I had the honour of attending the very first Steubenville Conference in Toronto. I wasn’t really sure what to expect, but as the weekend unfolded it was evident this wasn’t going to be an ordinary youth conference and that I was about to be changed spiritually. Together with young people from all over Ontario, I came face to face with God.

Published in YSN: Speaking Out

It’s June and I’m headed towards my final year in university. Rather than simply enjoying my summer like my peers, I’m looking at my options. 

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I was one of an estimated 23,000 people of all ages and religious backgrounds on Parliament Hill for the 17th annual National March for Life, joining a busload of students from Msgr. Percy Johnson, Don Bosco and Fr. John Redmond Catholic Secondary Schools who joined the Salesians from St. Benedict’s parish.

Published in YSN: Speaking Out
May 15, 2014

Language of love

I tried to learn French in university once, only to scrape by with a C+. Languages are not my forte, linguistically speaking. After reading Gary Chapman’s book The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts, I discovered a kind of language I enjoy learning: love.

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I’ve always been one for planning my life ahead of schedule, even years in advance. I tend to go overboard often. The evidence is all over the day planner I use at school: a scribble in the margins here, a small number there, all marking just how long I have until the important dates coming up on my life, like graduation or signing up for classes for my first semester of university.

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A jar of freshly squeezed juice or a bowl of fruit are my constant companions as I walk through my school or pause for lunch. The lingering smell of sweet oranges, berries or bananas often draw the attention of those around me.

Published in YSN: Speaking Out
April 23, 2014

Colour of beauty

My first year of university is finally over. Academically, I held my head above water, but socially, I found myself unable to fit in. I am enrolled in a Life Sciences program, where there isn’t much racial diversity. As one of the few black people, I found myself struggling with my self-identity.

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Sometimes I think everything in life is wonderful: nature, places, people. Then I hear stories of destruction, whether it be physical, emotional or spiritual, and I s ometimes believe this isn’t a world where I want to be living; it’s a world that seems like a nightmare from which I can’t wake.

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I visited the Art Gallery of Ontario in April to see the exhibit “Revealing the early Renaissance: Stories and Secrets in Florentine Art” that has been running since mid-March. The exhibit showcases a collection of religious panels, pages, books, stained-glass windows and altar decorations made by artisans in and around Florence, Italy, during the 14th century. Although these pieces were created centuries ago, we can still find a connection to God and the Catholic community through these works.

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I attended Catholic elementary schools, and when I was in Grade 8, I was choosing a high school to attend. The most popular question people asked me was whether I would choose to attend a public or a Catholic high school. I knew that whatever school I chose — public or Catholic — it wouldn’t mean I’d lose my faith. Catholic schools aren’t a place where you’re forced into your faith, but rather taught how to strengthen it.

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Think of the most beautiful experiences in life. Holding a newborn baby. Feeling the waves of the ocean crash at your feet. Sunsets. Christmas morning. Cheeks that hurt from smiling. A first kiss.

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This past December, I had the privilege of helping feed the homeless at St. Francis Table on Queen Street West in Toronto with five of my Grade 12 classmates.

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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.

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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