Tim Haynes is the president of the Conquest Boys Club (St. Bernadette's chapter) in Ajax. In Ontario, there's a growing number of boys participating in Conquest, with chapters in Hamilton, Milton, Oakville, Ottawa and Cornwall. Worldwide, there are approximately 250 clubs involving 6,500 boys, 700 teen leaders and 300 adult leaders. Below, he shares with us how Conquest brings its motto to life: "Forged in virtue, called to serve."
1. What is Conquest and its mission?
Conquest is a youth ministry program for boys from ages five to 15 (and older!) that helps them grow in knowledge of their Catholic faith and friendship with Christ. Conquest helps boys to make a difference in the world through a positive impact on their families, friends and in the larger society around them.
2. Why is Conquest important for boys and young men?
The ambient culture is corrosive to faith and good morals, and boys are hard pressed to find good peers and role models. From philandering sports stars to scandalous Instagram feeds, there is little out there to impress the value of Christian morality and leadership upon boys. Conquest gives boys a great outlet for their physical energy, taps into their natural competitiveness and impresses upon them the value of virtuous living while giving them opportunities to live it out in their daily lives. Fun, faith and physicality all come together to help the boys grow into faithful and authentically Catholic servant leaders.
3. Can you tell us about the activities of the club – and what joining Conquest involves?
Conquest taps into boys' natural competitive nature. We put the boys into squads of four or five each – with one boy serving as Squad Leader. These squads compete against each other (within their own age brackets) during a three-month "campaign." Boys earn squad points during meetings – and at home – to push their squad into the top squad ranking. Each campaign has a given virtue as its theme (i.e., honesty, respect, integrity, responsibility, loyalty, courage, etc.). Boys learn about the campaign virtue and gain squad points by practicing these and other virtues during meetings. At home, parents award points on a special card (called a Commitment Card)that is recorded at the weekly meetings. They also play competitive sports and earn squad points this way. Older boys become Youth Leaders and help run meetings as they age out of the top end of the age brackets.
4. Do Conquest meetings follow a particular format?
Meetings include prayer, virtue review, sports, snack (provided by us), a rosary decade, faith instruction, prayer, point tally and dismissal. The meetings take about an hour and a half. The international Conquest lead organization provides many supports, such as curriculum, meeting plans and materials, leader training, handouts, posters, banners. This helps us follow an excellent pedagogy and top-notch plans. Conquest also organizes events outside of normal meetings, such as retreat days for the boys, overnight weekend camping at Camp Brebeuf in Rockwood, and opportunities to compete against other Conquest clubs with online challenges and charitable works. Last year, we successfully ran our first summer day camp in Ajax and we plan on expanding this summer!
5. What impact has being involved in Conquest had on your sons?
I have four sons, ranging in age from five to 14. Our oldest has been involved since he was six and he is now a Youth Leader at the meetings, helping to lead his younger peers and gain crucial leadership experience. They have grown very familiar with the virtues, learned a lot about the Bible and the saints and improved their prayer lives. The biggest impact, however, has been on their peer relationships. They regularly spend time with other committed Catholic youth their own ages, and have formed friendships that allow them to express their relationship with Jesus in a supportive team environment. They don't feel like they are the only ones who pray or go to Mass, even though their school or secular friendships may lack that kind of experience. They have friends to talk to about the feast days, faith movies, the YouCat, etc.
6. Anything else you want to add about what makes the group unique?
I should also mention that girls are not left out, because Conquest has a girls-only sister club called Challenge – with a special focus on raising faith-filled girls.
To find out more about Conquest – or to start a new chapter – the national website can be viewed at www.conquestyouthministry.com