Your mission … should you choose to accept it

Well friends, another CLI has come and gone! For those of you who don’t know what I’m referring to, that would be the Christian Leadership Institute, a week-long leadership training “process” that caters to the youth of the Fall River Diocese. 

After being recognized by mentors, catechetical leaders, campus and youth ministers, DREs, and pastors as being standouts in their schools, communities, and parishes, this cream of the crop is asked to partake in all CLI has to offer them. This mission, should they choose to accept it, will be one that has the power to transform their young lives and prepare them for the rest of high school, college, and beyond. Sounds deep and exciting, right? It is! What is more deep and exciting is that I have been able to be a part of CLI for the past eight years. I graduated in the summer of 2006 and came back each year after — first as a graduate helping with the interactive workshops the candidates participate in with their groups, and then as an intern and member of support team, speaking to parents about my own experience and assisting the director, Frank Lucca, and the team with whatever was needed that week. 

This year I was honored to be asked on adult team. No matter what my role, year after year, I continue to be baffled, for the result at the end of the week is always the same. Each year, without fail, a group of kids come in and a group of young men and women go out. Yes it is true, that within a week, a massive transformation is undergone. Shy smiles, timid hugs and goodbyes to parents, awkward silences and clichéd ice-breaker questions at the first day of meal times, are a staple, but it is what evolves out of these things that strikes me with awe. The shy smiles turn to hiccups of belly laughter, the hugs are those shared between old friends, and the conversation flows amongst the candidates as they eagerly discover more and more of what they have in common. 

By the end of the week there are tears and the affirmations shared by team and candidates alike are bittersweet. How blessed we as team feel to have been graced by the presence of such energetic young leaders who provide us such hope for the present and future Church. How lost these young leaders feel at the prospect of leaving their newfound peers, their family for the week. Here is where my message comes in. To witness such a powerful bond of friendship over the course of one week is amazing. But what is truly amazing is that we are called to discover and nurture these relationships each day of our life. Christ calls us to love each other as we are loved by the Father, and not a day goes by where that love ceases. And it flows from a source unseen. Yet we trust that that love surrounds our heart and fills it, propelling us forward to share it with others. CLI has provided these young leaders with a family of mentors and peers that they can see, that they can physically touch, and challenges them to act as Christ has instructed us. 

Despite where we come from and where we will go back to after a week together, despite the inevitable differences we do discover amongst ourselves, we, a people who so yearn for physical signs, now see first-hand Christ at work in our lives. For He has provided us the opportunity to see Him in the faces of all of those around us, and for this week, this one special week out of every summer, He does not allow us for one moment to forget that. 

Thus, we are faced with a challenge. It is up to us to be the Light of Christ in the world for others, to dispel fears and doubt, pain and worry, and bring forth the peace and love we are meant to share with those around us. We are challenged to recognize those around us for their strengths, their diverse gifts, and their uniquities and bring them forth into the world. As disciples of Christ, this is our mission. Do you choose to accept it?

Anchor columnist Renee Bernier is a Stonehill College graduate with a bachelor’s degree in Sociology.

© 2018 The Anchor and Anchor Publishing   †   Fall River, Massachusetts