Above all else, I think that a sense of belonging and feeling loved is the one thing that we all crave as humans.
We yearn to belong, to be accepted, and to be taken as we are. We look for people to support us and help us grow into better people every single day.
I had been thinking a lot about that over the past week.
Recently, I had the opportunity to participate in a broadcast of a cross-Canada dialogue regarding the upcoming Synod of Bishops in October 2018. The name of this Synod (which is a meeting of Catholic bishops to advise the Pope on particular matters that are pertinent to the Church) is called “Young People, the Faith, and Discernment”. Though I didn’t get to speak during the broadcast, the ideas and points that I heard from other young Catholics from across the country had me thinking about my identity in the Catholic church.
A post shared by RCAV Youth Ministry (@archvanyouthmin) on Oct 10, 2017 at 1:42pm PDT
Did I truly belong? Was I truly a member of the Church? Did I see myself as a daughter of God, in the universal church?
To put it in perspective, at the time of writing this there are ~7.6 billion people in the world. Of those, according to the Pontifical Yearbook 2017, there was ~ 1.285 billion as of December 31, 2015. Almost two years later, I am hopeful that this number has grown by a bit.
Case to point: there are a lot of us out in the world. So in a body so large, how can one possibly feel like they belong?
I’m here to say that you most certainly can – because you do. He loves you.
I didn’t get here on my own though – I have a whole movement to thank.
When I started my life at SFU, I had gotten to a point where I was practicing my faith out of obligation.
It hurts to admit now, especially since I have finally gotten a place where I am the complete opposite of who I was almost 4 years ago.
Though I felt this indifference and apathy towards a faith that I had serious doubts about, there was something inside of me that was pushing me to find people who were ‘like-minded’ like me. I use that term loosely, since I wasn’t really convicted about the faith that I was supposedly following.
I found Catholic Christian Outreach (CCO) one fall afternoon on campus. They drew me in with their smiling faces and colourful banner. I talked to the people behind the booth for a bit, numbly nodding along, and suddenly found myself taking part in a faith study.
I definitely learned new things and reinforced other things. Through it all, I saw myself as a participant of this club.
But when it came to taking part in other events, I was apprehensive and fearful.
I had tried various youth groups through Church growing up.
Perhaps if any of those worked out for me, I wouldn’t have been so indifferent to my faith once I found myself on the cusp of complete secularism.
One of the things that I feared was the fact that I would feel out-of-place. I feared that I would have to pretend to be someone who I wasn’t. Because what I found was that a lot of these people who were at these groups were really into their faith. This was something that I was not at the time.
I found myself in an identity crisis that led me to standing awkwardly off to the side of different events that I went to. I would have a conversation or two, but most of my time was spent counting down the minutes until it was time to leave, or worse, looking for the most efficient escape route.
I didn’t feel like I belonged.
So back to CCO. I felt like I would run into the same issue – people talking about the Holy Spirit, how often they prayed, all the times when God intervened miraculously in their lives – I didn’t have any of those talking points down. I wasn’t really sure where God was in my life, if at all, I had no prayer schedule other than mandatory prayer time with my family, and I couldn’t even begin to tell you about what or who the Holy Spirit is.
This all changed when I found myself lower than I could ever imagine, and I showed up against all odds at Rise Up, CCO’s annual national conference.
That was a game-changing moment for me, and you can read more about it here. Believe me when I say that I talk about this moment A LOT.
How do all of these things fit together? And why does it matter?
In CCO, I found a sense of community that allowed me to be myself. I didn’t have to pretend like I knew the Bible inside out or that I had everything figured out, because I was surrounded by people who accepted me for where I was in my life. They offered to journey with me as I made my way around the bible and learned more about myself.
In the same way, the community helped me to accept who I was and that God loved me regardless of what I had done in my past. My past is indeed my past, and it is through Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection that I am saved and healed.
This is the sense of belonging that I found. And when I was thinking about youth and young adults in the Church and how many people among me may not feel the same sense of belonging that I have found, it broke my heart a little bit.
If you are questioning your faith, I would encourage you to seek out a community – CCO or others – to help you work through your doubts. Believe me when I say that there are legions of people who want to help you grow.
I write this on CCO’s birthday.
Thank you to the community that I have found at SFU, thank you to all the staff and fellow community members, and thank you to the entire movement. I don’t think I would have found my faith and God if it wasn’t for you.
Happy birthday, CCO! May God continue to bless the movement abundantly.
Want to learn more about CCO and how you can get involved? Check them out here!
Want to see your girl on TV? Just kidding, that shouldn’t be why! But the broadcast I was mentioning at the beginning of this post is the Salt and Light TV broadcast of the cross-Canada dialogue on the Synod of Bishops, upcoming in 2018. You can learn more about the broadcast – and watch it on demand on October 22 – here!
Lead image and body images credit to Laura Jensen!