Members of Catholic Christian Outreach, from left to right, Eric Myatt, Kendra Chisholm, Lauren Arsenault and Emily Arsenault, invite passersby into St. Mary’s Basilica in Halifax to participate in Nightfever. Photo by Mallory White

Nightfever comes to Canada

By  Amy Crofts, Catholic Register Special
  • February 22, 2012

HALIFAX, N.S. - Catholic youth took to the streets Feb. 10 to spread a fever. A Nightfever, that is.

Held for the first time in North America, more than 135 people took part in Nightfever Halifax, with at least 70 to 80 people coming in off the streets, said Chris O’Hara, president of the Canadian Catholic Students’ Association.

Started in Germany in 2005, Nightfever is held monthly in at least 30 cities in Germany and is spreading throughout Europe in countries including Austria, Switzerland, Belgium, the Netherlands and Denmark.

Bundled up in scarves and mittens, participants handed out candles to people passing by St. Mary’s Basilica in downtown Halifax. Passersby were invited to either take the candles home or light them inside the church and participate in eucharistic adoration.

“I had a lot of doubts. I wasn’t sure how receptive people would be here,” said Kimberly Alexander, a physiotherapy student at Dalhousie University involved with Catholic Christian Outreach. “But by the end of the evening I was just blown away by how amazing it is that people would just come in with the smallest favour, just giving them a candle, something so simple.”

Nightfever was a collaborative event between Catholic Christian Outreach, the Canadian Catholic Students’ Association and the chaplaincies of Dalhousie and Saint Mary’s universities. It was one of more than 250 events that took place across 38 campuses during the Canadian Catholic Students’ Association’s national Catholic Students’ Week Feb. 4 to 12.

Alexander said a wide variety of people attended the event. From those who had never stepped inside of a church to a group of men rapping on the street corner, one of whom lit a candle for his children.

Kathy Chen, an international student from China at Saint Mary’s University,  said although she has no religious affiliation, she was curious about the event at the basilica and wanted to learn more. She asked CCO missionaries to teach her how to pray.

“It felt really peaceful to be here and when you’re sitting in front of Jesus, everything can be accepted by Him,” said Chen, 22. “Sometimes when you’re from another country you feel lonely and when you pray you feel you’re not an outsider.”

Nightfever began as a one-time event hosted by youth missionaries after World Youth Day 2005 in Cologne. But it was resurrected in Bonn, Germany, after two students — one a seminarian and the other from the Emmanuel Community — felt the spirit from World Youth Day diminishing.

“What’s interesting is that it didn’t come from the bishops, it comes from the young people themselves,” said Denis Möller, a recent graduate from Germany’s University of Bonn who now lives in Nova Scotia. Möller initiated the event in Canada.

“German youth ministers would have never thought to do adoration at youth events, but the young people were knocking at their doors and asking for just that,” he said.

Nightfever allows people to meet God in a multitude of ways, said Möller. They can reflect through written prayers and Bible verses, the silence of adoration, fellowship, music and confession.

“We make it as easy as we can for people that have never been in a church before,” Möller said. “We don’t want to scare them away by being too Catholic.”

What Möller is referring to is taking a practice like confession outside of the confessional in order to “take the fear away.” Confession doesn’t have to be behind closed doors, he said, since people may be more receptive to just having a conversation with the priest or receiving a blessing.

When Möller approached O’Hara about the concept of Nightfever, O’Hara couldn’t say no.

“(We were) surprised we didn’t think of it ourselves because it fits so closely with our core tenets,” he said.

“With Nightfever, we’re reaching out to the community as well as developing student leadership on campus.”

Nightfever was very small compared to the ones in Germany where you would see 300 to 1,000 people a night, said Möller.

“But the youth that were involved were so enthusiastic about getting one person in. I never saw that in Germany.”

(Crofts is a freelance writer in Halifax.)

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