March 2007 - Vol. 6
“reaching young people with the life-transforming message of the Gospel and raising up new leaders for the future”
by Gordy DeMarais
Many great movements originate with young people"Men and Women wanted for hazardous mission. Small wages. Bitter cold. Little sleep. Constant danger. Great reward in case of success." So read the recruitment banner ad inviting young adults to sign up for one of St. Paul's Outreach missionionary corps training programs! St. Paul's Outreach (SPO) began 20 years ago in St. Paul, Minnesota, USA, as a Catholic evangelistic outreach to university students and young adults. Since its beginning in 1985, SPO has trained hundreds of young adults to lead evangelistic outreach programs that have ministered to thousands of young adults on university campuses throughout the USA. Gordy DeMarais, the Executive Director for St. Paul's Outreach (SPO), explains what motivates hundreds of young people today to join SPO in its missionary outreach to young people throughout the USA.
The culture which surrounds our young people presents a real hindrance to the greatness God intends for every human being. It turns young people selfishly inward – enticing them not to live for some great purpose – or some great cause – but for themselves.
The great energy and vision of youth is directed instead toward the pursuit of illicit pleasures, such as sexual immorality, pornography, fornication, alcohol and drug abuse. And towards the pursuit of shallow material things – wealth for its own sake, possessions, luxury. Our young people are fed constantly the message – You are on your own. You need to fight to get your way. Other human beings are simply there to help me advance my own cause. They are objects for my own self-gratification – to be discarded when they are no longer useful.
It’s a counterfeit message. It promises seem so enticing. But it’s empty at its core. It cannot fulfill. It doesn’t deliver what it promises. The human heart knows – by God’s design – that it is made for a greatness and a love that transcends all this world affords. The pursuit of empty things leaves our youth depressed, despairing, and afraid.
of God's infinite love
University students need living witnesses of the infinite love of God. They need strong environments of support to grow in faith and character. They need the love and encouragement of like-minded peers. They need some great cause – some great vision – to which they can dedicate their lives.
St. Paul's Outreach (SPO) is a response to this need. Our mission is to engage young adults in a life of Christian discipleship.
How do we do it? Each year SPO trains young adults to be missionaries in the new evangelization. These missionaries go out onto college campuses and share with their peers the new life that is found in Christ. The most effective way to reach young people is to engage them in the places where they live, work, attend school, recreate, socialize. These Catholic missionaries are trained in relational evangelization. This work of evangelization most often occurs in the normal circumstances of daily life: meeting for coffee, playing basketball in the gym; studying for an exam, having dinner in an SPO household, going to Mass, living in the dorm. In these relationships and life lived in the ordinary circumstances of each day – these missionaries give witness to the hope and joy found in Christ alone.
an environment that calls young people to conversion and maturity
I am often asked: well tell me what is SPO’s program? I answer: SPO sponsors many events and programs. But more importantly, what SPO does is foster an environment that calls young people to conversion, calls people to maturity, and strongly supports them in living as disciples of Jesus Christ.
Pope John Paul II proposed that one of the great challenges facing the church today is the separation between faith and daily living. SPO bridges this gap. Through a network of relationships and a pattern activities young people are taught how to live the Christian life in all circumstances of life and are supported in living that life.
SPO fosters a school of love – a place where young people are taught that the meaning of life is found only in giving my life away – daily, in very simple, practical, most times hidden ways.
a life of service and mission
SPO trains young adults for a life of service, mission, and dedicated Christian living in the various states of life to which God calls them. With 20 years of history we see the results of some of the transformation that occurs in lives given over to God:
Raising up more laborers in the Lord's vineyard
- Some 60 young people who have participated in our programs are now priests and religious serving God’s people with their lives – bringing renewal to the orders and groups to which they belong.
- Many many married couples – some of whom are now parenting teens – are calling their children to the same radical dedication that they embraced.
- Many people serve in their local churches in full time ministry or in teaching positions. And others are transforming culture in their work places.
The need is great. Hardly a week goes by where I don’t receive a phone call or letter or email from someone – asking for help, training, and missionaries. “I don’t know what you have going on in St. Paul – but whatever it is we need it.”
In addition to chapters in St. Paul, Minneapolis, and Northfield in Minnesota, SPO has recently establish a chapter in Columbus,Ohio. In just a few short years, the SPO chapter in Columbus has four households and ten missionaries working with students from Ohio State University and Ohio Dominican University. SPO is one of the founding organizations in the North America of Kairos-intl, the international youth movement of The Sword of the Spirit. SPO works closely with University Christian Outreach to help various communities in the region establish university outreach, particularly in Catholic situations. Last summer SPO in collaboration with University Christian Outreach trained over 120 young missionaries in a two week intensive program in youth and university outreach. In summer of 2007, SPO plans to continue its School of the New Evangelization with its three tracks: Disciple Training Academy (DTA) for basic conversion; Campus Outreach Academy (COA) to train university outreach workers; and Leadership Academy to train senior leaders in our university work. UCO will inaugurate its own version of COA!
Our vision for the future is to be generous with what the Lord has given us, to reach many more young people with the life-transforming message of the Gospel, and to raise up a generation of new leaders who will change the world in which they live.
To learn more about St. Paul's Outreach programs and chapters throughout the USA, please visit their website at: http://www.spoweb.org/
[Gordy DeMarais is the Executive
Director for St. Paul's Outreach
(SPO) and a coordinator of the Community
of Christ the Redeemer in St. Paul, Minnesotta, USA. Gordy and
his wife Teresa have six children. Their oldest son Peter is serving on
a one-year GAP mission program in Belfast, Northern Ireland.]