At the beginning of the month, Pope Francis called on consecrated women and men to “wake up the world” and start promoting growth in the Church. He especially wanted to attract young people.
But for the Campus Ministry at St. Thomas University, this initiative wasn’t something new. This year, two representatives from St. Thomas will be a part of planning the national conference of the Canadian Catholic Students Association.
“This organization is a wonderful opportunity that allows Catholic students from different campuses all across Canada to be engaged in representing all the expressions of our Catholic faith,” third-year student Arianne Melara said. “And as Catholic students we want to fulfill our vocation as followers of Christ.”
Last year, the Atlantic Canada representatives were both elected from St. Thomas University, something that rarely happens.
Arianne Melara, international relations and economics student, was elected vice-president of the Canadian Catholic Students Association national executive two weekends ago during the first in-person meeting of the regional representatives in Toronto.
“I felt empowered after the meeting because it inspired me to assume the leadership role that I’m expected to accomplish,” Melara said.
Adam Blanchard, a first-year religious studies student, was elected administrative officer for the 2014 board of executives. Blanchard said this meeting played a large role in his leadership development and has provided him with a new spirit of enthusiasm based on service to others.
“Campus Ministry should not exist to force-feed people answers, but to help students ask the right questions,” Blanchard said. “We at St. Thomas are tremendously blessed to have an outstanding group led by Janice Ryan, not to mention our chaplain Father Don Savoie.”
The theme of this year’s national conference will be “Led by the Spirit” and it will take place in Edmonton from Oct. 16 to 19. The conference will include icebreaker activities, a Taizé prayer, spiritual retreats and guest speakers.
A different board of executives, whose members are initially elected in November by each region, coordinates and organizes the Canadian Catholic Students Association national conference every two years.
Melara and Blanchard are also organizing the upcoming Catholic Student Week from Feb. 2 to 9.
“It’s a week where each campus organizes activities and events to unite Catholic students and encourage them to be the best witnesses to the Gospel,” Melara said.
The Catholic Student Week is annually planned by the Campus Ministry of each university, in partnership with the Canadian Catholic Students Association, to profile and celebrate the many expressions of the Catholic faith.
This year at STU the event will include activities like a movie night to raise money for the homeless and the continuation of “Theology on Tap,” an activity organized by the Newman society, which seeks to merge literature and music to express the ecstasies of faith.
Melara, who is also the president of the Newman Society at STU, said this activity takes place twice a semester and is open to people from all faiths and beliefs.
She said the main point is to discuss topics that are pertinent to modern times, such as how religion is used to satisfy political purposes.
“The Newman Society sheds light on topics involving our religious beliefs, but through fields that are not evident to our minds,” Melara said. “Through our conversations we are allowed to open our souls and explore different perspectives, while having a glass of wine.”
Melara said the Campus Ministry also organizes at least three “inter-faith breakfasts” per semester, each one led by a different spiritual leader. In these events, guests post reflections on a particular faith and are encouraged to learn about it in a deeper way.
“Inter-faith breakfasts” in the past have included the Muslim, Bahai and Catholic faiths.
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