This year, ECYD, Regnum Christi’s youth organization, is celebrating 50 years of encouraging and supporting lived personal friendships among adolescents with Jesus Christ and with each other. One of the resources that has been offered by ECYD for over the past 15 years are Conquest and Challenge; these programs are directed towards boys and girls in K-12th grade and strive to form adolescents as Christian leaders to transform culture through a unique curriculum that is virtue based, teen led, gender specific, team based, and service driven. The products and resources, training and support, and access to an international network of ECYD camps, retreats, and mentors is what makes the Conquest and Challenge programs an effective tool to lead adolescents to a deeper relationship with Christ.
One of those ECYD members who has been profoundly impacted by the Conquest program is Donovan Novak, who lives in Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada. Shortly after Conquest was launched, Donovan’s father, Trevor Novak, established the program in Regina with the help of Regnum Christ members and men he had gathered from Familia and other RC initiatives; the club became one of the first groups in North America to use and implement the Conquest curriculum and be a part of developing its unique method.
Donovan has been involved with Conquest right from the start, as a participant, then as a Team Leader, and now, as a member of the ECYD Life Department. In this role, which he has held from the past two years, Donovan is primarily responsible for the products and resources for the ECYD programs of Challenge and Conquest. Some of these responsibilities include designing and producing Challenge and Conquest curriculum and branded materials, as well as managing the websites and communication.
Despite this new, larger role, Donovan remains closely connected to the Conquest program that continues to be run out of his home parish. Conquest Regina currently runs all three of the Conquest programs – Junior, Middle School, and High School – and has 50-60 boys attending its weekly meetings. And some of the boys attend Conquest twice a week. “Something unique that we do is that for the first few years of being a Team Leader, the boys come two nights a week – one night they are Team Leader for the younger boys, and the second night they have their own meeting with their peers,” says Donovan. “And we play some of the most intense dodgeball games I’ve ever seen.” Regina also has a vibrant and growing Challenge Girls Club.
Another factor unique to Conquest Regina is its location: situated in the middle of the Canadian prairies, Regina is nearly 500 miles from the nearest Legionary community, in the next province over in Calgary, Alberta. Because of this distance, Conquest Regina is completely run by the families involved while maintaining a close relationship with Regnum Christi and the Legionaries, particularly by bringing in a priest to host retreats for the boys once or twice a year. “Staying connected to ECYD and the greater Regnum Christi community is a bit difficult because we are so remote,” says Donovan, “but it’s also one of our greatest strengths, because we are self-run by volunteers.”
Conquest Regina is currently in the middle of a project called “In the Spirit of Saint Nicholas,” an annual Advent initiative aimed at promoting St. Nicholas’ example of the virtues of generosity and care for the poor. The Conquest boys promote the project at various parishes throughout the diocese, selling Canadian-made chocolates; all of the proceeds of the chocolate sales go to a charity of the boys’ choice, and the club keeps no money for itself. Typically, the project brings in around $4000, and this year, the money raised will be going to the Marian Centre, a local Madonna House that serves the poor in downtown Regina.
Throughout the years, Donovan has been increasingly grateful for his involvement in Conquest and ECYD. “Conquest is an incredible program that has impacted my life immensely and continues to form young men in the faith,” says Donovan. “I have had the opportunity to be a Team Leader for each of the Conquest programs, from Father-Son to High School, and now I have the privilege of locally mentoring an incredible group of young men who give of themselves as Conquest Team Leaders.”
And in his role as a member of the ECYD Life Department, Donovan has big hopes for the Conquest and Challenge programs, and for ECYD as a whole:
“A goal of mine this year, after a year where many clubs, including the one in Regina, could not run due to COVID regulations, is to get as many new programs running as possible. Now, more than ever, our youth need fellowship, a community where they can be themselves, and grow in their identity as a child of God alongside their peers. The bigger vision is that the growth of Challenge and Conquest initiates the growth of ECYD and Regnum Christi – ECYD is what leads to a personal, committed relationship with Christ, and the lifestyle of an apostle.”
From a young age, Donovan knew he wanted to “conquer the whole world for Christ,” and for him, ECYD is the tool that God has given him to do just that. “I believe that the best and easiest way to build up the kingdom is through Regnum Christi, and the best and easiest way to grow Regnum Christi is through ECYD. If we can build the foundation of our Church through our youth, the future has so much more hope.”
In this jubilee year of ECYD, all members of Regnum Christi are invited to reflect with gratitude on the gift of ECYD and its call to a personal friendship with Christ. Read more about how ECYD promotes and emanates the charism of Regnum Christi in the recently published essay, The Pledge of Friendship With Christ and Among Each Other – ECYD: the Regnum Christi Charism Lived by Young People. Learn more about ECYD’s Impact One 2021 Appeal, which is raising funds that go directly to building up the Conquest and Challenge programs in order to minister to adolescents through prayer, formation, team life, accompaniment, and apostolate. And to see more about Conquest Regina, visit their website at conquestregina.ca.