Five years ago, on a cold winter night, the St. Francis Xavier Chaplaincy was fittingly born in a small yet beautiful church. I remember watching Bishop McGrattan and Fr. Cristino process down the aisle at St. Bernard’s church, and giving thanks for the great turnout of 60-120 young adults.
Last week on Sunday, January 21, 2024, I witnessed the fruits of this once small community as we celebrated the 5-year anniversary of the St. Francis Xavier Chaplaincy at St. Mary’s Cathedral. This time, the turnout was not just 120 young adults, but over 500, and we were blessed with not just one chaplain, but four!
As I watched familiar faces come into the Cathedral and then later into the hall for a joyous reception with our Bishop, I reflected on how much our community has embodied the spirit of this Pastoral Renewal that our good Shepherd has embarked us on. I caught a glimpse of a friend who had just entered the Church last Easter and gave thanks for our co-laborers in Catholic Christian Outreach (CCO) who have helped us welcome 90+ young adults into the Church through our RCIA program over the last 5 years.
We are witnessing in real time the forming of missionary disciples in our community. I turned my head and saw a young family with their newborn and praised God for the marriages and families that have come out of SFXC. The joyous laughter, warm smiles and great conversations filling the hall reminded me how the Holy Spirit has been working powerfully to create a welcoming community; creating a haven for young adults to first encounter Christ and his Church. This community will then go out and hopefully be a shining witness of His love to the rest of our Diocese and the world.
All the fruits that SFXC has borne would not have been possible without the faithful leadership of our chaplain, Fr. Cristino Bouvette. I had the chance to speak with him on the last 5 years and all that God has done in our community.
Here are some snippets from our conversation.
How has God surprised you with this ministry?
Fr. Cristino: I had no doubt when we got the chaplaincy going that there would be a positive response, but I never could have foreseen the speed at which the community would grow to the size and activity level it already has.
How has working with SFXC impacted you personally in the past 5 years?
Fr. Cristino: It has been pretty exhausting to advance this vision, especially keeping things going during the very difficult challenges which covid presented, and the six months of absence I effectively had from overseeing the operation during preparations for the papal visit, but despite all those things, people continuously came forward to help the community grow and thrive. It has profoundly humbled me.
What is an impact that SFXC has had that might not be obvious?
Fr. Cristino: People from outside of the chaplaincy would probably not notice just how many marriages are coming to birth from relationships that are being formed from within the community. People are finding spouses who equally desire Christ-centred sacramental marriages.
Do you have any specific stories or memories that sum up what you think SFXC is?
Fr. Cristino: While in the most intense throes of preparation for the Holy Father's visit to Canada in 2022, I also celebrated the 10th anniversary of my ordination to the priesthood. Somewhat begrudgingly, I drove down from planning commitments in Edmonton to celebrate our usual 7 pm Mass in the Cathedral (knowing I would have to turn around and go back to Edmonton that night). The details that were considered on my behalf in organizing an exquisitely beautiful Mass and the social which was put on to celebrate with me in the hall afterwards, attended by so many of my beloved young adults, will forever remain a cherished memory of witnessing a community I love so much show that same love in return, and in abundance. Shepherding SFXC on behalf of Bishop McGrattan has been one of the greatest joys of my life!
While people in leadership positions are often praised for the success of a community, I believe that is also important to recognize the people behind the scenes, those who constantly sacrifice their time, talents and resources to help it thrive.
It has been a joy to watch the countless missionary disciples develop and grow in our community as they advance its spirit of Renewal. Thank you to all of our volunteers for helping bring faith, formation and fellowship to the young adults of our Diocese.
Written by Kathryn Yakielashek, SFXC Program Coordinator. Photos courtesy of Francene Maranan.
Catholic Pastoral Centre Staff and Guest Writers