Saying 'yes' to service

By 
  • March 6, 2008

{mosimage}As the archdiocese of Quebec prepares to host the International Eucharistic Congress in June young adults are volunteering their time to help make it happen.

A Year for God is a vocation discernment and volunteer program for youth aged 18-35 in conjunction with the Congress. They live in community with a religious congregation, receive faith formation and volunteer full-time to help prepare for the Congress as well as diocesan youth ministries such as the Dina Bélanger Festival, diocesan World Youth Day and Taizé.

“A Year for God was my chance to say ‘yes.’ Although I had a job and it paid something, I chose volunteering because it’s how I wanted to serve God,” said Sarah MacDonald, who after graduating with a religious studies degree from McMaster University in Hamilton worked for the federal government.

Over the past three years MacDonald has been among 17 young adults who have participated in the one-year program.

The 26-year-old from Sudbury, Ont., decided to apply after she heard it advertised at the May 2006 Youth Summit, a preparatory gathering leading up to the International Eucharistic Congress. She worked the following September until June. However, some start in January and volunteer until December.

“It’s a pilgrimage volunteer experience,” said Fr. Julien Guillot, program director.

“We created this project two years ago at the beginning of the preparation for the Eucharistic Congress, but our goal is to continue with this program after the Congress,” he said. The plan is to continue it as a ministry of the Quebec archdiocese’s vocation office.

Each week the young adults receive lessons about the church from a historical, liturgical and spiritual perspective. They also receive practical job-related training on how to plan their schedule and manage their relationships in a working team. Each participant also receives regular spiritual direction.

“It’s important for them to work in the church, but to have enough time to pray and reflect on their own vocation,” said Guillot.

After MacDonald’s year of vocation discernment with the program her desire to join religious life has been reaffirmed.

“I always felt called to religious life and it was a chance for me to take a step forward in that and say ‘yes,’ this community life is a way to respond to God.’ Working with different people in the church for me just solidified that call to religious life.”

Once she completed the Year for God program last year her passion for the Eucharistic Congress compelled her to stay on as a full-time volunteer this year.

“I really believe it is a gift for the church in Quebec and Canada. And I just loved the group I was with and the project and I wanted to continue to work toward that.”

MacDonald is in charge of co-ordinating eight adoration chapels for the Congress to make sure they run smoothly throughout the week and finding groups to run holy hours of prayer.

“It’s interesting to see how people are getting ready for the Congress in different places across the country,” she said. “It’s been a great grace to speak with adorers from around the world. Often people will say we are praying for you from around the world and that’s really important.”

“The most important point for volunteers is they have to accept to be in service for the Eucharist,” said Guillot.

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