Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of March 21, 2005
Generation of John Paul spreads Christ's joy
Catholic Christian Outreach feeds hungry spirit
By DEBORAH GYAPONG
Canadian Catholic News
They call themselves the Generation of John Paul. Young, Catholic, on fire with love for Jesus Christ and the holy father, they have committed themselves to the pope's vision of Christian renewal.
You can find them on university campuses across Canada. Catholic Christian Outreach (CCO) is a lay movement Andre and Angele Regnier founded in Saskatoon in 1988. Since World Youth Day 2002, it has taken off, spreading the joy of Christ wherever they gain a foothold, most recently in Atlantic Canada.
"You have a generation of young people that are not only Catholic, but are unable to be silent about their faith," Andre Regnier says.
At a dinner March 11 at the Apostolic Nunciature in Ottawa, home of the ambassador of the Holy See, the Regniers and CCO Ottawa staff shared their personal stories with Apostolic Nuncio Archbishop Luigi Ventura and thanked him for the role he's played in providing a link between CCO and the holy father.
Though CCO has had the support of bishops across Canada, the movement has sometimes met with suspicion and opposition.
"I think much of what we do is very unique," Andre said. "It's very much at the heart of the Church, but in the Canadian experience, it went against the grain (of a private faith).
"As a movement, we are not pushing orthodoxy. We are pushing the encounter with Christ. Once they encounter Christ, the orthodoxy follows."
Despite being a lay movement, CCO-inspired youth see legitimacy in the hierarchy of the Church, and recognize the functions of the priests, the bishops and the ordained ministry, Ventura said.
Several of the CCO staff, who have spearheaded 54 Bible studies a week on university campuses in Ottawa, shared their personal conversion stories with the Nuncio at the dinner.
Amy Peloso described growing up with baby boomer Catholic parents who did not take their faith seriously. She attended church until Grade 3.
After that, she tried to be good without any sense of God or prayer in her life.
"But he was following," Ventura interjected.
"When I left God, I left truth, I left dignity. I left respect," Peloso said.
After her boyfriend broke up with her, she invited God back into her life, and wanted to give her whole life to him. She attended Rise Up! Ottawa, and was shocked to see the level of worship and adoration.
"They had joy and life and God." She said CCO taught her how to be a leader on campus and how to share the Gospel. "It's so easy when we love God."
Peloso is now engaged to fellow CCO staffer Michael Hall, who serves with her at the University of Ottawa.
Kris Dmytrenko, a CCO staffer at the Carleton University, said he grew up with no religious affiliation and had never been baptized.
At age 18, 10 years ago, he realized that God had given him everything of value, so he decided he "needed to give God a token thank you."
He had never been to church before, so he decided to accompany a friend who was attending church to please his parents.
New life waiting
"Here I am trying to pay back God in a sense by going to church, and I discovered I had this whole new life waiting for me in Christ. I was shaking during Mass and I didn't know why," he said.
"I went home and couldn't stop thinking about it," Dmytrenko said. "That night I decided to make the craziest decision of my life and decided to invite Jesus into my heart and get baptized.
"It was this strong sense of calling. And there wasn't a really rational reason.
"I knew it was all or nothing. You don't go into this half-heartedly."
Andre said Dmytrenko has helped Catholic faith flourish on a campus which had been nearly dead spiritually before he arrived.
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