By: Jonathan Hilsden.
From my early childhood I knew that God loved me, and that He sent his Son Jesus to die for my sins. This was the formation I received as an Evangelical Missionary’s son. I can seldom remember a time that I doubted His love for me until I reached high school. When I was about seventeen years old, things started to change. I began my ongoing battle with depression. Such a battle can often lead one’s emotions into a dark hole and it is very difficult to view truth and to manage emotions with objectivity. I began to doubt God’s love and often entered into a mindset of despair. As the years of this struggle continued, I developed the emotional response of indifference. I never left my faith, I continued to be devoted, but my overall outlook on life was….well….bland.
Five years ago I deepened a friendship with a friend who was Catholic. As a faithful “Bible Only” Christian, I viewed extra-biblical Catholic traditions as unnecessary to my faith.Through months of intellectual discussion, I found myself becoming more and more convinced of the necessity to enter the Church and receive the sacraments. I also began attending Mass. It wasn’t long before I came to the realization that God was bringing me home to the Catholic Church. I was received into the Church at Easter in 2011.
I love being Catholic. The Church offers all of the tools to lead me closer to Christ and battle against my depression.
Last year CCO expanded to Ryerson University in Toronto. The Campus was right up the street and I got to know the CCO Campus missionaries. It didn’t take long for me to realise that these missionaries were zealous about seeing young people put Christ at the center of their lives. I was familiar with this zeal. I was raised evangelical, but it seemed, in my experience, that Catholic’s just aren’t into the “active evangelization thing”. I was intrigued enough about this to accept the invitation to attend Rise Up 2013 in Ottawa.
At Rise Up I witnessed two awesome worlds merging – A vibrant expression of our faith through singing praises in a way that sat well with my evangelical upbringing, and a radically Catholic expression of reverence through Mass, Adoration and the Sacraments. As great a time as I had, these aspects of the conference weren’t what got me thinking about being a CCO Missionary.
My most significant experience at Rise Up was God stirring my heart in excitement for seeing young people choose Christ. I began to think about what truly excited me in life, and about my Catholic Faith. I quickly realized that nothing gave me more Joy than to see a young person put Christ at the center.
There was a brunch at Rise Up – The Staff Discernment Brunch. This is where the HR department tell us all about the need for people to say yes to the call to be a CCO Missionary. I don’t know why, but the thought of becoming a missionary had only crossed my mind about 10 minutes before this brunch. I am convinced that the Holy Spirit was nudging me to go.
During the Human Resource presentation at the brunch, I had about a trillion questions about joining the staff. I don’t know why, but my heart continued to be stirred. Its funny, earlier that day I wondered what I was going to do with my life, then suddenly it clicked – I wanted to Proclaim Christ so that He would be made known. I wanted other people to experience the Joys of a personal relationship with Him like I had.
Within days of the conference I applied to CCO staff. Eight months later, I’m just as excited to be a part of a Movement that participates in the Mission of the Church to Renew the World.
I have learned that doubting God’s faithfulness is futile. In His time, He reveals His will. He knows me better than I know myself. Thank goodness – because if I went my own way, life would be more than a little boring.