CCCB Forum for National Associations: Catholic Church Called to “Launch Out into the Deep”

Thursday, June 06 2002

(CCCB – Ottawa) Thinking the unimaginable is the message that underscored this year’s annual forum for national Catholic associations sponsored by the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops which was held in Ottawa, May 31-June 1.

Father Richard Cote, O.M.I.
Father Richard Côté, O.M.I.

Representatives from 20 Catholic organizations, including the Catholic Women’s League, Development and Peace and the Knights of Columbus took part in the Forum organized by the Episcopal Commission for Relations with Associations of Clergy, Consecrated Life and the Laity.

The theme of this year’s forum Launch Out into the Deep was taken from Pope John Paul II’s Apostolic Letter Novo Millenio Ineunte , issued at the beginning of the third millennium. Given the challenges that the Catholic Church and its Catholic associations are facing, the theme acted as a catalyst, inviting Christians to move into the unknown and take risks.

Father Richard Côté, O.M.I., director of the CCCB theology office, began the discussion by suggesting that one must move purposely toward Christian creativity. “To be creative is to do something new with two things that have no apparent connection. Jesus was a great creator. Many times he associated two unrelated concepts to develop a new extraordinary idea, for example, the link between loving God and loving your neighbour.”

Father Côté suggested Christians must succeed in identifying the signs of the Holy Spirit in others and in themselves. “The Spirit creator is a kind of divine imagination. The Spirit is the very source of all Christian creativity. And creativity consists of making connections.”

Archbishop André Gaumond of Sherbrooke, a member of Episcopal Commission, agreed with Father Côté, saying “One of the fundamental tasks of our Church today is to make connections and, in order to do this, we have to revisit the way faith is passed onto the younger generations.” He suggested that “we are called anew to this task, even if we have to face crises or various problems. The future of our Church rests with our ability to launch out into the deep.”

Many of the national associations talked about the challenges they face as they “launch out into the deep” that will require changes. Development and Peace wishes to be more “cool” with young people. The Catholic Women’s League is seeking growth in personal faith life and community engagement through small Christian communities. The Canadian Religious Conference (CRC) is reflecting on its very future. CRC General Secretary Sister Jocelyne Fallu, F.D.L.S., said, “By 2015, the CRC will have 14,000 members, down from the current 26,000 members, and, of those, 10 percent will be under 65 years of age. We have to look at the structure of an organization such as ours and be attentive to the signs of the Holy Spirit.”

Other Episcopal Commission members attending the Forum included Archbishop Brendan O’Brien of St. John’s, Archbishop Roger Ébacher of Gatineau-Hull and Toronto Auxiliary Bishop John Boissonneau. Bishop Boissonneau recalled that the obligation to launch out into the deep and to evangelize is the responsibility of all the baptised, not just “experts”.

The national associations responded to this call to creativity and inventiveness enthusiastically. Despite the difficulties and uncertainty that change often engenders, they left the Forum buoyed with optimism and hope. “We mustn’t allow ourselves to be deterred by the difficulties,” said Richard Haughian of the Catholic Health Association of Canada. “If we really believe, then our creativity will help us overcome any difficulty.”

The annual Forum allows the national associations and the Episcopal Commission to share common preoccupations and discuss the activities of their organizations. It also provides a place to discuss the Commission priorities. This year the Forum brought together the following associations: Knights of Columbus, Canadian Catholic School Trustees Association, Catholic Health Association of Canada, the Association des Scouts du Canada, Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities of Canada, Canadian Association of Ministries Programs, Catholic Women’s League of Canada, Conférence Canadienne des Instituts Séculiers, the Canadian Religious Conference, Foi et Lumière, le Mouvement des Femmes Chrétiennes, Canadian Catholic Campus Ministry/Canadian Catholic Students Association, Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace, Catholic Organization for Life and Family, Saint Vincent de Paul Society, the Ukrainian Catholic Council of Canada and Vie Montante.