University Students

As a CCO Missionary, I have a specific call to reach out to university students – young adults aged 18-25 (mainly). 

I think this is one of the most precious callings – precious in the sense of just how much of an impact can be made on someone at that age, and how much of an impact THEY can make in turn on the world. Let me explain.

The 5th tenet of CCO is:

5. [Focus on] University Students

The future leaders of this country will come through every class of university students. By being on a university campus, we have the opportunity of DIRECT ACCESS to the future leaders of this country. Guided and led by the Holy Spirit, we have the power to influence the next generation – young people who will go on to become our society’s future doctors, nurses, teachers, lawyers, businessmen, and most important of all, future parents. 

Think about how young you are when entering university: for most of us, it’s 18. 18 years old. We are so young – fresh out of the cliques of high school, and so ready to meet new people, begin new experiences, join new clubs, and discover what’s “out there” in the world. University is a time of really branching out of your comfort zone, sitting in lecture halls of 600+ other students, learning ridiculous concepts in chemistry, calculus, literature, theatre, history, gender studies – you name it. Young adults go nuts in university. I know you’ve seen this.

So what’s so special about this age group? 


These students are going to (eventually) grow up… and even if we never grow up, we will be adults one day, who will most likely get married and then have children. The significance of marriage and the family is unbelievably undermined in our society today. But the difference in family life among those who genuinely practise their Catholic faith and those who do not is immense  – and it leaves an enormous dent in our society. Let these words of our newest Pope, Francis, sink in:

“The family [is] the foundation of coexistence and a remedy against social fragmentation.” [1]

What was that? The family is the FOUNDATION of our coexistence as a species, and a remedy against social fragmentation. WOW!

But now think of this in the context of our Catholic faith – “How precious is the family as the privileged place for transmitting the faith!” Why do you think our Canadian society needs to be re-evangelized? Why am I doing this work on our university campuses? Because children are growing up not knowing the faith from their parents- not being taught it in their homes, not being taken to church as kids, not even being baptized. Parents are the primary evangelists. The family is THE first classroom for the faith, for everything. But even those of us who are raised as practising Catholics, we still don’t know Jesus personally, from our experiences in Catholic schools or parishes … but that’s another story.  Hear again the Pope’s words:

“Not only would I say that the family is important for the evangelization of the new world. The family is important, and it is necessary for the survival of humanity. Without the family, the cultural survival of the human race would be at risk. The family, whether we like it or not, is the foundation.

Can we all just take a moment to shake our heads in disbelief – imagine if everyone realized this?!!! 

“It is very important to reaffirm the family, which remains the essential cell of society and the Church.”

I think that the best way to reaffirm the family, as we ought to do, is through young people. Through young people who, 99% of them, WILL BE future parents. Our future families. And this would also strengthen our CURRENT families, the cells of society, if young people realize the importance of their brothers and sisters and parents. And grandparents! “How important grandparents are for family life, for passing on the human and religious heritage which is so essential for each and every society! How important it is to have intergenerational exchanges and dialogues, especially within the context of the family.”


Young people are to be seen as leading characters in the renewal of the world. Young people “are the face of the Church’s future.” The Pope writes that women, especially, “play a fundamental role in passing on the faith” and “are a daily source of strength in a society that carries this faith forward and renews it.”

As a university student, you have SUCH a great opportunity. I wish I was 21 and in school forever, because YOU CAN REACH OUT TO SO MANY PEOPLE. You have such ACCESS to people’s lives through friendships – your classmates, coworkers, club members, teammates, roommates, rez friends, lab partners, group members, the connections are limitless. With this opportunity, you actually have a tremendous responsibility, to be good stewards of the relationships you have with people. To point them to Christ. You are the aroma of Christ!

I want to help build up students so that when they graduate, they can go out into the world, workplace, parish, family, and continue to spread the faith – to be missionary

I want to challenge you to more depth – to Catholicism in all of its glory. I want you, too, to be committed to the renewal of the world. 


[1] All Pope Francis quotes on the family found here


Great Expectations

Today was our final (and best) day of the National Staff Gathering here in Ottawa. My experience this week has been tremendous. Much to unpack still. This fourth tenet that CCO is founded on – that of having great expectations, is, again, one that ought to mark our entire lives as Catholics.

“To him who is able to accomplish far more than all we can ask or imagine…”

– Ephesians 3:20

4. [Have] Great Expectations

In everything that we do, there is still a more excellent way. Always. Catholics should live in excellency – we should be the most courageous, the most intelligent, the most creative, the most attractive, the hardest workers, the most committed, and the most public. Wherever we are we should leave a mark. People’s lives should never be the same because they were with us.


Because we are the AROMA of Christ. We are ambassadors of Jesus, bringing Him to the world! Pope Francis told the millions of young people at World Youth Day: 

“Dear young people, don’t spend life on the sidelines! Get involved! Jesus didn’t stay on the sidelines! He got involved. Don’t spend life on the sidelines! Get involved in it like Jesus did.”

Often, we choose to reflect and glorify “humility” in the sense of our limitations – saying, “Oh, I could never do that” … we go unnoticed; we are quiet, hidden, and we spend more energy responding in defence of who we are rather than being PROACTIVE: by getting involved and causing things to happen first.

What does all this have to do with great expectations? Simple. Having great expectations of God and of our lives calls each one of us to GREATNESS. And greatness is a movement of the Holy Spirit. It is an ever-increase in the virtues of Hope and Faith. It is allowing God to do great things through youa recognition that God wants to USE me. That He intends to use me. 

All human beings desire perfection – who is Christ. Thus, we are drawn to what is good, beautiful, and true. We are attracted to intelligence, beauty, creativity, art, music, order … we must help radiate Christ in this broken and dark world in every way we can. The Church was always on the cutting edge of technology and society – think of its architecture (Cathedrals), artists (the Renaissance), scientists (Jesuits), musicians (Bach), literature (J.R.R. Tolkein) etc. Why aren’t we on the cutting edge today?

Is your life a testament to God’s greatness? You can BE a man or woman who lives with a bold and confident sense that God intends to bring about transformation in the world!

I know I am a person of great expectations. It was on Impact 2011 that I witnessed God answer and respond to prayers I couldn’t even have imagined. I have seen people I know respond to God whom I never would have believed. I truly learnt and experienced what it meant to expect that God would do more than I could ever ask or imagine. I experienced what it was to have great expectations for an individual, a situation, an answer to prayer, anything. Everything.

Catholics should BE out in the world, but not OF the world. We need more Catholics who desire and are committed to greatness – to renew the world! To living radically, in the sense that they will become the best teacher, doctor, student, Catholic they can be. Strive for excellence. Do not be afraid.

I think that we fear being excellent – we allow fear to creep over us and prevent us from becoming FULLY ALIVE in Christ. Excellence is not perfectionism, but about being bold, being a witness, being a martyr … do not let the light within you be hidden.



A Heart for the World

The third tenet of CCO is:

3. [Having] a heart for the world.

This is not “world” as in material or “worldly” things, but ‘the world’ signifying the entire human race. All of humanity. That as Catholics, we should care for – have a heart for – all of God’s children. And that is all of humanity – the world.

Okay, this tenet is actually extremely more profound than I could ever explain on my own, so I’m going to do what I can. Three points start us off:

1. We are to be motivated and inspired by the Holy Spirit,

2. Jesus SPOKE the words of the Great Commission as the last thing before he ascended from this earth. He sent us out.

3. We are to have an understanding that souls are at jeopardy. It matters that people respond to Jesus. This is what it is to have a heart for the lost. 

A heart for the world is the Mission of the Redeemer – Redemptoris Missio, John Paul II’s Encyclical “on the permanent validity of the Church’s missionary mandate.” Wow. No wait – it gets even better. Blessed JP2’s FIRST sentence in this Letter is this –

 The mission of Christ the Redeemer, which is entrusted to the Church, is still very far from completion.

And the next one:

As the second millennium after Christ’s coming draws to an end, an overall view of the human race shows that this mission is still only beginning and that we must commit ourselves wholeheartedly to its service.

And in the next sentence he quotes St Paul himself:

Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel! (1 Cor 9: 16)

YES. At the heart of this entire Encyclical is a CALL to the ends of the earth – to travel the ends of the earth with a missionary concern. It is essential and never-ending. Bringing the Gospel to the m i l l i o n s who do not as of yet know Christ, the Redeemer of humanity.


Jesus entrusts this mission to us.  “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit …” It’s Matthew 28:19. Memorize it. Go and read the whole Great Commission. We have to constantly move “up the river” – to a new place, a new person, a new people. We can’t be content. We are to proclaim to all peoples.

There are consequences of not knowing Christ. If we are truly committed to one person at a time, then we have a heart for the world. For our world is made up of PEOPLE.

This is something every Catholic can live by! This IS the mission of the Redeemer. OUR mission. To the ends of the earth. I think we need to challenge our students to GO into those places – to be missionary wherever they are, to the ends of the earth.


One Person at a Time

Continuing with the 5 tenets of CCO, principles that we as Catholic can live by, the second one is:

2. [Focusing on] One Person at a Time. 

This is so key. Every person matters. Every person can be an evangelist. This means that no matter where we’ve come from, or what we’re like, we can be people who bring others to Jesus and share the Gospel, clear and simple, just like how St Paul spread Christianity in the days of the early Church.

Consider that Saul was a persecutor of the Church and of Christians – he used to “breathe out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples” (Acts 9: 1). He used to ask for the high priest’s permission to take people prisoner if he found out they were Christians (9:2). On his way to Damascus (where he was planning to do more murderous things to Christians), Jesus revealed Himself fully to Saul, causing him to experience a radical conversion, and through that experience, empowered him to spread the name of Jesus to Gentiles, kings, and Israelites (Acts 9:15). Saul (St Paul) was one person. Thousands of people were baptized into the Church through his work.

The principle of ‘one person at a time’ instructs the “how” to our first principle of proclaiming the Gospel, clear and simple. Our proclamation does not need to be to thousands or even hundreds at a time, but rather to someONE.

I love this tenet because people matter. We are all little ‘Christs’ – each a piece of His infinite personality. C.S. Lewis wrote:

“There is so much of Him that millions and millions of “little Christs,” all different, will still be too few to express Him fully. He made them all. He invented all the different men that you and I were intended to be.”

^ He’s talking about us! We each have something to give. We each are unique, unable to be repeated, and so, so valuable. A human life is a gift – intrinsically valuable, and inherently good. So good and so valuable that GOD became man – took on human flesh. In our society, human life is no longer sacred. We no longer treat another’s mere existence as a gift.  Society is more self-focussed than other-focussed; disrespectful of humanity rather than upholding humanity’s inherent dignity.

So I think this tenet is really key – not only for our mission of spreading the Gospel to one person at a time, and equipping others to do the same, but for our whole SOCIETY as a message that each human person matters – is sacred.

In university, (and work, and life…) people often feel unwanted, unloved, marginalized, used, abandoned, uncared for, and ignored. People CRAVE and were MADE FOR love, unity, attention, and companionship. We were created for wholeness- for complete and utter union with our Maker. But our world doesn’t look people in the eye.

We can transform our culture by valuing each person. I experienced this difference in my own time as a student on campus: the difference between the way people treated me.

As Catholics, we have the privilege, and the responsibility, of being about “one person at a time,” with love. Not only are we “little Christs” – we are the AROMA of Christ ( 2 Corinthians 2: 14).  An aroma is a distinctive quality or atmosphere – it’s an attractiveness that draws people to us, and to the source of that, which is Christ.

We should become known as a people who are for that ‘one person.’ Not to be closed off to giving ourselves to others, to pouring our lives into them, or to giving of ourselves, however it is that someone needs.

And it’s hard work. It IS sacrificial. That’s the point. Love is self-sacrifice. It’s a choice; an act of the will. Our lives ought to be laid down. Each person, that lost sheep, matters to us. We need to make sure that our leaders know HOW to change the world, that they CAN go out to proclaim the Gospel, but also that they know HOW to do it, to one person.

If we really want to know the heart of Christ, than we have to seek that one person, as He does.



The Gospel Clear and Simple

Today was the first day of CCO’s National Staff Gathering – where all 74 staff members (new and returning) come from across Canada to Ottawa for a week of training before we depart for our respective campuses. We spent the day in retreat, being taught by CCO’s founder Andre Regnier on the five founding tenets of  this missionary movement.  They are what define & “describe” who we are and what we do as missionaries. I was first taught these tenets while on CCO’s mission to Uganda in May of 2012. At that time, they had a deep impact on my heart, and really informed the way I viewed my faith + my role in this world.

Revisiting and reflecting on each of those tenets today, I strongly feel that they are principles for ALL Catholics (regardless of our vast differences), which is why I need to share them all with the world!

This is the first, and central, one:

1.  [Proclaim] The Gospel Clear and Simple. 

This is foundational. The reason for our being. When St Paul spread the faith, he wasn’t spreading a mere message or a feeling, but a person – “I pass on to you Jesus.” The Gospel, clear and simple, is that our faith is first and foremost a personal encounter with Jesus. Pope Benedict explains: “Christianity is not a new philosophy or a new morality. We are only Christians if we encounter Christ. Of course, he does not show himself to us in this overwhelming, luminous way, as he did to Paul to make him the Apostle to all peoples. But we too can encounter Christ in reading Sacred Scripture, in prayer, in the liturgical life of the Church. … Only in this personal relationship with Christ, only in this encounter with the Risen One do we truly become Christians.” (1)


As Catholics, we forget that the pinnacle, source, and summit of our faith is Jesus and His saving death and resurrection on the cross.  And I guess it’s easy to forget…. our Catholic faith is so glorious, and vast, and rich in history, tradition, beauty, holiness, sacraments, saints, – sometimes we can get caught up in all the splendour of our beautiful Church and not appreciate exactly WHO our Church is built upon. Or, if it’s not because we’ve forgotten, it’s because we have never recognized or encountered in a relevant way the person that is at the heart of it all.

As missionaries, our message is Jesus. We are committed to the Gospel – the proclamation of his death and resurrection that is the means through which all of humanity is restored to the Father. The Gospel changes lives. It changed my life. My experience of encountering Jesus – my conversion – is WHY I am a missionary. It is in our nature as Catholics to spread our faith, but I would never have known that had I not encountered the LIFE and GOODNESS of God in my own day to day life. The Truth – Jesus – is so good that we can’t help but share it with others. A friend of mine describes the Truth as being like a hot potato that burns in your hands, and your first instinct is to give it to someone else as quickly as possible … you can’t keep it to yourself. Prior to my experience of Jesus in Eucharistic adoration, in prayer, the scriptures, worship, fellowship, and the sacraments, Jesus was not real to me. He was simply the “son of God” – a historical figure. He wasn’t tangible; alive. He was not attainable. I just didn’t know. But by the end of my first year of university, after I had gone through a process of coming to know Jesus, all I wanted to do was to MAKE HIM KNOWN, precisely because people don’t! If you have had a life-changing encounter with the love and mercy of Christ, you will want to tell the world. It’s a secret you CANNOT keep. My ongoing relationship with Jesus, and the need to make Him known, is my motivation, my reason for being, my impetus. It’s why I am here today.



The 2013 first and second year CCO missionaries!  


Where is Your Faith?

Yesterday, Jasmine and I were having a conversation about what it’s like when anxiety completely takes over, causing you to be paralyzed in fear and unable to trust that everything will be okay. We were talking about this because we’ve both been there. But my response to fear and anxiety has changed ever since reading this passage from I Believe in Love. It’s about how Jesus responds to the Apostles when they’re terrified in the midst of a raging storm, and how we should respond to Him in the midst of our own storms in life. I told Jasmine I would send it to her, but I want to share it with all of you, too, for when you’ll need it. It goes like this:

Jesus was crossing the lake of Tiberias in a boat with his disciples. He was asleep in the stern. A great windstorm blew up, and the waves poured into the boat so that it was already filled. Seized with anguish, the disciples awakened Jesus: “Lord, save us; we are perishing!” And rising up, He reprimands the wind and says to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind abated and there was a great calm. Then turning to His Apostles, He asks, “Where is your faith?” 

I can hear Jesus scolding them with gentleness, but with pain, too:

“Why is this? I was in the boat with you – I slept, but I was there – and you were afraid; you were terrified. You doubted either my omnipotence or my love. Do you not know after all who I am, and do you not know after all with what tenderness my Heart watches over you continually?”

It is truly such doubt that pains and offends Him most.

But you see, we have lost so completely the notion of the entire confidence that He expects of us, that we sometimes make a prayer of the words for which He reproached His Apostles: “Lord, save us; we are perishing!”

This is not how we should pray, but rather, “With you, Jesus, I cannot perish; You are always in the boat with me; what have I to fear? You may sleep; I shall not awaken You. My poor nature will tremble, oh yes! But with all my will I shall remain in peace in the midst of the storm, confident in You.”

In hours of anguish, think of the Divine Master calming the violent storm with one word. This will be a tremendous source of comfort for you as you wait – peacefully – for Him to waken.

– Humble Confidence, from I Believe in Love: A Personal Retreat Based on the Teaching of St Therese of Lisieux, by Father Jean C.J. d’Elbee

The image of Jesus looking at His Apostles with love and tenderness – and turning that gaze onto me in the midst of my storm – will forever change the way I handle fear and anxiety in my own life. I hope it’s an image you can fixate on, as you make that prayer of faith to Jesus, always in the boat with you.