By Kiply Lukan Yaworski
[SASKATOON] – While a Synod on Youth was underway at the Vatican, in the diocese of Saskatoon, a group of young people was also being challenged to take up their Catholic faith through a deeper commitment to Jesus Christ.
For the fourth year in a row, youth of high school age from across the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon gathered at Bishop James Mahoney High School and the adjacent St. Anne Catholic Church for the Search retreat. This year, Bishop Mark Hagemoen took on the role of chaplain, journeying with 22 youth through the Search experience, as he provided spiritual direction, celebrated sacraments and led prayer.
“You and I have been part of the beginning of a paradigm shift,” the bishop told the Search graduates during his homily at a concluding Sunday Eucharist Oct. 14, 2018, which also included former Search participants, families and community members.
It is a paradigm shift that offers a wider, and truer understanding of the reality of God’s love, and the realization that Jesus Christ is always calling us to something deeper, the bishop said, quoting words of Saint Pope John Paul II: “We are not the sum of our weaknesses and failures; we are the sum of the Father’s love for us and our real capacity to become the image of His Son.”
Reflecting on the canonization of Saint Oscar Romero earlier that day in Rome, Hagemoen noted how the martyred Archbishop of San Salvador underwent a paradigm shift, as he grew into his role of shepherd of a people wracked by a violent civil war.
Similarly, the Rich Young Man of the Sunday Gospel is challenged by Jesus to go deeper into living his faith. This challenge to “be rich in God and allow God to be in control” is not easy, he acknowledged.
Bishop Hagemoen then reiterated the call of one Search presenter to consider the real possibilities that grow from the paradigm shift that the Gospel holds out to us: “What if you didn’t have to be afraid of failure or have a fear of missing out – including fears regarding your future – because God holds your life? What if you could live bravely through your life, watching challenge after challenge, knowing that in Him there would always be victory, even at the cross?”
Hagemoen urged the Search participants to continue their journey, and to think of the conclusion of the retreat as a beginning. “Let the journey continue, because frankly, if the journey doesn’t continue in your life, you won’t be happy; you won’t be satisfied, because you are people who hunger and thirst for what is right and what is true.”
The revival of Search retreats in the diocese of Saskatoon is having an impact as each new group goes forth, and then continues the faith journey sparked by a deeper realization that who they are is defined by God’s love, says Colm Leyne, coordinator of Youth Ministry in the diocese of Saskatoon, who works with a large team of former Search participants and volunteers to organize the weekend.
“I think one of my favourite experiences of Search is the sharing with the parents at the end,” he said. “It is powerful just to see the tears in the parents’ eyes, as they realize how loved their children are by God, and that they are not alone in that journey either,” said Leyne. The fruits of the Search retreat spills out into deeper commitment to faith and service, and at times visibly impacts families who return to Church or take up their faith more actively, he noted.
Two former “Searchers” helping with the latest weekend retreat were siblings Cascilla and Jaiden Christopher, who recently shared their testimony as part of the 2018 Bishop’s Annual Appeal.
Search has changed her life and deepened her faith, said Cascilla. “Faith really makes a difference in my life: in the way that I interact with others, with more of a focus on loving them the way that Christ loves them, rather than a selfish love of seeing what can they give me.”
Jaiden added that faith changes everything. “It changes the way you look at the world. It changes your priorities. If it wasn’t for faith I wouldn’t be volunteering at the church or considering priesthood as a vocation, but the love that Jesus has for us, and the eternal importance of living with Him, helps me to see the value in serving Him, and in serving His people and helping others come to know Him the way I have been blessed to come to know Him.”