Renew Toronto participants sing during praise and worship before Holy Adoration at St. Basil’s Parish at University of St. Michael’s College. Photo by Jean Ko Din

Toronto attracts hundreds with first young adults conference

By  Nicole Vaz, Youth Speak News
  • October 18, 2018

Khristine Florend is ready to be a true witness to her faith after attending Toronto’s first-ever young adult conference.

“We are at the age when we can affect society,” said the 35-year-old. “We are the future of the Church and we have to make sure that we do not shy away from what we believe in.” 

Florend was one of about 500 young adults who attended the inaugural Renew Toronto on Oct. 12-14. She joined Catholics aged 19-39 at Isabel Bader Theatre at the University of Toronto, open to the diocese’s first experience to “unite with one another” and renew their hearts with God. 

The conference was organized by the Archdiocese of Toronto’s Office of Catholic Youth (OCY). Speakers — including authors Edward Sri and Katie Prejean McGrady, and Fr. Allan MacDonald, general superior of Companions of the Cross — talked about a range of subjects, including school, marriage and family life. 

Prejean McGrady, who was an American delegate at the Vatican’s pre-synodal meeting in March, said young people are called to become protagonists of the Church. 

“The Church doesn’t exist for us to just sit there and get all this really cool knowledge,” she said. “Within the life of the Church we are supposed to matter.”

YSN collins renew 2018Toronto Cardinal Thomas Collins led the Renew Toronto participants in Holy Adoration at St. Basil’s Parish at University of St. Michael’s College. (Photo by Jean Ko Din)

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Prejean McGrady also talked about “ministry syndrome” which exists in many young adults who want to do ministry but are also not open to be ministered to themselves. She said about 14 per cent of millennials go to church on Sunday and this number will continue to drop as time passes. 

“We’re facing a crisis and it’s not just the sex abuse nonsense,” she said. “We’re facing a crisis of young people in the Church who treat the Church as a corporate entity that’s supposed to just give stuff to them, rather than a home of which they are a vibrant and active part.”

Rebecca Garbino, a full-time missionary for Couples for Christ Foundation, said Prejean McGrady’s talk stood out for her. 

“We can’t just be on the sidelines anymore,” said the 32-year-old. “We can always have some kind of impact and be some kind of protagonist that helps the Church.”

Sri talked about moral relativism, noting that the idea that there is no objective truth is a convenient fallacy that many in society are embracing. 

“Our modern world is trying to get you to think that all the Church’s moral teachings are just random rules,” he said. “They are missing the most fundamental point that the law flows from the heart of God.”

Before the closing session, OCY associate director of young adult ministry Sarah Rodrigues took to the stage to invite the young adults to continue to participate in ministry. OCY hosts a variety of events for young adults, such as Theology on Tap, Spiritus Via (East region) and Spiritus Vitae (West region).

(Vaz, 17, is a Grade 12 student at Father Michael Goetz Secondary School in Mississauga, Ont.)

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