The then-Trent University student, inspired by the Church’s message, was motivated to earn a Masters’ degree in theology at St. Augustine Seminary. Today, he is chaplaincy leader at St. Edmund Campion Catholic Secondary School in Brampton, Ont., and is back at this year’s edition of the rally in Toronto on March 4 as one of the speakers telling their story of looking for Christ to a new generation of youth.
Celebrating its 25th anniversary, the rally, hosted by the Catholic Renewal Ministries, is the largest single day, Catholic, laity-run event in the country. For many young Ontarians, the rally is a chance for them to get in-touch with their faith and find a deeper connection with God.
This year’s theme is based on John 14:6, when Jesus says to His disciples, “I am the Way, and the Truth and the Life; no one comes to the Father but by me.”
“This year’s theme is to remind youth that the path to Jesus is not a suggestion, but that Jesus is the only way,” said Robert Raisp, organizer of the event at the Metro Convention Centre’s John Bassett Theatre. “It is to remind them that when times get dark, Jesus is always with us and that He is the Way.”
A huge part of the day is focused on the 100th anniversary of the apparitions of Our Lady of Fatima (to be celebrated starting May 13). Many of the talks, Raisp said, are shaped to highlight the powerful fruits of Fatima and to recognize how prevalent Our Lady’s message is to today’s youth.
“Our Lady’s messages of prayer, reparation, repentance and sacrifice plays an important role in the life of the Church,” he said. “No one has done a better job of reminding the world that Jesus is the light of the world than Blessed Virgin Mary.”
Raisp said the rally “gets real” with the youth through talks that address real-life challenges faced by teens today. Among those sharing their testimonies are Rachel Herbeck, a Catholic Studies student who has written and spoken extensively on women’s issues, and Gemma Macdonald, a Grade 12 student from Toronto.
The event also features a skit called “Fix You,” and numerous praise and worship sessions with the help of the Canadian worship artist Chris Bray and Conner Flanagan, youth minister and professional recording artist.
Bishop Scott McCaig is the pastoral chaplain of the event and main celebrant of the day’s Adoration and closing Mass.
“The rally is like a religion retreat, but is much more spiritually intense,” said Maria Borsato, a high school chaplain. “Students need this powerful experience to increase their personal belief in Christ, to grow in their prayer life, to really seek God in their everyday life.”
Borsato said she takes about 40 students from St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Secondary School in Brampton every year.
“It is so encouraging to see the youth come back filled with joyful enthusiasm of Christ in the school hallways. I have really seen them grow in their faith and that inspires me in my vocation,” said Borsato.
(Quadros, 16, is a Grade 11 student at Holy Name of Mary Catholic Secondary School in Brampton, Ont.)