Thursday August 21, 2014

Faith retreats inspire Catholic students


Masson Normand, founder of Pulse, illustrates the meaning of Bible stories using a volunteer.

 - St. Alphonsus’ School Students participate in an activity dubbed “Pirate Ship” designed to illustrate the nature of God’s love. -

St. Alphonsus’ School Students participate in an activity dubbed “Pirate Ship” designed to illustrate the nature of God’s love.

Contrary to popular perception, membership in the Roman Catholic Church is not in decline. Even in socially liberal Canada, numbers are holding steady, partially buoyed by immigration, particularly from the Philippines.

Based on the 2011 census, StatsCan reported Catholics are still by far the largest Christian denomination in the country at 39 per cent Although numbers are still strong, the Church does struggle with relevancy, especially among younger people.

In a 2010 Ipsos-Reid poll of 13,376 self-indentified Catholics, nearly 80 per cent said they attended mass less than once a month. Only 14 per cent reported going to church weekly.

The challenge is similar for Ukrainian Catholics too. During his September 2012 visit to Yorkton, His Beatitude Patriarch Sviatoslov Shevchuk, told Yorkton This Week that part of the solution is technological.

"According to the teaching of the Catholic Church, modern technology is very helpful for the evangelization because with the modern technology we can speak more widely to our people," he said. "Not only to those who are present in the Church, but we can reach them in their homes. It is why mass media today we consider very important tools for the new evangelization."

Masson Normand is an enthusiastic, twenty-something worship leader from Saskatoon putting that philosophy to work in schools across the province. Normand founded an organization called Pulse ( that he says is dedicated to connecting kids with their faith by leading lively events in schools to empower students.

"We've got to meet the students where they're at," he said. "Right now, they're being bombarded with media and loud sounds and that kind of thing so you've got to speak their language. We use a lot of video and multimedia and technology in our presentation to kind of capture their attention, to really let that message sink in in a language they're familiar with."

Normand was in the Yorkton area for the last two weeks touring Christ the Teacher Catholic Schools (CTTCS) elementary schools with what the division called "faith retreats." Normand and colleagues used live music, videos and interactive activities to engage the students with their faith.

"Essentially it's uniting education with Christ," he explained. "We really believe that educating our students isn't just about math and science and those important things, but inviting God into each area of our life because He's got a great plan and purpose for our life and kind of reminding students of that."

According to St. Aphonsus' School principal Quinn Haider, it's a formula that works.

"It's presented in a unique way," he said. "The three gentlemen here have talents that, quite frankly, I don't have so the fact they have these God-given gifts to share with kids and get kids excited about things they often aren't excited about, that's very powerful."

Normand recognizes, however, that it is an on-going process. This is the third year Pulse has visited CTTCS schools.

"It's been a great school division, the response is tremendous," he said. "The students are always responsive, but when you get to kind of develop a relationship over the past three years, it kind of builds onto each other."

And then there's the follow-up between visits. Pulse sends out some 200 text messages every day reminding kids to pray and keep Christ close and uses a wide social media strategy to stay connected.

"We do have a presence on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, all those things, building community with the students and kind of keeping them inspired every day," he said.



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