WCR PHOTOS | CHRIS MILLER

Teens at the archdiocesan youth rally in Red Deer dance and raise their hands to the music of Absolution, a local band.

November 3, 2014
CHRIS MILLER
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER

Beginning his first talk at the Edmonton archdiocesan youth rally, speaker Colm Leyne told the young people in attendance to vote for or against him.

If he said something inspirational or told a story that resonated with them, they were to put a green slip of paper in a box at the back of the room.

However, if he could not keep them enthused or change the way they think about God or their faith, they were to vote with a red slip.

By suppertime, the green greatly outnumbered the red. He had earned the approval of the 400 youth in attendance.

Leyne, the youngest of five children in an Irish Catholic family, did not always get a high approval rating.

Around Grade 8 his classmates always laughed at him, and he was the brunt of their jokes. He got stuffed in garbage cans and locked in a basketball cage. He was a victim of bullying.

Years later, while attending university, his solution to the pain of being ridiculed was to drink alcohol and lots of it. For about four years, he was a heavy drinker. He was also addicted to pornography for about 10 years. He felt miserable and unfulfilled.

"I was in my third year of university, and I was done. I was bitter and angry, I was a drunk, and I was addicted to porn," he said.

A turning point came when his mother found his expulsion letter from university. He came home, and he found her crying with the letter in hand.

"Do you know what it's like to see the woman who cares about you more than anything else in the world torn to shreds?

"She at that moment thought that she had been a failure as a mother because for three years she was oblivious to everything that was going on in my life," said Leyne.

YELLING AT GOD

He studied economics at university for three years "before I epically dropped out, yelling at God to fix my life." God answered him by saying he was to fix it with his own decisions. Leyne experienced a slow conversion between World Youth Day 2002 and World Youth Day 2005.

Today, he is coordinator of the youth ministry office for the Saskatoon Diocese. He also served three years as a volunteer youth ministry coordinator in Calgary.

The annual youth rally was held Oct. 18 at St. Thomas Aquinas School in Red Deer. Youth from the dioceses in Calgary and St. Paul also attended.

"You learn a lot of new things. I was expecting this to be really inspirational and give us a new outlook on things," said Alyssa Brul, a youth from Calgary. "The speech that he (Leyne) gave was really inspirational."

Alyssa attended the youth rally with Denise Banaag, her friend from St. Michael the Archangel Parish.

"I wanted to deepen my faith, and it's really helped me a lot," said Denise.

Colm Leyne of Saskatoon told 400 young people at the Edmonton archdiocesan youth rally about the pain of being bullied and his struggles with alcohol and pornography.

WCR PHOTO | CHRIS MILLER

Colm Leyne of Saskatoon told 400 young people at the Edmonton archdiocesan youth rally about the pain of being bullied and his struggles with alcohol and pornography.

Aside from Leyne's three talks, the day also included Mass, music by the local band Absolution, prayer, games, dinner, a dance, and group sessions with questions and answers.

YOUTH REACTION

This was the first youth rally for Matthew Moelhoff, a Grade 6 student from Sylvan Lake. He said he was enjoying the youth rally and having fun there.

"I like the singing the most. I'm looking forward to the games," said Matthew, following Leyne's second session.

Part of Leyne's role in the youth ministry office is to help Catholic youth recognize they are part of a bigger, broader Church than they might see at a small youth gathering in their local parish.

Conferences, rallies and other special youth events provide opportunities to guide young people, nurture them as leaders, and bring them into the mission of the Church.

STRIVE TO BE SAINTS

At the youth rally, he challenged the youth to strive for sainthood. The theme was: "Live Simple #BeSaints!"

"To be a saint is hard but it's actually not very complex. It's the practice of holiness that is difficult," said Leyne. "We all have the capacity to be a saint and we all have the capacity to be a sinner. Sometimes they both happen in the same day."

His talks focused on St. John Paul II, St. John XXIII and Pope Francis.

"Why is Pope Francis the most awesome guy in the world, and everyone loves him right now? In the very simple things that the pope does, he reminds people of Jesus. When people think of who Jesus is, they see it in him," said Leyne.

Whenever Leyne felt troubled, he would turn to Jesus. He especially enjoyed going to Eucharistic Adoration late at night when the church was dark and no one was around.

GOD WILL SPEAK

"God in the stillness will speak to the desires of your heart," he said.

As St. John XXIII recommended, Leyne urged the youth to do one good deed every day and not tell anyone.

He also suggested that they do certain acts with intention.

"If you're a great hockey player, pray before every game and invite others to join you. That serves the kingdom.

"You have to look at your life not only as a battle to get to heaven, but also as an opportunity to bring others along with you," said Leyne.