Last year, I started this website to have an online presence, a digital footprint and as part of my efforts to evangelize. Thanks to this website, I have been convinced at how powerful a digital portfolio can be. From time to time, I like to surf my own website, re-reading the old posts. By reading the older content, I can see areas of improvement in my writing but also the progress I have made.
During these last moments of 2017, I sit back to reflect on the top 5 moments of this year.
1. Lift Jesus Higher Rally – In March of 2017, several youth from Vietnamese Martyrs Parish had the chance to go to Lift Jesus Higher Youth Rally at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. The theme chosen was, “I am the way, the truth and the life,” from John 14:6. I really enjoyed the Praise and Worship sessions led by Chris Bray and his team. To me, it was a repeat of the amazing moments I had at Steubenville Toronto in 2016. There were three talks, each was titled according to the theme of the rally, but Connor Flanagan’s talk, “The Life,” seemed to linger with me the most even to this day. Connor Flanagan himself seemed to have, “The Life,” in him as he sung his Christian Songs with a rap embedded in it… seemed quite attractive to me. Connor sung, “Strong Is Your Love” live, which I love:
2. Student Council Vice-Presidency – May 2016, Chaminade Student Council ’15-’16 hosted their elections for the ’16-’17 term. To my surprise, I was elected as its vice-president for this school year. I see it as a call for me to serve, which I wrote a reflection about it here, and also column about this topic in the Catholic Register, YSN section. Being part of my school’s student council has given me an opportunity to serve others and I am grateful for this gift.
3. Steubenville Toronto 2017 – I was blessed this past July to be able to attend Steubenville Toronto again, this time with new speakers: Katie Hartfiel, Pete Burds, Cooper Ray, with Chris Padgett, Fr. Rick Martignetti as team priest and music ministry by Josh Blakesley, Sarah Kroger and their band. However, this Steubenville Toronto to me was a different experience, not only because of the new speakers, but I also got to meet new people and foster some friendships. At the conference, I met a priest who i have only met for the first time at a Mass at Chaminade only at the end of June, but had the chance to see him again at Steubenville. Fr. Jim Berning S.D.B. is his name, and he is a member of the Salesians of Don Bosco. That connection with him will continue on you read this blog post. I also had the chance at Steubenville to foster my relationships with members of our Parish’s Youth Groups. Ultimately, Steubenville Toronto fostered my relastionship with Christ and my faith.
It seemed to me as my grade 10 Religion class prepared me for this conference. The topic of relativism, faith and reason was spoken about quite a bit in Religion class. I became quite interested in finding flaws in relativism. Interestingly the conference’s speakers seemed to address this indirectly. Chris Padgett said more than once, “God’s not a feeling. God’s a person”. Then in Cardinal Collins’ Homily, he said that faith and reason go together. There were probably many more statements like that throughout the conference, but I will go in depth in a future post.
4. Knights of the Eucharist Retreat – I was blessed to attend a Knights of the Eucharist Retreat hosted by Vietnamese Eucharistic Movement Eastern Canada. I enjoyed meeting people my age from many different regions of Eastern Canada: Scarborough, Hamilton, Kitchener-Waterloo, Windsor and Ottawa. We have all come to strengthen our faith and our Lord in the Eucharist. We were blessed to have four priests, one deacon, one seminarian and many youth leaders during the retreat days. Though the food was good and there were a lot of fun moments, what I enjoyed most were the moments of prayer, Mass and Adoration. I was especially moved by Adoration on the second night with the songs and the Confession that I had. I didn’t feel any tensions or distractions. Everything was centred on Christ at Adoration which I found to be beautiful. I hope to have the same experiences next year.
5. Salesian Leadership Retreat – At the end of November, myself along with two guys and one of the chaplains from Chaminade went on a retreat, known as Salesian Leadership Retreat (SLR). The Salesian order is a religious order founded by St. Don Bosco in which he focused on the development of youth and their education. Many students from the different areas of Toronto and from far as Cornwall, Ontario. I knew none of the retreatants, but the retreat days lead me to know so many new people and developed some good friendships, that I hope will last a lifetime. Interestingly, the chaplain of the retreat was no other than Fr. Jim Berning S.D.B. It seemed like the first encounter I had with Fr. Jim way back in June prepared me for this retreat.
I am aware that some readers may attend SLR in the future, so therefore I will not spoil anything here. However, if any senior in secondary school whose school brings a group to this retreat, I strongly encourage it! It is not only fun and engaging, but I have learned a lot of leadership skills that you cannot learn simply from a textbook.
I have been to quite a few retreats and conferences this year, including those not listed here. This new year, I will take what I have learned this past year and apply it at school and parish.
Thank you to everyone of you who have journeyed with me this year. Be assured of my prayers for you. To all blog readers, thank you for your support!
Good-bye 2017 and hello 2018!!!