) if we’re patient enough to let God straighten what needs straightening.

(Pereira, 17, is a Grade 12 student at Brebeuf College School in Toronto.)

Published in YSN: Speaking Out

TORONTO - Faith Connections and the Newman Young Adult Ministry are co-hosting “A Date to Remember,” a Catholic speed dating event where single adults can gather and get to know one another.

Speed dating is an activity where participants spend four to five minutes chatting with a person before moving along to the next person. Organizers offer a list of suggested questions to help participants during each session.

Then participants use scorecards placed in envelopes to let organizers know with whom they wish to share their contact information.

Geared towards Catholic singles between the ages of 19 and 39, A Date to Remember draws people who are formerly and currently affiliated with the University of Toronto and the Newman Centre.

“We have young adults asking for an event like this so we try to include that yearly,” said Kelly Bourke, interim program director for Faith Connections, a branch of Fontbonne Ministries.

Both ministries are preparing to hold their third collaborated speed dating event on Oct. 27 at the Newman Centre. The first speed dating night was held last summer.

While there are many socials and mixers hosted by both ministries throughout the year, speed dating provides a special venue for single Catholics.

“It’s an opportunity for singles to help develop new friendships that could develop into something else,” said Gem Ofreneo from the Newman Young Adult Ministry.

Kevin Lo, 27, participated in A Date to Remember after learning about it from a Faith Connections newsletter.

“I was a bit hesitant at first because of its non-traditional approach for finding a potential spouse, but I decided to give it a try,” Lo said. “I thought it would be a good chance to meet some new people and, particularly, fellow young Catholics.”

Space is limited due to the size of the venue and organizers have had to turn people away in the past.

“During the first year it was easy to have women sign on right from the beginning when we advertised,” Bourke said. “(With) the men, there were still spaces in the final week. This year I see men and women signing up (from the start).”

“I had never attended a speed dating event before so I didn’t really know what to expect,” Lo said. “However, the event was well organized. The organizers and volunteers did a great job in making the participants feel welcome and comfortable.”

These events provide a friendly and low-pressure environment for participants.

“Men were saying that it takes the pressure off of asking someone for their phone number,” Ofreneo said.

While exclusive to Catholic singles, the dance that follows is open to all young adults. The dance also works as a fundraiser where proceeds will go to the two ministries to fund other activities such as Newman’s outreach programs.

The organizers aim not only to fulfill young adults’ requests for such events, but also to host them in a way that upholds Catholic values.

“Ultimately we say when it comes to something like speed dating... can we bring something there that allows a really healthy and faith-filled idea of meeting new people without perhaps the agenda of ‘Do they make my list?’ ” said Bourke.

She hopes participants will be “open to the possibilities of friendship (and) romance,” and will “be able to be open to truly meeting new people.”

“It’s core to our faith how we connect to other people as strangers, as friends or otherwise.”

Ofreneo encourages single young adults to attend, “but not with the goal in mind of getting a date right away, but to start new friendships and go from there and see where that goes.”

Lo recommends the event.

“Regardless of whether you find that special someone, there is a chance that you may develop many new friendships,” he said.

Lo advises participants to keep an open mind and to pray before and after the event.

“View all ‘dates’ and potential matches as brothers and sisters in Christ,” Lo said. “Be yourself, have fun and smile.”

(Bernardo, 26, lives in Toronto, Ont.)

Published in Youth Speak News
October 10, 2012

A summer to remember

When I first came to The Catholic Register in April to complete a three-week internship, I never thought I’d be staying until Labour Day — but boy, am I lucky I’ve had the opportunity to do so.

I’ve worked in a lot of places — a lot of good places, in fact. But there is something different about The Register newsroom. Here is a rare work environment, one in which people are more than just
polite and conversational. Here, they care.

I graduated from my undergrad at Queen’s University in April 2011, and my experience in journalism really began in September of that year when I entered a two-year masters of journalism program at Carleton University.

I’d always been a confident person, but when it came to journalism, I wasn’t entirely sure I had what it took — and joining a class full of former editor-in-chiefs of their school papers only added to my nerves. It wasn’t until I landed myself at The Register that I really began to believe this was something I could do.

It’s rare for a summer intern to get many bylines — I know that. I see that with my classmates and friends, even the most experienced ones. But here, I’ve been fortunate enough to be given the opportunity to write full articles right from the get-go, ranging in topics from fundraising campaigns to chimney swifts, and everything in between.

In writing my stories, I’ve had the honour of interviewing so many wonderful people who make a difference in the Catholic community, people who have been kind and open and candid in a way that has allowed for my words to flow easily and for their stories to resonate with me.

But what has truly made the difference in my confidence as a journalist is not the length, type or number of stories I’ve written. Rather, it’s the unconditional support and encouragement I’ve received from my colleagues at The Register, people who have not only allowed me to realize I can be a journalist, but who have also taught me the true value of good, real relationships within a place of work.

This became especially clear to me one day about a month ago, when two faithful employees, Vanessa Santilli, the former youth editor, and Nigel Wheatley, the former web editor, both happened to be leaving at the same time.

Publisher and editor Jim O’Leary and the rest of The Register staff threw a goodbye luncheon for them, complete with gifts, cake and many words of thanks and well wishes for the future. The luncheon — which lasted far longer than a typical lunch hour — was full of hearty laughter and lively conversation.

As I looked around, I realized this is more than just a staff. It’s a family, a family of which I am so grateful to have been a part.

And so, as I head back into the world of coffee-fueled all-nighters and early-morning classes, I want to extend the greatest of thank yous to each and every person I have worked with this summer. You have each made my days here so enjoyable, and given me that extra dose of confidence I need to finish off my degree and kick-start my career.
I only wish every workplace could be like The Register.

Published in YSN: Speaking Out

TORONTO - Bright lights, booming music and large crowds — there is no party quite like Nuit Blanche. For one night each year, the streets of downtown Toronto erupt in celebration of the city’s rich arts culture. This year the city’s Catholic community joined the party.

The Newman Catholic Students Club (NCSC) from the University of Toronto facilitated an all-night adoration at St. Thomas Aquinas Church Sept 29. They called the event Nuit Benoit, which translates to “Blessed Night.”

“Something on your heart? Spend some time with Christ,” read a small whiteboard easel on a quiet corner at St. George Street and Hoskin Avenue, inviting passersby to enter the church from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m.

“This is the Year of Faith, the year of evangelization,” said Christina Alaimo, NCSC president. “We want something that can draw people’s attention. We want them to be seduced by Christ.”

Nuit Benoit is NCSC vice president Natasha Milavec’s brain 

child to counter the events of Nuit Blanche as part of the group’s new initiative.

Milavec recalls hearing the creak of the church’s large wooden doors and watching an adorer step out.

“He looked like he was just filled with the Spirit,” said Milavec. “He said that if he had known that this was here, he would’ve come sooner. I think that is what is most satisfying about this event. People’s faces just looked other worldly when they came out.”

More than 100 people attended the event and adored the Blessed Sacrament throughout the night. Many also participated in praise and worship and received the sacrament of Reconciliation.

As Nuit Benoit worked to act as a retreat from the city, the Toronto Catholic District School Board (TCDSB) saw the evening as a platform to display its message to the community. Four exhibits were featured over the night.

John Notten, a teacher at Mary Ward Catholic Secondary School, presented an art piece for the third year in a row. This year’s piece, The NeXt Desk, was displayed at the Distillery District as part of Thom Sokolsky’s project, Dada Reboot. It is a 13-foot wheel of 20 classroom desks. “It’s mobile, interactive and interconnected,” said Notten.

The NeXt Desk is a symbol representing a new vision to integrate 21st-century technology more seamlessly into the school system.

“The notion of traditional education has been unchanged since the Industrial Revolution,” said Notten. “But in the 21st century, technology is forcing us to re-examine how we educate our kids today.”

Notten’s students understood the state of change in their own way. They called it “the state of flux.” Each student took a piece of a car and transformed it into something that represented their experiences. These individual pieces were then reformed on Yonge and Gould Street as the Fluxmobile.

“It’s a huge honour for the students. I’m so proud of them,” said Notten. “It took my whole life to get my art featured at Nuit Blanche and these 16- and 17- year-olds already have one.”

A second installation from Mary Ward, supervised by Marissa Largo, was located at Wychwood Theatre. Paralandscape is an art piece where people were instructed to take hold of a white parachute as images from Google Earth are projected onto the cloth. As the images shift, they shook the cloth to skew the landscape for “an interactive globetrotting adventure.”

St. Joseph’s College also had its own art piece called the Magic Window. Students collected 35mm unused slides from across the school board and projected them through the windows of their school. This “stained-glass quilt” displayed 50 years worth of traditional curriculum against the modern frame of the building.

(Din, 21, is a third-year journalism student at Ryerson University in Toronto.)

Published in Youth Speak News
October 5, 2012

Risk and reward

One year ago, life was completely different. I was a high school student involved in few extra-curricular activities and I had a lot of free time. As the year went by, my involvement tripled and I found myself taking advantage of more opportunities and meeting more people. So, I can’t help but wonder if my life, as it is right now, would be different had I not taken certain chances.

In 2008, I was asked if I wanted to participate in an upcoming youth retreat. Hesitant, it was my parents’ encouragement that led me to experience my first retreat of many. I spent a weekend at Circle Square Ranch with the EDGE Youth Ministry program that I had been involved with since 2005. After the event, I learned that going to church or kneeling down to pray weren’t the only ways to experience God in my life. Soon enough, I became actively involved in my church and met many people who showed me that Catholicism isn’t only about my relationship with God, but also the relationship that I build with others in order to strengthen my relationship with Him. This, however, meant being open to taking chances in order to meet even more people.

When it came to trying new things, I suffered from indecisiveness. I was afraid to take risks for many reasons, the most obvious being the fear of looking silly. But I also did not want to be disappointed. Then, one day, I had a revelation: every chance is really a chance of a lifetime, and the only way I’d be disappointed is if I didn’t take risks at all.

Taking risks requires a great deal of courage and an even greater deal of faith. I have to trust that the Lord is guiding me and opening doors for me, so that I may learn, experience, wonder and understand that faith is much more than saying that I trust. Faith is proving that I trust by doing something I’m afraid of because, deep down, I know that what I’m about to do will only benefit the relationship I have with the Lord.

Instead of thinking of risks as potentially dangerous acts, think of them as opportunities to strengthen your faith. Had I not taken the chance to go on that retreat, I would have missed out on meeting talented, spiritual and honest people, and I probably wouldn’t have understood the impact that one weekend can make on one’s spiritual journey. Within just two days, my faith had increased to the point where I felt so uplifted and inspired to meet more people who understood what it was like to be a Catholic youth in today’s society.

Looking back, I see that every person and event placed in my life has challenged both me and my faith. For instance, coming to university and moving to a new city alone has been a test from God. I don’t have anyone to “take” me to Mass. When it comes to praying during a packed week, I remind myself that making time for God should be so engraved in me that it’s not something that should be put on my “to-do” list.

Every moment in life is an opportunity to grow closer to God, whether it be good or bad, for even the toughest moments are placed in my life by God to teach me a lesson and to help me, a child of God, grow in faith.

(Joanes, 17, is a Concurrent Education student at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont.)

Published in YSN: Speaking Out

Ottawa - The pre-Vatican days of Latin-language Masses are on the rise among Catholic youth.

In Ottawa, St. Clement’s parish moved its daily traditional Latin Mass to St. Anne’s Church in Lowertown to accommodate its growing congregation, including many young families.

Michael and Rebecca Trolley, a couple in their 20s, are very active at Annunciation Anglican Use Catholic Church. “Anglican Use” refers to a particular form, or “use,” of the Roman rite (or Mass) which draws heavily upon the Anglican liturgical and musical tradition, incorporated into a Catholic context.

“We were both nerdy bookworms,” said Michael, who is very interested in Church history. “For a lot of young people, I think there’s a deep skepticism about contemporary culture. And if they want to do something spiritual, the last thing they want is something that looks like everything that’s going on around them. If they’re going to do something different, they’re going to do something really different.”

Prior to 1970, the Roman Mass was celebrated in Latin; this older form of the Mass is now commonly referred to as the traditional Latin Mass. After the Second Vatican Council, the Mass was translated into many different languages, including English. Some communities such as St. Clement’s, however, still celebrate the traditional Latin Mass.

The Trolleys note the similarities between their traditional Anglican Use liturgy and the older form of the Roman rite.

“The differences aren’t so much the text of the liturgy,” said Michael. “In the way that they’re celebrated, our Mass has a great deal in common with the Extraordinary Form (the traditional Latin Mass). They’re both celebrated facing east, it’s usually chanted, with incense. It’s quieter in some ways, it’s more formal, a greater spirit of reverence.”

Rebecca disagrees: “I wouldn’t say it’s more quiet, especially when we do a High Mass. It’s very noisy, because we’re singing a lot. Music is more a part of our tradition. Anglicans like to sing, Catholics don’t,” she jokes, referring to the tradition from which their liturgy derives.

Many young Catholic Canadians do not know much about traditional forms of worship, what a traditional liturgy consists of and how it differs from what is seen in a regular Catholic parish.

“We’ve actually tried to bring back some of what were originally monastic practices into the life of a parish,” said Subdeacon Andrew Bennett, a regular worshipper at Ottawa’s Holy Cross Ukrainian Catholic Chaplaincy.

“The vast majority of people at the chaplaincy are students,” said Bennett. “In a culture that often lacks an understanding of what mystery is, an understanding of how we as human beings need liturgical worship to enter into the mystery of God present in His Church, I think young people crave authenticity. And in the Christian tradition, if they see authenticity, they’re drawn to it.”

“Monastic practices” refer to the services regularly observed in monasteries. Thus, worshippers at the chaplaincy sing Matins (a service of morning prayer) before the Divine Liturgy (the term for the Mass in the Eastern churches) every Sunday morning.

“A Roman Catholic coming in off the street would notice first of all that it’s longer and that we sing everything,” Bennett said.

Everything in the Divine Liturgy (except the homily) is chanted in the Byzantine rite, a collection of Eastern churches which have come into union with the Roman Catholic Church. But according to the subdeacon, this custom is not exclusive to Byzantine Catholics such as those who attend the chaplaincy.

“The Roman rite has this tradition as well, but in most parishes since the Second Vatican Council, this tradition of the sung Mass has been lost,” said Bennett. “But now you’re seeing again a return to some of these traditions in the Roman Catholic Church.”

(Candy, 21, is a third-year English student at the University of Ottawa.)

Published in Youth Speak News