Was it a significant life event? A new job/promotion? A new place? A milestone to celebrate?
By Joel Regnier, Campus Team Leader, Concordia University
As a Church, we have all been waiting for young people, especially university students, to return to the faith. But they are also the most daunting age group to reach. At Concordia University, Catholic Christian Outreach (CCO) missionaries work within and alongside the Concordia University Catholic Student Association (CUCSA). The CUCSA exists to proclaim the Gospel to those who have wandered far from the faith and raise leaders for the renewal of the world. We are excited to report on the progress of our campus movement this semester. We are seeing tremendous growth and engagement among our student community. Working closely with Fr. Paul, the executive team, and our student leaders, we are witnessing a year-over-year increase in participation and momentum.
Last year we had 80 students in faith studies (our small group bible studies, which aim to share the gospel clearly and simply), two student faith study leaders, and one student going on a CCO summer mission (domestic & international opportunities for students to share the gospel and raise leaders in parishes, universities and at World Youth Day). While these numbers are great and impressive even, they have grown significantly this year. We now have 130 students in studies, eight student leaders, and five students going on a CCO mission, with two graduating students even becoming CCO missionaries. We expect to see these numbers continue to grow in the coming year.
Our ministry takes place right in the heart of the campus, on the 7th floor of the Hall building. We have taken over a section of tables and booths in a busy public hangout area which our students have dubbed “H7”. H7 has become a vibrant hub of activity for our students, with dozens of individuals making it their home on campus. It's a place where people can gather, share their experiences, and engage in meaningful conversations. We've had so many students this semester we started running out of space. At any given moment, three faith study groups can be running simultaneously, and many students are just hanging out, enjoying the community and friendships they've formed.
Fr. Paul has been an integral part of the spiritual growth of our community. By celebrating mass on campus regularly and hearing confessions, he's supported and guided students on their journey toward Jesus. It's a blessing to see how his gentle care and accompaniment have touched so many lives, as evidenced by the testimony of one young woman on campus. Her experience of confession with Fr. Paul was so powerful that it brought her to tears of joy. She had avoided confession for years, but in confession, she felt like she was made new, and it led her to give her whole life to Jesus that day.
What is particularly amazing about what is happening on campus is 90% of our students had no intention of ever joining a Catholic club when they came to university. A large swath of them would have considered themselves atheists at the start of the semester; the rest would say they were ‘spiritual but not religious.’ What unites them is they have grown to see that God is personal, loving and merciful. They have learned the truth of who Jesus is and how his death on the cross saves them from their sin. Lastly, they have each personally been invited to give Jesus their yes. We have seen many students respond with courage and generosity to this invitation, accepting Jesus and choosing to follow him. We are reaching people who otherwise would never be reached.
God is on the move at Concordia, and lost students are coming home to the arms of the Father. Atheists are becoming believers. Young people are returning to confession for the first time in decades. New believers are becoming leaders and reaching their peers. The renewal of this campus, this city, this province, and the world is happening here on campus. Please keep us in your prayers.