Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
May 4, 2009
Young Catholic leaders emerging in new millennium – de Souza
Catholic Christian Outreach key to igniting new generation says priest
Fr. Raymond de Souza
CANADIAN CATHOLIC NEWS
OTTAWA — Substantial societal changes demand a new generation of Catholic leaders Father Raymond de Souza told an April 23 fundraising banquet for Catholic Christian Outreach (CCO).
The Kingston diocesan priest, Queen’s University chaplain and newspaper columnist identified six positive changes since John Paul II’s Great Jubilee of the year 2000 that create new opportunities for young Catholics shaped by movements like CCO.
The first change de Souza mentioned is the lasting effect of World Youth Day (WYD) 2002.
Everything he sees in the Church that is exciting, new, full of energy and hope has people behind it who describe WYD as definitive for them.
“There is a confidence in the Church in our country after 2002 that big things are possible,” he said. Before that there was a sense of decline and that nothing was possible.
He called WYD the first event of what John Paul called a “new springtime” in the Church.
The second change is in campus chaplaincy. When he was a student at Queens University from 1989-94, a “good, holy Basilian priest” ran the chaplaincy, but it was “not a centre of evangelization” on campus. Instead it catered mostly to non-students.
Now many universities have thriving chaplaincies, Newman Centres and a dynamic CCO presence, making it possible for Catholic students to grow in their faith while seeking an education.
The third change he noted is in the media. There are far more Catholic media voices, including Salt and Light Television that Father Tom Rosica oversaw following his work as CEO of WYD 2002.
De Souza identified politics as the fourth area of change. A new generation of Catholics now in federal and provincial politics has “integrated faith and public life.”
They have done so despite a very hostile environment toward religious faith, he said. “There are many of them and not in just one party.”
The fifth area concerns the identity of Catholic institutions. De Souza said Catholic identity had been neglected in the past, but now it is on the radar in a new way.
Catholic school boards are doing things to affirm their identity. In Kingston, the school board sponsored a Humanae Vitae conference.
De Souza said the recent controversy involving Catholic Organization for Development and Peace and its partner organizations that may be advocating abortion is another example that may lead to a greater affirmation of the organization’s Catholic ethos.
The sixth area he identified is in the Church hierarchy. He thanked Apostolic Nuncio Archbishop Luigi Ventura for his role in “rejuvenating” the episcopate in Canada.
Though the Holy Father makes the decision about episcopal appointments, he relies on advice from the nuncio, he said. “We now have evangelistically-minded bishops who are eager to not just manage but to evangelize,” he said.
“Whether you like it or not, the bishop is indispensable,” he said. “Where the bishops lead the people will follow.”
FOCUSED ON EVANGELIZATION
CCO prepares young people to be more evangelistically-minded, he said, noting it is not easy to be a Catholic believer on campus and witness to that faith.
De Souza said CCO trains young Catholics to be leaders. He has seen people “become totally converted.”
“It’s a source of great joy for me,” he said. “I can’t image we’d be nearly as successful in our evangelization if CCO were not there.”
De Souza recalled the piles of television scripts that were scraped into the wastebasket after John Paul II’s funeral in the Vatican. The television host pointed out that this was their work — thousands of words thrown away at the end of the day and starting all over the next.
WORD REMAINS ALIVE
It’s a great challenge for Catholic writers to find a way to say the one word that doesn’t pass away, “the word that remains alive,” he said.
On campus, where students are surrounded by words, CCO’s mission is to proclaim the Word of Jesus and equip leaders in spiritual life, de Souza said. They bring the mission of Jesus to thousands of youth who have wandered away.
CCO was founded 21 years ago and has since grown from a staff of two to 50. At the invitation of Cardinal Marc Ouellet, CCO is expanding into Quebec City in the fall.