The mission of Challenge is to bring young adults aged 18 to 30 into communion
with Christ and His Church through Challenge Weekend retreats, and to give them
ongoing support and encouragement to live out their Christian lives. To that end, we help
participants to grow in holiness, to evangelize other young adults, and to contribute to
the parish life of the Church.
Challenge is endorsed by the Archdiocese of Montreal and is faithful to the teachings
of the Roman Catholic Church. Being Catholic is by no means a requirement to
participate in our weekends or activities; in fact, experience has shown that young
people from a wide variety of faith and cultural traditions can benefit from the spirituality
and fellowship we offer. Nevertheless, our beliefs and practices are essentially
those the universal Church, and we ask that participants maintain a respectful open-
mindedness toward these views. For more information about Challenge’s spiritual and
moral foundations, contact our spiritual director at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Challenge is a Catholic retreat movement for youth, coordinated by youth.
Challenge begins with a three day retreat weekend, during which young people have a chance to
meet Christ on a personal level with the help of their peers.
The emphasis in the Challenge Weekend is a youth-to-youth approach, a live-in
weekend environment, a group discussion format, and a team approach.
The Weekend’s goal is to “Challenge” participants to learn more about their relationship
with God and more about themselves. This exploration is guided through a series
of talks given by other youth on various themes that relate our faith to everyday
life. There is also lots of time for group discussion, music, prayer, games, personal
reflection, socializing, and much more.
The Weekend is progressive in nature, each part building on the theme of the last. As
you travel through the Weekend, you’ll learn about these themes through the voices of
other young adults. You’ll hear about your peers’ experiences growing up, their struggles
with faith, the reasons they believe in God and the active role He has played in their
lives. You’ll hear how your peers cope with the struggle of living a Christian life in our
The experience of the Challenge Weekend is difficult to summarize because it is much
more than just the sum of its parts. But if nothing else, the Weekend is a great place to
meet other young adults who share the same faith, and is an opportunity to take time off
your busy schedules to address spiritual concerns.
Challenge is a vehicle for initiating and sustaining a growth in awareness of God, of our
relationship with Him and with our brothers and sisters, and the implications of both of
these for our day-to-day lives. Although there are two Challenge Weekends per year, the
core focus of Challenge has always been on the post-Weekend fellowship. Challenge
creates an environment in which friendships can be formed and where young people
have an opportunity to deepen their faith together through prayer, learning, community
outreach and social activities.
Challenge meets every week on the Friday at St. Patrick's Basilica, downtown Montreal.
Challenge is a youth branch of Cursillo, a global Catholic retreat movement which
was founded in 1944. In its current instantiation, the Montreal Challenge movement
has existed since October of 1998 when the first local weekend was held. Please
see “History” for more details.
In 2005 the Montreal Challenge community elected St Thomas More as the patron
saint of our movement. Challenge desires to do as he did by going against the grain
and holding Christ and the Roman Catholic Church as Truths. St. Thomas More fought
and died keeping his allegiance to Christ and His Church and Challenge asks him to
intercede for us so that we can too hold our allegiance to Christ and His Church.
Born: February 7th, 1478, London, England
Beheaded: July 6th, 1535, Tower of London
Canonized: 1935 by Pope Pius XI
Patron Saint of: Lawyers, Politicians, Difficult Marriages, and Large Families
St. Thomas More was a brilliant Lawyer and exemplary family man. Being a close friend
of King Henry VIII, he was appointed Lord Chancellor of England, which was second
only to the King. However, his moral principles would not allow him to support the King
on the matter of his royal divorce, and he refused to swear the Oath of Supremacy which
declared the King the head of the Church of England. He resigned the Chancellorship,
and was imprisoned in the Tower of London. He was martyred for his refusal to bend his
religious beliefs to the King’s political whims.
Thomas More was an honest man with a great deal of integrity who fought for his beliefs.
In so doing, he challenges us to live out our own faith and to stand up for what we
believe without fear.
Dear Scholar and Martyr, it was not the King of England but you who were the true
Defender of the Faith. Like Christ unjustly condemned, neither promises nor threats
could make you accept a civil ruler as head of the Christian Church. Perfect in your
honesty and love of truth, grant that lawyers and judges may imitate you and achieve
true justice for all people. Amen.
Give me the grace to long for Your holy sacraments, and especially to rejoice in the
presence of Your body, sweet Savior Christ, in the holy sacrament of the altar. Amen.
Challenge has its roots in the Cursillo Movement. Cursillo is a worldwide
movement founded by a group of young Catholic laymen (under the name Cursillos
of Conquest) in Mallorca, Spain in 1944. While initially trying to organize a training
retreat for pilgrimage leaders, they developed a method to motivate ordinary people
to live out the mission of Christianity in their everyday lives. The movement was soon
renamed `Cursillos de Cristiandad` (which, translated, means “Short Course in Christian
Living”) and spread rapidly throughout the rest of the world, with the first North American
weekend held in Waco, Texas in 1957. The first English-speaking Cursillo took place
in San Angelo, Texas in 1961. Today, Cursillo is active in more than 40 countries and
remains intimately connected to Challenge through its Montreal branch, which has
existed since 1964.
In the mid-60’s, North Americans began to experiment with weekends on Christian living
for Catholic teenagers using various adaptations of the Cursillo method. The programs
had different names and different emphases, but followed the same essential format.
Some of these movements are titled Search, Christ in Others Retreat (COR), and Teens
Encounter Christ (TEC). In Detroit they decided to call their retreat weekends “The
Challenge,” providing inspiration for the title of Ottawa Challenge and various other
regional movements. Just as adults who had completed a Cursillo weekend called
themselves “Cursillistas,” members of Challenge soon became known amongst
themselves as “Challengers.”
While Challenge has gradually gained autonomy from Cursillo, our shared origins
are apparent in the use of Spanish terminology which remains in the vocabulary
of both movements. Weekly gatherings are known as Ultreyas (an expression of
encouragement, literally “Onward!”), intercessory prayer and sacrifice is termed palanca
(a “lever” which magnifies our human efforts), and members greet one another with
the expression De Colores (“The colours”; acknowledging the joy and beauty of God’s
In Ottawa, the first Cursillo was held in 1966 and the first Challenge in 1967. Over the
next 43 years Ottawa Challenge would host 153 Challenge Weekends, most recently in
November of 2010.
As the first Challenge movement in Canada, Ottawa has inspired the foundation of
a number of other Challenge movements, such as the Ontario Anglican Challenge
Movement in January 1981, the Montreal Catholic Challenge Movement in October of
1998, and the Peterborough Catholic Challenge Movement in May 2001.
The records show that a Challenge Movement existed in Montreal in the 1970’s and
1980’s. They held 63 Challenge weekends over the years, but eventually discontinued.
The history of today’s Montreal Challenge Movement is closely intermingled with that of
Ottawa Challenge, particularly during our first few years. The idea of bringing Challenge
to Montreal was pioneered by a young seminarian named Thomas Dowd after he
attended Ottawa Challenge Weekend 122 in March of 1996.
The first step toward rebuilding Challenge was to create an interest in the movement
among local Montrealers. To this end, Tom encouraged two others seminarians
(Stephen & Richard) to participate in Ottawa Challenge 124 in March of 1997. The three
of them began meeting regularly in Montreal during the Ottawa Challengers’ weekly
Ultreyas. These meetings consisted of prayer and singing.
Three became seven in November of 1997 when four more of their friends participated
in Ottawa Challenge 125. The (now bi-weekly) group meetings in Montreal expanded
to twelve in March of 1998, when another five Montrealers participated in Ottawa
Challenge 126. After two years, the Challengers of Montreal were finally numerous
enough to begin organizing their own local Challenge Weekend.
On October 2-3-4 1998, with the help of many Ottawa Challengers, Montreal Challenge
hosted its first retreat weekend. Since then, a total of 22 Challenge retreats have taken
place in Montreal, including our most recent weekend in March of 2010.
While the first two Montreal Challenge weekends relied heavily on the support of
Ottawa Challenge, by the third weekend (Fall 1999) our movement had gained enough
members to run retreats autonomously. Since then, the relationship between the two
movements has been increasingly one of mutual support and solidarity rather than
Until the fall of 2004, all 12 Challenge Weekends in Montreal were given the numbers
of corresponding weekends in Ottawa (#127 to #139) to honour our Ottawa roots. In
November of 2005 the Challenge Executive Committee (Service Team) voted to start
numbering the Montreal weekends in our own lineage. The February 2005 weekend
was therefore titled weekend #14 (though it was later pointed out that this was in fact the
thirteenth weekend, a mistake that was rectified in subsequent numbering).
In June of 2005, after a year of deliberation, the Challenge community voted for St.
Thomas More to be the new patron saint for our movement at our annual R&R weekend.
In 2006 the Challenge Executive Committee was renamed the Challenge Service Team.
On November 10, 2006, the first Challenge website (www.challenge.adventus.org) was
In October 2008, the Challenge community gathered for a reunion weekend at Camp Kinkora to celebrate the tenth anniversary of our movement’s existence in Montreal.
In the winter of 2010, Challenge held a contest to design our new logo, which was
selected by a vote from the Service Team.
In June 2010, the new Challenge website was launched with an independent domain