Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
November 16, 2009
Youth still seek beacons of solid faith
Francophone educators seek to standardize religion curriculum
SPECIAL TO THE WCR
CALGARY - Young people continue to seek others who will provide an example of solid faith, a Quebec Jesuit told a recent gathering of Alberta Catholic francophones.
While youth have sometimes been disappointed in the Church, they are still "looking for solid foundations," said Father Paul Arsenault.
"They want to find people who will be stable witnesses, who will be markers, indicators, examples or models to them of what it really means to be disciples of Christ."
Addressing the participants at the Council for Education and Faith for Francophones in Alberta (CEFFA) held in Calgary Nov. 5-7, Arsenault, from Cap de la Madeleine, Quebec, says the roots of every Christian congregation, as well as every disciple, must be found in Acts 2.40-42.
"It speaks about the new believers being devoted to the 'teachings of the Apostles,' which is the Word of God, fellowship, the breaking of the bread and prayer.
"If one of the four foundations is lacking, we become handicapped or incapacitated, whether as an individual disciple or as a believing community."
An author, composer and singer, with a number of books and CDs to his credit, Arsenault, who acts as an animator for pilgrims to Notre Dame du Cap pilgrimage site, says the Church is having a crisis of identity after a long time of power and glory.
He describes the Church as fallow land waiting for new seed to be sown so that it will continue to attract others to the faith. People must see something different in the Church again.
"As John Paul II said, we are intolerant and violent in the service of the truth. The future of the Church is to make an examination of conscience so people of this millennium should say again about Christians, 'See how they love one another.' If they don't see that, they won't want to join us."
Suzanne Foisy-Moquin, president of CEFFA and a founding member, says this is the second conference since the group was formed in 2003. Held every three years, the event aims to provide both personnel and material resources for French-speaking Catholics in francophone school systems and parishes across Alberta.
Supported by a partnership of the archdioceses of Grouard-McLennan and Edmonton along with all the Alberta francophone school boards, the CEFFA is a clearinghouse for resources across the province.
Foisy-Moquin, religious education consultant for the North Central Francophone School Board, said CEFFA has recently taken a huge step in standardizing the religious education curriculum for Alberta.
The goal of the conference is to bring in quality speakers and resources and provide an opportunity for francophone Catholics to network and partner, to work together so they don't feel isolated. This year's conference included not just educators but parents, parish workers and members, and youth.
Two other speakers made keynote presentations to the nearly 300 participants. They were Brian McDonough, from the Social Action Office of the Montreal Archdiocese, and Marie-Paul Ross, an expert in sexology, from the Institute of International Integrated Development, Quebec City.
McDonough said encountering those for whom the Gospel message is a life or death matter changes our perception. He has met many such people in his work with victims of crime, prisoners and refugees.
"The situation of evil and violence must be seen in a bigger context through Gospel eyes. It limits its power to throttle us and gives us access to a genuine hope that goes beyond what we can just imagine."
THE FACE OF GOD
It is seeing the face of God in the crucified and resurrected Jesus that transforms and gives a more radical, deeper hope than can be conjured up within ourselves.
"The Gospel is meant to summon us to be real, instead of playing games with ourselves, our loved ones and God. We can be like sleepwalkers walking around with a Cheshire Cat smile on, but not be real or true to ourselves."
Ross said that sexual repression from previous generations and the proliferation of pornography in our current society are two sides of the same coin. Both dehumanize and prevent the full expression of the loving relationship that God intended.
Healthy sexuality means embracing the values of respect, truth, civility and faithfulness to one's own inner self, she said. Freedom is not meant to be licence to choose anything, but to choose what is best. The loss of human dignity and the failure to uphold the value of the human person ultimately mean the loss of God.
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