Most of the time, as a small group leader, you have one day to pour your energy, heart, and soul into the individual men and women that were placed in your care, not really knowing the full impact or impression you make. Sometimes, if you’re lucky, you get signs or general feelings of gratitude or growth, but more often than not, after doing all you can to love and guide them to conversion, you are left wondering if you helped them in any way to grow closer to Christ, let alone if they liked you or not. Nevertheless, you have one day to show Christ’s love to these young people...


Sunscreen? Check. Bug repellent? Check. Parka? Check. Hair dryer? Check. Winter boots? Not check because it’s July and stores just started selling their fall product selections. I was trying to anticipate what difficulties I might come across - I packed extra products in case I would be in a very rural area, brought my Aeropress, so that I don’t leave a chance for not having coffee, and downloaded a couple ebooks on my phone to keep engaged during long drives and downtime.

Other people also told me to prepare for conflicts with my team, the pain of separation from family and friends since our SIM cards are turned in, but I was completely blindsided by the systematic heartbreak that takes place at least twice a month. No one prepared me for how hard it would be to say goodbye to host families that welcomed us into their homes.

Since my wife Sara and I fast on Ash Wednesday, we decided to celebrate Valentine’s Day together last night.  We combined it with Mardi Gras and pigged out on pancakes and maple syrup in the spirit of celebrating and renewing our love for each other.  As the Fat Tuesday tradition goes, we feast and celebrate and use up ingredients that we will put away for the great fast of Lent.  Today we won’t be sharing in any of the chocolates, red wine or cinnamon hearts as many will on Valentine’s.  But this got me thinking - what if there is something to learn by having Ash Wednesday and Valentine’s on the same day?

I met Rachael at a grade 7 retreat in Okotoks, Alberta this past week. While I was introducing myself to the retreatants, I mentioned that, true to PEI stereotypes, I like potatoes. Upon hearing this, a hand shot up and a girl yelled “I love potatoes, too!”. In the moment, I was only thankful to have an energetic person in the group and so I was surprised later when I discovered that she was in my small group. Rachael didn’t talk a lot during our first couple of groups, but still, she was always smiling and you could almost feel the joy radiating off of her.

I went to a Catholic school for all of my primary and secondary education years.  While I had lots of fun and learned a lot, I wasn’t exposed to too many Catholic-Christians who would say their lives were 100% centred around Christ and the Church.  I was exposed to the Catholic religion less of a hardcore way and in more of an academic way. The problem wasn’t the fact that it was a more theoretical approach to Christianity – the problem was I didn’t know there was more to know, or that Jesus was someone you could know personally.  I thought I knew everything about Jesus.  And so did most of my peers.

And so there were lots of doubts, and few of us felt compelled to follow Him.

So here are five things I wish I could tell teens about Jesus that would help them understand why some people are utterly convicted to live a life centred on Him, and why maybe they could consider stepping closer to Him as well.

Being a local team here in Fort McMurray, we are able to visit two Catholic high schools twice a week and we have the opportunity to build good solid relationships with the students and share our faith, love and enthusiasm for Jesus.

This brings me to one particular encounter I’ve recently had with a couple students: I was talking with two great girls at one of the high schools and we first started talking about what NET is, why we’re here, and what we’re doing. As we continued to talk, our conversation turned to talking more about the randomest things of life!  After a while of random fun chatting, she asked if she could ask me a more personal question. She asked me if I have ever doubted God. After that question, our conversation was able to go deeper.

We all long for comfort. We long to feel loved, and to have things work out. We like things to be peaceful, and easy! But, what if I told you that we were not made for things to be easy, for things to always be great, to be comfortable?

Before NET, I had a very comfortable life. I was homeschooled my entire life, all the way through, until the end of grade 12! I had a great job that I was planning on growing in, and potentially making my career!  I had the freedom of my own car - I could go anywhere. I had the freedom to do almost anything I desired! I was comfortable with the way I had my life. But would this be the path that I’m called to walk towards heaven?

Have you ever felt like there is something seriously wrong in the world and you just don’t know what you can do about it? You see awful things happening, and they just keep happening. People keep making awful choices. Entire organisations and institutions rally around ideas and actions that are, well, evil.

Might God be giving you a prayer burden?

Today while I was at Mass for the Feast of All Saints, I realized that the Church is not JUST about evangelization.  

The priest prayed such a beautiful prayer during Mass that spoke of the great City of Saints that we are all walking towards as pilgrims on a journey.  What is the way to get to this great city?  It brought me back to the universal call that Saint John Paul II called us to at the beginning of the third millennium: the call to holiness.

God forms us and challenges us even when we know His will. It is awesome to look back at the responses of missionaries before embarking on their journeys.

Questions include, what they appreciate about NET training, who inspired them in their faith and if they have any secret talents.