It was called the Rise Up conference, but it could just as easily have been called the Speak Up.
More than 600 young people from across Canada attended the annual Catholic Christian Outreach (CCO) national conference Dec. 28-Jan. 1, listening to messages from speakers that were meant to motivate and inspire them to spread God’s word.
It began with Archbishop Michael Miller on the opening night, as he reminded the 18 to 35-year-old crowd that God has a unique calling for each of them.
“You are called by name for mission,” he said, reminding them of the conference theme of “called by name” from Isaiah 49. He invited them to discover how God is calling them personally.
Speaker Jake Khym, a life counsellor, picked up on the theme by telling attendees that “there’s a God who longs to encounter us and to speak to us by name.”
Once we have been called, the next step is bringing the good news of Jesus to others. Putting that into practice was the topic of the second day of the conference.
Dr. Mary Healy, a professor of Sacred Scripture at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit and a member of the Pontifical Biblical Commission, said the time for business as usual is past because Catholic Churches are failing to evangelize. Only six per cent of Catholics make it a priority to evangelize, she said, and just three per cent of parishes believe they are actually evangelizing.
Healy urged students to become engaged with the Holy Spirit. Only by the clothing of God’s power can we accomplish the mission of bringing Him to others, she said.
“If we are proclaimers of the Kingdom of God it can’t just be words. It has to be power,” Healy said.
To use this power, we have to give Him an unqualified yes to send us out to others, she said.
During a night of worship and prayer, students were invited to pray for deliverance from a fear that’s holding them back from God. Students were encouraged to text two friends and set a time in the coming weeks to share with them what God has done for them at this conference.
“God took ordinary people who had profound encounters with His Son Jesus and sent them out,” said Christy Dupuis, a former CCO missionary. She said we must not give into the fear that comes from God’s mission, but rather must hold fast to what they know is true.
CCO hosts this annual national conference for its campus ministries across Canada. Its mission is to evangelize students and help them become leaders for the renewal of the world.
The conference is known for kicking off the New Year with a praise and worship concert at the stroke of midnight after a dinner dance.
Next year’s conference will be held in Ottawa.