For Canadian Catholic youth, Rise Up is like a rock concert. It’s the place to be, the ideal place to share your faith and be inspired by other people’s.
This annual event organized by Catholic Christian Outreach (CCO) is one of the largest events of its kind in the country. Every December, the CCO national conference brings together 1,500 to 2,000 young adults, men and women, for 3 days in a different Canadian city each year.
During this pandemic year, such a gathering could simply have been cancelled. Thankfully, the 2020 event still took place, but virtually. From home, young Catholics from across Canada showed up in front of their computer screens wanting to continue the adventure.
This was also the case for several Franciscan friars who had participated in one conference or another in recent years. Some are regulars, such as Carlos Ona, who has been taking part in Rise Up since 2014. Joachim Yoon has also attended several times. Dan Gurnick was there again this year.
For the first time, Gabriel Lacerte also took part in the conference in 2020, which was held online. Impressed by the scope of the event, he found his time there very rewarding in terms of the shared experience with other participants. Rise Up gathers hundreds of young Catholics. Most are lay people, but also several young men and women from various religious congregations attended. Meeting other young adults who had made the same life choice was a very motivating experience for Gabriel.
For the friars, encountering Catholic student youth is the main motivation for attending Rise Up.
The idea is to take the pulse of the youth. To see and feel what’s going on. To rub shoulders with participants from all walks of life. To do this, they attend presentations, join discernment sessions, mingle with the crowd, listen to personal faith testimonies and participate in liturgies.
Promoting Franciscan life is also an important aspect of their participation. That is why they usually set up a booth promoting the Franciscan charism and encouraging lively discussions with the friars. Talking about the Franciscan vocation is what motivates Dan Gurnick. He loves supporting a young person who is asking questions and he journeys with him through his discernment. For him, talking about the adventure of faith is mutually enriching. “I like the event because it nourishes young adults in their faith.”
Listening to the friars describe their Rise Up experiences over time, you can sense the buzz that happens during these events. The excitement of the youth is palpable. So is their energy and vitality.
Carlos Ona sums up the type of energy released that he has witnessed at Rise Up. “You will see how many young people are on fire and inspired to make a difference in this world.”
Being in contact with youth who attended Rise Up in 2020 meant finding new ways to communicate with them and especially to hold their attention. Carlos Ona had the idea of using modern communication tools to keep in touch with this large pool of young believers. “I created a chat room on Zoom and I posted the link on the Rise Up Conference Chat so people could see it. I was surprised to see how many people popped in and visited the chat room. It was very interesting.”