Written by Andre Regnier
As I traveled to Rome to say goodbye to Pope John Paul II, I found myself reflecting on his life and the influence he had on the founding of CCO.
In 1988 the word evangelization was not commonplace in the average Catholic experience and youth movements were relatively unknown in North America. However through the writings of John Paul II, I found great encouragement and confirmation of the vision I had for CCO, a movement dedicated to evangelization. The Pope believed that youth are the hope of the Church and called them to find their identity in Christ.
The Pope wrote that “youth must not simply be considered as an object of pastoral concern for the Church. In fact, young people are and ought to be encouraged to be active on behalf of the Church as leading characters in evangelization and participants in the renewal of society.” (John Paul II, Youth and Evangelization, The Pope Speaks, Vol. 37, No. 3). This quotation helped to form CCO’s mission statement.
The Holy Father’s writings were also instrumental in instilling a sense of urgency and expectancy, necessary ingredients for the growth of CCO. Even though we started with just a few university students in Saskatoon, the Pope’s words called us to be committed to our work on campus. We rallied around his words that indicated that the Church was moving into an evangelistic age:
“God is opening before the Church the horizons of a humanity more fully prepared for the sowing of the Gospel. I sense that the moment has come to commit all of the Church’s energies to a new evangelization and to the mission ad gentes. No believer in Christ, no institution of the Church can avoid this supreme duty: to proclaim Christ to all peoples.” (John Paul II, Redemptoris Missio, 1990)
In its beginning of CCO Pope John Paul II has encouraged our movement in many ways. He stated that the Church’s message is not only relevant, but necessary for all mankind. He challenged us, the Baptized, to courageously and generously give ourselves to the service of the Church.
Time and time again, he repeated the importance of relying on the Holy Spirit as he asked us to “live radically, live a holy life, be a saint”.
This, to me, remphasizes the universal call to evangelization and to holiness, both of which are part of the mission of CCO.
When I wrote this article I was on my way home from Rome where I represented CCO at the funeral of Pope John Paul II (in 2005). I had been in Rome to express thanks to this great man who inspired and encouraged me to begin CCO.
Heartbreakingly, because of the crowds, I was not able to get into St. Peter’s Square during the Funeral Mass. I was incredibly disappointed and upset, but God used this disappointment to stir in me a profound time of reflection and prayer.
If I would have been in St. Peter’s Square I may have only brought home a memory, but instead I had to search deeply inside myself for meaning. I realized again what will have a lasting and historical contribution to the Church and the world is not the memory of John Paul II, but our acting upon his words.
CCO exists today and is experiencing tremendous growth due in large part to the holy and obedient life of John Paul II. In taking his challenging words to heart and by taking action, CCO helped to rekindle the faith of thousands of young people.
Now even more, we should be motivated to
intensify our efforts to proclaim Christ and to establish the Kingdom of God amidst the civilization of man.