Forum for National Catholic Associations: Catholic Witness in Today’s World

Thursday, June 05 2003

(CCCB – Ottawa) – Thirty participants from 18 national Catholic associations and organizations recently attended the annual Forum for National Associations in Ottawa, sponsored by the Episcopal Commission for Relations with Associations of Clergy, Consecrated Life and Laity of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB).

Rev. William Ryan, S.J.The annual forum, held on May 30-31, heard from former CCCB General Secretary Rev. William Ryan, S.J., who led the participants in a discussion on being a Catholic witness in today’s world.

“The basic challenge for Catholics today,” said Father Ryan, “is to become, with the help of God’s Spirit, grateful enough, free enough, humble enough, letting go enough to be able to see and read clearly the signs of the times in us, and around us so that our world vision may become that of Christ.”

He said Catholics, if they want to be authentic witnesses, must be open to the world around them to be able to discern the work of the Holy Spirit in all things and all people.

“Our constant prayer should be that Christ may give us the grace to continue to search out his risen presence and action in ourselves, in every person and circumstance, in all creation, and especially in our Church, with sincerity, with patience, with humility, with generosity, and with endless hope and joy,” he told the participants.

Dr. Richard Haughian, of the Catholic Health Association of Canada, remarked that in order to be effective witnesses, Catholics must first establish trust with those with whom they interact. “Until people trust you,” he said, “you can’t preach the Gospel in this secular world.”

Rick Benson of the Canadian Catholic Campus Ministry said another important element was to “listen to those outside of our usual circles and then be open to finding that the Holy Spirit may very well be active there. This insight will change us in the way we view the action of the Holy Spirit.”

Also attending the weekend forum were the four members of the Commission: Archbishop Brendan O’Brien, St. John’s (Chairman); Archbishop Roger Ébacher, Gatineau-Hull, Archbishop André Gaumond, Sherbrooke; and Auxiliary Bishop John Boissonneau, Toronto.

“An important element of the witnessing,” Archbishop O’Brien told the Forum, “is being able to discover where God’s call is in the events and circumstances around us. At the heart of witnessing is carrying on the mission of Jesus. What is difficult is being able to discern where that mission is today.”

Archbishop Ébacher remarked that the role of the Holy Spirit is essential when Catholics act as witnesses. “We receive the same Spirit as Jesus did. This breaks all barriers and we become united with Jesus Christ,” he said.

The annual Forum allows the national associations and the Episcopal Commission to share common preoccupations and discuss the activities of their organizations. This year the Forum was held at the Motherhouse of the Sisters of Charity in Ottawa and brought together the following associations: the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities in Canada, L’Association des Scouts du Canada, Canadian Catholic Campus Ministry, Canadian Catholic Student Association, Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace, Canadian Catholic School Trustees’ Association, Canadian Religious Conference, Catholic Health Association of Canada, the Catholic Women’s League of Canada, Canadian Conference of Secular Institutes, Faith and Light, Movement of Christian Women, National Federation of Presbyteral Councils, the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul in Canada, Ascending Life in Canada, and the Ukrainian Catholic Council, and the Catholic Organization for Life and Family.