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Have you ever wondered where life would take you?

As the team serving in the Archdiocese of Keewatin-Le Pas, we had been told all throughout training that our ministry would be unlike any other team’s, and that flexibility is key. This being said, we would have never expected the nature of our ministry to be as it has been thus far.

On Monday the 1st October, the 7 NET Missionaries of Team 6 drove into what was officially their home parish for the next 8 months, St. Leo the Great Catholic Church, in Brooklin, Ontario.

It all began on the frigid, dimly lit, evening of October 30th. It was my day off, and I was meandering down the streets of uptown Fort McMurray, jamming out to some Foreigner, when the inevitable call of nature hit. The call that all Canadians feel whether they like to admit it or not. The call to go to Tim Horton's.
Urgently desiring to escape the arid subarctic air, and to bring my core temperature back up a few degrees, I made a right and headed towards the nearby Tim Hortons. Upon passing through the gate and once again finding myself in that haven of warmth and sugary confectioneries, a thought bubbled its way to the surface of my brain: “I wonder if they have Hockey Cards.” Now at first, one might question the relevance of such a question...

“Somebody special is looking for you. Somebody special is searching for you. Somebody special is waiting for you. Somebody special, special.”
– ‘Somebody Special’ by Rod Stewart
  As human beings, we have a desire to feel loved, wanted and needed – to feel special. We desire that special promotion or that special someone in our lives who make us feel like royalty. We each have such a man in our lives: Jesus Christ.

Most of the time, as a small group leader, you have one day to pour your energy, heart, and soul into the individual men and women that were placed in your care, not really knowing the full impact or impression you make. Sometimes, if you’re lucky, you get signs or general feelings of gratitude or growth, but more often than not, after doing all you can to love and guide them to conversion, you are left wondering if you helped them in any way to grow closer to Christ, let alone if they liked you or not. Nevertheless, you have one day to show Christ’s love to these young people...

 

Sunscreen? Check. Bug repellent? Check. Parka? Check. Hair dryer? Check. Winter boots? Not check because it’s July and stores just started selling their fall product selections. I was trying to anticipate what difficulties I might come across - I packed extra products in case I would be in a very rural area, brought my Aeropress, so that I don’t leave a chance for not having coffee, and downloaded a couple ebooks on my phone to keep engaged during long drives and downtime.

Other people also told me to prepare for conflicts with my team, the pain of separation from family and friends since our SIM cards are turned in, but I was completely blindsided by the systematic heartbreak that takes place at least twice a month. No one prepared me for how hard it would be to say goodbye to host families that welcomed us into their homes.

Since my wife Sara and I fast on Ash Wednesday, we decided to celebrate Valentine’s Day together last night.  We combined it with Mardi Gras and pigged out on pancakes and maple syrup in the spirit of celebrating and renewing our love for each other.  As the Fat Tuesday tradition goes, we feast and celebrate and use up ingredients that we will put away for the great fast of Lent.  Today we won’t be sharing in any of the chocolates, red wine or cinnamon hearts as many will on Valentine’s.  But this got me thinking - what if there is something to learn by having Ash Wednesday and Valentine’s on the same day?

I met Rachael at a grade 7 retreat in Okotoks, Alberta this past week. While I was introducing myself to the retreatants, I mentioned that, true to PEI stereotypes, I like potatoes. Upon hearing this, a hand shot up and a girl yelled “I love potatoes, too!”. In the moment, I was only thankful to have an energetic person in the group and so I was surprised later when I discovered that she was in my small group. Rachael didn’t talk a lot during our first couple of groups, but still, she was always smiling and you could almost feel the joy radiating off of her.

I went to a Catholic school for all of my primary and secondary education years.  While I had lots of fun and learned a lot, I wasn’t exposed to too many Catholic-Christians who would say their lives were 100% centred around Christ and the Church.  I was exposed to the Catholic religion less of a hardcore way and in more of an academic way. The problem wasn’t the fact that it was a more theoretical approach to Christianity – the problem was I didn’t know there was more to know, or that Jesus was someone you could know personally.  I thought I knew everything about Jesus.  And so did most of my peers.

And so there were lots of doubts, and few of us felt compelled to follow Him.

So here are five things I wish I could tell teens about Jesus that would help them understand why some people are utterly convicted to live a life centred on Him, and why maybe they could consider stepping closer to Him as well.