CCO Founder drives 600 km to help "Revive Espanola"
I was asked earlier this week why would I (very busy schedule) travel 600 KM by car, alone to give a talk to 35 people from a small little parish in Espanola ON. Well, let me tell you! With a mindset of spiritual multiplication I go where the one person is, not necessarily the crowds. It is in the one person that the real potential for impact is found. I went to Espanola to support one of our students who took it upon her self to lead a summer mission “revive Espanola” (similar to impact Canada) in her home parish. She invited two other CCO students to join her for the summer. During the day they would work and at night and weekends they would plan and lead weekly bible studies, weekend retreats, training, Eucharistic adoration and personal formation etc. Unaware of how effective the mission was, as the founder of CCO I felt the responsibility to support such a bold initiative. After only spending two days in Espanola I can say with great joy and confidence that they have accomplished their mission to “revive” the parish. Let me explain from my point of view, the success of this summer mission. I saw the first fruits of the mission by spending the evening with the three students missionaries. I asked a lot of questions not about the mission but about them personally. What was their highlight? What was most difficult and challenging? What did theylearn about themselves? Etc. The words of JP2 “the Church’s missionary spirituality is a journey to holiness” proved to be true for these young Catholic missionaries. They shared with me how throughout the summer they constantly had to deal with long standing fears, doubts, and anxieties. As they looked back on the summer they saw how God gave them the grace and courage to begin to confront these fears and anxieties as they engaged daily in the work of the mission. As I listened to there experiences I became more convinced that we need to do more then speak and challenge young people to be “Holy”. We must make it our priority to send them out to actively share their faith with others. It is in the mission field that God can fashion and mold them into his image and breath his Holiness into them. After spending intimate time with these young missionaries I still did not know how the summer mission turned out. Based on how and what they were sharing my impressionwas that the summer was not as fruitful as they hoped it would be. The next night I went to the final event that I was asked to speak at with low expectations; few people and little interest to continue the mission. The first people I meet where long standing faithful members of the parish. They shared with me how they loved the simplicity and clarity of the discovery study. She was most impressed with the bridge analogy that explained Jesus as savior. She lamented on how so few Catholics would actually know and relate to Jesus in this way. The second person I encountered described how she experienced a profound conversion as she came to understand that God loved her personally. It does not end there, an elderly lady approached me with determination as she aggressively broke through the crowd. Once she got my attention she shared how she has always been faithful and actively involved in the Charismatic renewal. Going through the discovery faith study she came to understand for the first time that Jesus died for her personally and only because of him could she go to heaven. I have heard this many times from people with similar experiences of long time faithful people going through the study. We must never assume because they are present and involved in the parish that they have experienced Jesus personally in their lives. Before I spoke they had 4 people get up and share their testimonies on how they encountered Godover the summer. I sat in amazement as I was witnessing all around me people who were profoundly impacted by this simple summer mission led by three students. I started my talk by asking the question, how have you seen this mission impacting the parish? “New people coming”, was the first answer. Another was how people were “talking to each other” at Mass. Others observed that people were singing more at mass. Are not these signs a parish being “revived”. Again it is amazing that this is happening over “one summer” with the work of “three young students”. However exciting it was to hear how lives have changed and the parish is coming alive, for the missionaries the job is not done. The purpose of “revive Espanola” was to leave a legacy of missionary outreach in the parish. The mission was only a success if what started in the summer would continue in the fall and beyond. To do that they had to intentionally equip and empower a team that would continue the mission. That night the parish priest blessed and commissioned three people with this responsibility. To my further amazement there were 15 to 20 people that night ready to join the team and lead a discovery faith study in the fall. We are talking about 40 to 50 people in a small Catholic Parish in the middle of nowhere experiencing a profound encounter with Jesus Christ. A significant number of them are ready and equipped to go get more people. This parish has been revived. The lesson to be learned is that a long drive to speak to small group of people can prove to be worth the time and effort. Parish renewal does not have to be a complicated and long process. It only takes a few to impact the many. If you want to know more about the discovery study go to Leadingdiscovery.ca