International youth movement meets in Ottawa

By 
  • May 4, 2007
{mosimage}TORONTO - This July 170 youth from 10 countries will convene at Saint Paul University in Ottawa for a week-long Youth Teams of Our Lady international meeting. This is a first for Canada.

“It can be seen as a mini-World Youth Day. It’s about growing together as a movement,” said conference co-ordinator Agnieszka Kuzio.

In 1999, while still in high school, Kuzio joined the movement when it started in Canada. The Canadian chapter originated from within the Polish community, which explains why the majority of the 120 Canadian members are of Polish descent.

Today the movement has more than 5,000 members in 12 countries. Its international headquarters are in Lisbon, Portugal.

The movement “helps young people to get to know Christ in a personal way.... Other movements are more geared toward worshipping as a group, but ours is about developing a friendship with Christ,” said Kuzio.

Internationally, YTOL is geared toward young adults, except in Canada where the majority of members are high school students.

David Kulas, a Grade 12 student at St. David High School in Waterloo, Ont., joined the movement in Grade 9 when he was 13. He said at one point he left the movement and returned because of a lack of maturity.

“I wasn’t ready. I was a totally different guy back then. But then I went to a retreat and it was the experience of a lifetime,” said Kulas. “You feel Jesus’ presence every day, every minute.”

Kulas is now a group animator in Waterloo and is the high school representative on the national secretariat of YTOL.

He said what keeps him coming back is watching others experience the presence of God in their life.

“Just looking at them and seeing the difference in them. YTOL is growing every year and I just love it, watching it happening.”

Once a month a group of about a dozen students, one religious and one married couple will meet for a few hours. A high school student animator facilitates the meeting consisting of prayer, group sharing and catechesis. The members challenge themselves to improve in one area for the coming month, doing things such as reading the Bible for 15 minutes per day or doing the dishes after dinner. They also commit to serving the community through volunteer work and each member spends time with Jesus in prayer daily.

All of these commitments are to help members develop a personal relationship with God.

“We do that in a very structured way. We want to push people away from developing a faith life based on whim, to get away from just praying whenever you want,” said Kuzio.

YTOL looks to Mary as a model of openness to the Holy Spirit.

“The meetings run off prayer and if we don’t pray to Mary and if we don’t invoke her help then we can’t do it ourselves. It is essentially that Mary and the Holy Spirit run the meeting through us,” said Turlough Myers, a 16-year-old animator in Grade 11 at Centre Wellington District High School in Fergus, Ont.

Myers’ older brother was the first animator in Fergus and introduced him to the movement at the age of 14.

“I’ve learned that you have to keep every vocation opened. I can’t close off. It’s a possibility I may enter the seminary,” said Myers, adding that each team’s religious and couple are to be examples of different vocations open to young people.

Myers said his outlook has changed since joining the movement.

“I was a girl chaser. I didn’t take (church) seriously, you just go because your parents tell you to,” said Myers.

Now “(YTOL) is a lifestyle for me. It’s what keeps me busy. It drives my personal life.”

 

YTOL facts

Name Youth Teams of Our Lady

Origin

In 1938 four couples formed Teams of Our Lady. In 1976, youth started their own chapter during a TOL meeting in France.

Canadian Locations Cambridge, Fergus, Guelph, Kitchener, London, Mississauga, Ottawa, Scarborough, Toronto, Waterloo, Windsor
Charism Developing an individual relationship with Christ
Outreach Monthly prayer meetings, March break retreat for high school students, December retreat for university students and young adults
Contact National coordinator Matthew Dabrowski at (519) 893-1908 or info@ytol.org

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