Youth challenged to grow in faith

By  Sarah Du Broy, YSN
  • December 8, 2006
OTTAWA - Greg Lindor went on Challenge's 145th retreat mid-November at Holy Trinity Catholic High School in Ottawa. Away from his studies, he cleared his mind and renewed his faith. Since 1967, thousands of young people like Lindor have recharged their batteries through the Challenge movement.
Challenge is a movement for 16 to 25 year olds looking for spiritual growth and continuing fellowship based in Ottawa, Peterborough and Montreal. Challenge has its roots in the international Cursillo Movement. A Cursillo weekend allows adults 25 years old and up to become aware of their potential and acknowledge their limitations as they grow deeper in their Catholic faith.

"Challenge was started as a Cursillo for young people. The Ottawa Cursillo and Challenge movements support each other a lot," said Alex Parenteau, a 20-year-old Challenge participant.

No one would comment on what happens during the retreat because the element of surprise is important to the success of the weekend.

Although, there are two Challenge weekends per year, the focus of Challenge is in the post-weekend support.

The youth gather once a week, plan different events such as praise and worship nights, coffee houses, bowling nights and many other activities. The Challenge movement recently put on a Theology of the Body retreat to explore Pope John Paul II's vision of the human being including body, soul and spirit.

"For many of us, our whole social group revolves around Challenge. It has become a family and somewhere that we know we will always be accepted," said Carling Sinclair, Challenge's co-director.

"You can always go and see your friends and encourage one another through the good times and the bad," added Parenteau.

Justin Oberndorfinger, 19, had never experienced Catholic fellowship before doing Challenge.

"After the retreat, I discovered the importance of praying and worshipping with others. I began to get involved in the Catholic community by going to youth groups and participating in Catholic outreach. Challenge brought me joy and comfort in worshipping with others."

Sinclair added: "The reason we put on these retreats is to first help others know Christ, but then help them stay close to Him. We try to show them that the real world isn't the secular world, but it is the faith community, mainly Challenge where they can share their struggles, and be built up by other young Catholics."

Challenge equips youth to defend their faith.

"Through group discussions, activities, talks and acted out situations, we learned how our faith will be questioned and how to defend it," said Oberndorfinger.

Challenge participants usually learn about the movement through a friend. After the retreat, the new Challengers get excited and tell their Catholic friends about their personal experience and spiritual growth.

Challenge weekends differ from National Evangelization Team (NET) retreats. NET retreats are put on by a team of young adults who do volunteer ministry full-time, usually travelling across the country, whereas Challenge is put on by young people who go to school or hold down jobs. Also, young people can only attend one Challenge weekend as a participant while NET allows young people to attend several of its retreats.

Sinclair has been involved with Challenge over the last five years.

"It has always been a challenge to keep people coming out after they make their weekend. Most people come off a retreat like Challenge on a complete spiritual high, but soon realize that the real world is waiting for them when they go back to school, work and their families.

"It's very easy to slip back into old routines and forget about the amazing weekend. On average 40 per cent of people on the weekend stay involved, however, the great thing about Challenge is that you can leave for years and be welcomed back like no time has past," said Sinclair.

The next Challenge weekend takes place in Ottawa this spring.

(Du Broy, 19, studies journalism at the University of Ottawa.)

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