Good Evening everyone! What a spectacular week. Would you agree? Thank you Fr. Rosica for your comments this evening. It is a special moment of providence tonight, as in this very room 12 years ago in 2001, Fr. Rosica first experienced CCO, as he spoke at the Rise Up New Year’s Eve banquet on the topic of the WYD.
In many ways this evening is a climax. Tonight we mark the official end to CCO’s 25th Anniversary Year. New Year’s Eve is provides moments of looking back, looking ahead, and perhaps most important, as we have been doing these past days, looking inward and looking outward. Tonight I want to ask you one simple question, which without prior knowledge, actually connects quite directly to Fr. Rosica’s presentation: my friends, what are your dreams?
Growing up in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, I had a dream! I wanted to travel to Italy and ski the Italian Alps. I am sure you can understand why I had this dream, having grown up in the heart of the prairies, in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, I was an avid downhill skier. To be fair, I did learn to ski at a little hill in a prairie valley that took about 30 seconds to go down, and two minutes to rise the rope-
tow back up. But don’t forget Saskatchewan is not too far from the Rockies in Alberta, where my vision for skiing was vastly expanded and I grew to love the powder, trees and moguls . My childhood friend and I shared this dream to travel to Europe as his parents had emigrated from Italy and we both loved to ski. We planned to take four weeks in the upcoming summer to travel through Europe, and in particular Italy, and to the Ski the Italian Alps. But it wasn’t only the mountains, my roommate had family in Italy and we were looking forward to experiencing another part of the world that was only in our dreams.
In any case, as the months went on we dreamed and planned. We visited tourism shops, got brochures of Italian Mountain resorts, researched the Euro-rail pass, etc. And as the summer got closer and closer, the practicals of life started to force our dreams to the side. Going to Europe for four weeks was going to be expensive. Plus we would lose the opportunity to work in Canada and save our money in order to pay for the next year’s university. And so as the summer break came closer and closer, our dreams began fading further and further from reality.
Eventually these aspirations gave way to practicality and I got a summer job painting apartment buildings and working in parks. The following year, our dreams began to build once again but the inevitable happened again. The costs and the sacrifice of summer income were outweighing the dream.
However, another factor had also entered the picture, I had met a beautiful young lady in Saskatoon, whom eventually would become my wife. She is here this evening and she is still a beautiful young lady, wouldn’t you agree?
To fast forward, we got married, then the Lord blessed us with our first child. It was certainly a great joy and something we were excited about it, but I also knew that it meant that that my former dream to travel was slipping away. I accepted this fact as a natural outcome and resigned that perhaps I might get to travel overseas when our kids were grown. But the Lord knew this dream in my heart and was preparing a big surprise for me.
As you have heard one of CCO’s foundational tenets come from a Scripture passage in Ephesians:
“Now to him who is able to accomplish far more than all we ask or imagine, by the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”
We like to refer to this as Great Expectations, that God can do immeasurably more than we can ever ask or imagine. Last night Angele outlined this so well.
Over the course of the years, I had certainly dreamt of what my travels could have been like, but God had immeasurably more in store.
In the year 2000, the Church was celebrating a major Jubilee – 2000 years since the birth of Christ. Pope John Paul II had been preparing the whole Church for years for this event. I had been asked by CCO to lead its first ever pilgrimage to World Youth Day. And guess where it was taking place? In Rome, Italy! As a result, I had the opportunity to travel to Rome twice that year and to spend a total of four weeks in Europe. I was able to make a personal pilgrimage through the Holy Door at St. Peter’s Basilica. Our group was able to visit many amazing Church’s and holy sites. Through a great gift of providence I was able to sit on the upper platform in St. Peter’s Square during the Opening Ceremonies of the WYD approximately 40 feet away from Pope John Paul II. And after the WYD, a small group of us visited Assisi, Venice, and Milan. It was a life-changing experience for me and for the 40 students on our pilgrimage. The Lord had taken my former dream and fulfilled far beyond what I could have asked or imagined! But it didn’t stop there, since 2000, I have been blessed to travel all over the world in ways I would never have thought possible. Just this past year, the Lord brought me to India and Brazil on missions. God, in his goodness takes our dreams, and can do immeasurably more than we can ask or imagine!
Twenty-five years ago, another dream began in Saskatoon. On October 18th 1988, the first small group of students gathered for the first CCO faith study.
Andre and Angele had dreams that stretched far beyond that small group of students. They dreamt of thousands of students throughout the country and around the world coming to know Jesus in deep and personal way. Tonight we see gathered here a great hope that they envisioned 25 years ago. And so, it is appropriate to pause at the close of this year and to give thanks to God for his blessings over the past 25 years.
Firstly Andre and Angele, I thank God for you. I thank Him for your yes in response to the Spirit, and for your and your family’s commitment to the mission, and for the great expectations that you have for CCO. None of us would be here if it weren’t for you and so I thank God for you!
Secondly I thank God for the Church, and the many Bishops, priests, religious and lay leaders that nurtured and continue to care for the mission and charism of CCO. There are too many to name, although I wish I could because each of you have so important in our history and in forming our movement.
Many of you are here tonight, and I want you to know that deeply appreciate your encouragement, care, and support. You have been mentors, fathers, collaborators, and friends and we deeply appreciate you. Lord I thank you for these friends!
Thirdly, I thank God for our supporters and benefactors. Most of them are not physically here tonight, yet without them, we would not be here. Over the years, tens of thousands of people have prayed for, given financially, and have made personal sacrifice for our mission. God I ask you to bless ever one of them this evening and thank you for them.
Fourthly, I thank God for you, my fellow CCO missionaries, present and alumni. You have dedicated given of yourself faithfully for our mission. You are talented young men and women who are gifted leaders and we are privileged to serve shoulder to shoulder with you. Lord, I thank you for these missionaries.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, I thank God for each and every one of you, the young people of CCO and for all the thousands of students who have been and continue to be involved in the movement. You are gift from the Lord for all of us who have the privilege to journey with you. You bring us hope and confidence. You inspire us, you keep us young, (and good looking) and we love you. I thank God for the gift of each and every one of you.
Dream Bigger Dreams
Thus in so many ways over the past 25 years, God has done more than we could have imagined, and in other ways, I believe He is just beginning. Tonight, as we close the 25th to dream even bigger. I feel He is inviting you and I to dream bigger dreams for ourselves personally and for our families.
I feel that He is inviting you and I to dream bigger dreams for our campuses.
To reach out to every single student on your campus with the love of Christ. To equip students throughout Canada to be leaders for the greater service of the Church and humanity throughout the world.
He is inviting you and I to dream bigger dreams for our Church and our world. For creative ways you and I can serve to bring people to know Jesus Christ.
To build a society and culture of life, virtue, and charity – a civilization of love. To revitalize our parishes and offer ourselves in service in parish ministries. To start new Catholic movements and associations in our professions and communities.
Dream dreams of truth and justice with a current and eternal perspective in mind. God can do immeasurably more than you and I can ask or imagine, so let’s dream bigger dreams. Right now the Lord is preparing a great surprise for each anniversary and enter 2014, I think the Lord is inviting us of us. We are situated in a particular moment of grace, as a Church, but also as a movement. Our 25th tonight we close the Anniversary Year.
Let me remind you of the words of the Pope which we received on the Opening Night:
The Holy Father was pleased to be informed that Catholic Christian Outreach is marking the twenty-fifth anniversary of its establishment. He sends warm greetings to all those gathered in Ottawa for the annual “Rise Up” Conference, and assures them of his spiritual closeness.
His Holiness hopes that all who are celebrating this anniversary will be “convinced from personal experience that it is not the same thing to have known Jesus as not to have known him” (Evangelii Gaudium, 266). He prays that the worship, fellowship and evangelical outreach of this ecclesial movement, will bear abundant fruits for the good of the Church and the transformation of society.
Invoking upon all those present a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit, His Holiness cordially imparts his Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of strength,joy and peace in Christ our Lord.
My friends, what are your dreams? I invite you to bring your dreams to the Lord. At midnight, we will enter into prayer and praise to “pray in the New Year”.
At that moment bring these dreams to mind. Offer them to the Lord! Ask the Lord to do immeasurably more than you can ask or imagine!
“Now to him who is able to accomplish far more than all we ask or imagine, by the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen?”