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Catholic Invasion: Witnesses to the Ends of the Earth
The young men and women on missions and Regnum Christi conventions in Australia were living the World Youth Day theme to the full.

Young women on the Mission Youth track, celebrating the two-day countdown before World Youth Day.
Young women on the Mission Youth track, celebrating the two-day countdown before World Youth Day.

August 8, 2008. Sydney, Australia. They awaited World Youth Day with eager expectation. And now that it is over, they look back on the experience with a sense of satisfaction, knowing that they helped do something beautiful for God.

Regnum Christi and Mission Youth were part of a “Catholic invasion” of faith, joy, and witness that took the city of Sydney by storm. But it wasn’t only Sydney that was touched; the experience also changed them, creating a deeper sense of the faith and new bonds of friendship that will not easily be forgotten.

“Can you translate ‘Thy Kingdom Come’ into Chinese?”

From July 7th – 21st, there were three separate groups in deployment before and during World Youth Day: the young men’s Regnum Christi convention, the young women’s Regnum Christi convention, and a young women’s Mission Youth group.

The young men’s Regnum Christi convention had participants from countries as diverse as Colombia, Germany, Chile, Hungary, Mexico, Burundi (Africa), Australia, New Zealand, the United States, and Canada. There was even a Navy officer stationed in Iraq who decided to attend as a chaperone for the boys during his month off from active duty.

The young women’s Regnum Christi convention had participants from
Participants on the young men’s Regnum Christi convention at Randwick Raceway.
Participants on the young men’s Regnum Christi convention at Randwick Raceway.
the United States, Canada, Mexico, and the Philippines, while the young women’s Mission Youth track had 29 participants from an even wider range of countries: Mexico, France, Burkina Faso (Africa), Lebanon, Chile, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and the United States.

The young men and the young women from all of these groups hit the streets of Sydney to evangelize in the week before the World Youth Day events.  One of their most interesting activities was the “scavangelizer,” a sort of hybrid between a scavenger hunt and an evangelization mission.

The scavangelizers took Australians by surprise all over Sydney by approaching perfect strangers and asking questions like: “What do you think about World Youth Day coming to Sydney?” or “Could you please translate ‘Thy Kingdom Come’ into Chinese for me?”

They engaged people in friendly conversation, inviting fallen-away Catholics to
A Mission Youth participant at Randwick Raceway.
A Mission Youth participant at Randwick Raceway.
attend the World Youth Day events and encouraging them to tune in to the Pope’s addresses and homilies. At first, the response of the people was lukewarm; the prevailing mood was one of indifference and it was not uncommon for people to shrug and turn away. “The Pope? Oh. Yeah…” As they walked Sydney’s streets, cheerful in spite of rejections, they couldn’t help wondering how this city would receive the influx of pilgrims who were scheduled to arrive in a few days.

Angie Miller, from the Mission Youth young women’s group, was one of those who wondered.

“Being a missionary beforehand prepared me and got me excited. We got to hear and see a little bit of what the Church was like in Australia before participating in World Youth Day. What we noticed during the missions was that the people didn’t really talk about their faith much; they weren’t really open about it. So it left us thinking: What’s World Youth Day going to be like? How will it be accepted in Sydney?”

But what they saw before World Youth Day was nothing like what they saw afterwards.

“We saw a change in the people during the time we were there,” said Hunter Burnette, a team leader on the young men’s convention. “We saw them stone-faced at first and then by the end, they very encouraging. At the train station, near the end of World Youth Day, people would say, ‘We’re praying for you! Good luck to
United to the Pope and the Church.
United to the Pope and the Church.
you and thanks for coming!’  It was amazing to see the support, the smiles that all the pilgrims brought with their cheers and their joy.”

Fr Dominic Pham, LC, agreed, saying that he saw “a tremendous change in the Australians.”

“As World Youth Day unfolded, it was almost like the whole nation converted and became a happy people,” he said.

It seems that “Thy Kingdom Come!” was indeed translated into a language that everyone could understand: joy.

“We’re Regnum Christi members from all over the world.”

World Youth Days are known to be an international flag-fest, an opportunity for youth from all over the world to come together and celebrate a point of unity: the Pope, the Catholic faith, and Christ himself. For the young men and women on their activities, this sense of unity was something that they built together in the days preceding the official festivities.

Matthew Reinhardt, who was one of the consecrated men working with the young men’s convention, said that the group of young men was very diverse—not only in nationalities, but also in their own spiritual walk.

“In the first week, the goal was just to find some common ground, a common bond,” he said. The
“It was a sisterhood that was formed, based on Christ and on the experience we had together,” said Lexy Schuele (center, behind American flag).
“It was a sisterhood that was formed, based on Christ and on the experience we had together,” said Lexy Schuele (center, behind American flag).
turning point came after a Eucharistic hour preached by Fr Anthony Bannon, LC. For some reason, that hour of unity around the Eucharist made everything click. “After that Eucharistic hour, we were walking through the city of Sydney and for the first time, everyone was on the same page, singing, chanting to all the other groups.”

Hunter Burnette said that the transformation of the group was an exhilarating thing to see. By the end, a group that had struggled to play sports as a unified team had become a multi-national band of brothers.

“In the last days, they would be walking down the street together, arms over each other’s shoulders, holding three country flags high with such enthusiasm. People would ask us, ‘Where are you from?’ And we’d say, ‘We’re Regnum Christi members from all over the world.’ It was amazing to have that unity with each other and with youth from all over the world,” he said.

Angie Miller, a team leader for the Mission Youth group, said that the experience of unity across nations was a powerful lesson.

“You’d look around and see tons and tons of flags—some you’d recognize, and others you wouldn’t. You’d see people from all these different
Young women on the Regnum Christi convention, celebrating after packing 36,000 lunches for their fellow pilgrims.
Young women on the Regnum Christi convention, celebrating after packing 36,000 lunches for their fellow pilgrims.
countries and you’d just realize how big the Church is. I met people from Pakistan, Croatia, Lebanon, and India. Being from the United States, I was impressed to see how Catholics in the Middle East practice their faith in the midst of persecution,” she said.

For many participants, the unity within their group was also an experience of the Church in miniature.

“Our group was from all over, and we all came together for the one common goal to be a witness for Christ. At the end of those 20 days, we were so close,” said Lexy Schuele, a Mission Youth participant. “It was a sisterhood that formed, not because of having the same parents or going to the same school—it was based in Christ and in the experience that we had together. For me, that was really cool, because you know that there are girls in Mexico, Canada, and all over who had this experience with you, who know how you feel, and who can share it with you.”

When it comes to Christ and his Kingdom, all peoples really do become “one nation under God.”

Witnesses to the Ends of the Earth

The World Youth Day theme was chosen from Acts 1:8. "You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses." For Lexy Schuele, that theme became a living reality because of the missions before the big event.

“The theme was really prevalent throughout the entire experience,” she said. “We were there are the ends of the earth, not only to the people of Australia but also
Ready to roll into Randwick Raceway.
Ready to roll into Randwick Raceway.
to the entire world, saying that there is nowhere the Gospel cannot go, that there’s nowhere that we as disciples cannot bring it.”

Sacrifice was an important part of the mission for her—an indispensable part of being a witness to Christ.

“For me, going on missions is a really important part of going to World Youth Day because it really helps bring home the idea of being an apostle, of working for Christ. We slept on floors, we took cold showers, and we didn’t eat the best food… but it was the sacrifice we made for others. It was easy to see how Christ can suffer out of love because that’s what we were doing, and it was for people that we knew we could help, even if we didn’t know them personally,” she said.

The missionary spirit was contagious especially during the two days when the young women helped pack 36,000 lunches for the closing Mass at Randwick Raceway.

Fr Dominic Pham, LC, also commented on the kindness and Christian spirit—and exceptional organization— of the Australian volunteers. “They were Australians, but they came from everywhere, often driving for an hour and a half each way every day to be able to volunteer. Their joy and enthusiasm was also fed by the World Youth Day pilgrims. It was a whole wave of enthusiasm,” he said.

On World Youth Day in Sydney, 400,000 youth came together to share their faith, enthusiasm, witness, unity, and joy with the Pope and with
United in Christ
United in Christ
each other.  For the young men and women who flew home exhausted but elated after the events, the memories will last a lifetime. They were part of something beautiful for God.



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