Written by Andre Regnier
For Angele and I, the call to start a movement that was focused on university students and dedicated to evangelization was undeniable. However exciting and glamorous that may seem to some now, the environment of the Church in 1988 was unfortunately much different than it is today. It was not necessarily ready to receive a bold initiative such as “evangelization for the renewal of the world”. Evangelization did not seem to reflect the Catholic experience. Young people were perceived as a lost cause and the hope was that perhaps someday in the future they would come back to get married and have their children baptized. In this environment, it was very easy for us to question or second-guess our call, as well, we would experience discouragement. Things that we saw as undoubtedly good and fruitful were received by others as being dangerous, over simplified and misguided. Who were we to say differently? One day, a booklet at the back of the Church caught my eye. It was called “The Pope Speaks”. Contained within was every public word spoken or written by the Pope John Paul II. For the next five years these words encouraged our hearts, influenced our convictions and justified our mission. An example of such influence is found in the following quote:
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.
(The Pope Speaks, vol.37, No.3)
I would not go so far as to say that our mission statement is blatant plagiarism but the source of its influence is obvious. We stood behind Pope John Paul II’s conviction that young people within the Church are called to be leaders for the renewal of the world, and we will continue to stand behind this conviction. In the fall of 1990, two years after the foundation of CCO, I picked up the latest copy of, “The Pope Speaks”. It contained John Paul II’s latest encyclical “The Mission of the Redeemer”. I am not exaggerating when I say that no other document has had a greater influence on you and I. The way we think, speak and act come from the words that are written on the pages of this encyclical. As a movement, we need never feel that our focus on evangelization is out of step with our Catholic identity. Rather our strong conviction is that, “Evangelization is in fact the grace and vocation proper to the Church, her deepest identity. She exists in order to evangelize.” (MR5)
CCO’s strategy, focus and activity is not an idea birthed out of the great minds of Angele and I, nor is it a result of the creativity that has been built upon over the years by courageous missionaries like each one of you. What you and I are involved in and committed to is an expression of the vision and prayers of Blessed John Paul II. I invite you to reflect on your call over the next nine days and realise how John Paul II has influenced your life. His beatification is a celebration of our mission identity.