Franciscan LEAD offers teens an opportunity to deepen their faith in advance of the Toronto Steubenville conference. Photos courtesy of Steubenville Conferences

Teens to LEAD the way

By 
  • May 29, 2014

TORONTO - Steubenville conferences are gathering young Catholics to LEAD.

The Franciscan LEAD program is a five-day, Christ-centred retreat for teens taking part in a Steubenville conference who want to take the next step in leadership and evangelization.

Preceding the Steubenville Toronto conference, LEAD will take place in the city from June 30-July 4. Hosted by the University of St. Michael’s College and St. Basil’s parish, up to 32 young people will be immersed in prayers, sacraments and “Catholic teachings on leadership, evangelization (and) discipleship inspired by the life and witness of St. Francis of Assisi,” according to Steubenville Toronto.

LEAD began when teens who had attended conferences wanted more, said Fr. Frank Portelli.

“They’re active, they’re leaders of tomorrow. This is something to draw that out further,” said Portelli, director for the Office of Catholic Youth in the Archdiocese of Toronto, which has partnered with Steubenville conferences for the Toronto event.

The Monday to Friday retreat will be broken down into training for leadership, discipleship and evangelization.

“Then they’ll give them some task where they can take that leadership role, doing liturgies, doing testimonies, being a representative of Steubenville LEAD during the conference weekend,” Portelli said, adding that at the conference they could lector or lead small groups. Someone will be chosen to provide a main testimony.

“This is the most electric and powerful testimonies,” said Portelli.

At the Mass, a bishop or priest will ask the young people “if they were touched in some way, felt the Lord calling them to give a witness of their life (and) if they would have the courage to stand to be a witness to their peers.” Once teens stand, they will be asked if they would like to come forward and receive a blessing. This is known as the altar call.

“For a teenager to stand in front of their peers and to say something happened to me, it’s a big deal,” said Portelli. “Leading up to that moment, there’ll be someone from Franciscan LEAD who will provide testimony.”

He recalls a girl who told her story of refusing to stand at the altar call, which she regretted for an entire year, until she could attend her next Steubenville conference with more courage.

“For me, that was one of the most powerful moments of the conference I witnessed last year,” Portelli said.

The Steubenville Toronto web site includes a guide on how to prepare for LEAD, including daily prayer, memorizing chosen Scripture verses and focusing on Jesus to possess the right attitude.

This event is not designed for people new to the faith. Portelli says it is geared towards teens who are already involved in some leadership role, “who others already consider in some fashion a leader in their ministry.”

For more information, visit www.steubenvilletoronto.com/ lead.

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