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Turn to Jesus (Article)

Preparing the Ground for Australia’s Faith Revolution
Sally d’Assumpcao prepares the Australian youth for the Pope’s visit with innovative programs, including an outreach to sponsor poor pilgrims from Vietnam and remote island nations.

Sally and Paul d’Assumpcao receiving the Pope’s blessing while on their honeymoon in Rome.
Sally and Paul d’Assumpcao receiving the Pope’s blessing while on their honeymoon in Rome.

July 4, 2008. Adelaide, Australia. Sally d’Assumpcao, a Regnum Christi member from Adelaide, Australia, has been at the forefront of the work to prepare the way for World Youth Day 2008. Her work so far has led to numerous promotional initiatives, including a campaign that raised $30,000 to enable poor pilgrims from Vietnam, Vanuatu, and Balgo to travel to the events.

Where It Began

World Youth Days are very much a part of Sally d’Assumpcao’s personal journey of faith. She first became a believer at a World Youth Day in Rome, 2000, where she also met her husband Paul. At the time, she was an agnostic and he was a pilgrim, but the spark of faith—and of love—met an open heart.

After seven months of prayer and study in Medjugorje, she was received into the Catholic Church on the feast of Christ the King, in the year 2001, by Monsignor Robert Aitken in Adelaide, Australia.

Two years later, on January 26, 2003, Sally and her husband Paul were incorporated into the Regnum Christi Movement by Fr Matthew Joseph Brackett, LC, while on their honeymoon in Rome.

Serving the Archdiocese

Since then, Sally has been living out her apostolic vocation with
The Adelaide pilgrim group with Bishop Greg O´Kelly at the St Francis Xavier Cathedral in Adelaide.
The Adelaide pilgrim group with Bishop Greg O´Kelly at the St Francis Xavier Cathedral in Adelaide.
energy and initiative. In her current roles as the World Youth Day marketing leader for the Adelaide archdiocese and delegate for the Adelaide Cathedral parish, she has been busily preparing for the massive World Youth Day event to be held in Sydney, Australia this coming July 15-20.

One of her first projects as marketing leader was to start up a monthly youth group for 18 to 35-year-olds called “Unite Adelaide,” to help gather and prepare youth for the pilgrimage. The web site,, is an archdiocesan source of information, formation, and motivation for all of the youth, including those who will be following the events from home.

Sally has also spoken at about 30 Masses to get people excited and enthused about World Youth Day, promote the fundraising campaign, and encourage families to host pilgrims during Adelaide’s “Days in the Diocese.”

“The Mass talks gave me a great opportunity to meet many of Adelaide´s wonderful and holy priests who are so hidden,” she said. “I had the opportunity to hear their homilies several times as I followed them to all of their weekend Masses. It was a most blessed insight into the lives of priests, and now I can pray for them
A promotional article on Catherine Burke, whose blogspot is
A promotional article on Catherine Burke, whose blogspot is
with greater heartfelt fervor.”

For additional promotion and fundraising, she and her organizing committee also produced a Rosary CD led by Archbishop Philip Wilson and the vocations director, Fr Dean Marin. At the same time, as the delegate for the Adelaide Cathedral, she has been working with Fr Marin to organize the 80-strong pilgrim group from the parish.

Sometimes promotional campaigns take on unexpected forms. When an Adelaide student named Catherine Burke decided to raise World Youth Day awareness by undertaking a 19-day bicycle pilgrimage from Adelaide to Sydney, Sally supported her with planning and promotion as well.

The Vibrant Faith of Vietnamese Catholics

The idea of reaching out to poorer communities came up as part of the teamwork in preparation for World Youth Day. Through the Archdiocesan Catholic Education Office, Sally devised a project that would provide funds for these pilgrims to attend World Youth Day. Her intention was to facilitate a united archdiocesan effort to reach out to sister countries that were materially poor but spiritually rich.

It turned out that a Catholic community in Vietnam was praying for financial support for their 20 pilgrims; in their eagerness to attend the event, they had taken out a loan and were in serious debt.
Vietnamese youth getting ready for World Youth Day.
Vietnamese youth getting ready for World Youth Day.
In 9 weeks, Sally and her committee fundraised $29,000 and gave it to the Vietnamese community.

As part of her work to organize the group from Vietnam, Sally visited a Vietnamese parish in Adelaide to see if they could host the pilgrims. She was invited to their Sunday Mass and was encouraged the meet the youth group. To her surprise, she discovered a vibrant parish of over 1,000 people only 10 minutes from her home.

“We couldn’t believe the numbers at Sunday Mass,” she said. “The Mass was in Vietnamese so we didn’t understand what was being said until the whole church turned around to us and clapped.”

After Mass, she and her team met the youth group. There were no less than 200 youth ranging in age from 5 to 18, with the 18-year-olds acting as the youth leaders. After Sally addressed the youth group with her promotional talk, the young people split up by age groups and went to receive catechesis from their youth leaders.

“It was so inspirational,” Sally observed. “It was then that I realized this wasn’t my project, but God’s.”

No Pilgrim Left Behind

At the same time, further phone conversations led to a new project: the
The island of Vanatu, located east of Australia.
The island of Vanatu, located east of Australia.
Darwin diocese from the Tiwi Islands had another pilgrim group in need of funds. The Tiwi Islands are two tiny islands about 50 miles offshore from the northern Australian city of Darwin. The 2,000 inhabitants are 94% indigenous.

After learning about the needs of the Tiwi pilgrims, Sally decided to do a separate fundraiser for them. Some members of the committee were acquainted with a few talented young musicians, so they had the idea of doing a musical soiree as a fundraiser. The effort was successful.

However, it turned out that the Tiwi pilgrims no longer needed the money, so they earmarked the $4,000 for 3 pilgrims from Vanuatu, an island nation about 1,090 miles east of northern Australia.

They had also fundraised more than was needed for the Vietnamese group, so another leftover $400 was sent to a pilgrim from Balgo, a tiny aboriginal community of about 400 people, located between two deserts in Western Australia.

Balgo, in the deserts of Western Australia
Balgo, in the deserts of Western Australia.
Youth Day Will Burn Up Our Apathy”

Sally’s perspective on the potential impact of World Youth Day on Australia is a hopeful one. Much of the important work in people’s hearts, she says, has been done through the preparations themselves.

“Already the path has been made for a great renewal of faith, devotion, and service for the Lord. World Youth Day is a real ‘John the Baptist’ for the country. The Journey of the Cross and Icon, holy relics, and youth gatherings have fertilised the soil for the Word of God through the Holy Father,” she said.

“So many youth leaders have been formed in their apostolates, teachers’ hearts have been set aflame for the faith, and people in the public eye have been able to answer our Lord when He asks ‘Who do you say I am?’”

“WYD08, above all else, will
The WYD preparations are already a call to conversion.
The WYD preparations are already a call to conversion.
burn up our apathy, absolve us from our sin, and set a new course for the future of the Church in Australia. We will witness the faith of the people in Oceania and draw from them an example of how to live the Gospels and how to ‘be not afraid’ to express our love and devotion to Christ,” she said.

What the Youth Really Want

The theme of the upcoming World Youth Day is taken from the Book of Acts: “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses”—an apostolic message of hope and power in the Spirit.

When asked what she thought Pope Benedict’s message to the youth would be, Sally said she was anticipating a powerful call to live in the truth without fear, and to witness to Christ with all of the passion of their young hearts.

“I still love John-Paul II´s message to the world ‘Be not afraid.’ I think Pope Benedict XVI can pick up where JPII left off, whilst also drawing us deeper into the same mysteries,” she said.

“The youth want truth and they want to fathom the depths. They don´t want to hear ‘God loves you,’ without penetrating his
Carrying the World Youth Day cross
Carrying the World Youth Day cross.
love, seeing that loving face and being embraced by it. They want to be swept up by it and moved to a new place that demands change, conversion, and the response of a missionary.”

“The youth of today have so much energy and passion and a desire to give. They also sense that if they are not guided and formed, that energy is a great power that can be used against their own soul and the souls of others. This fear often stops young people from acting because they sense a great power in them. It seems safer to do nothing than to trust in their goodness and yet still make a mistake. With just a little guidance, formation, and support, young people can learn to trust God and themselves, and do some wonderful work for the Church.”

“The Holy Spirit can speak loudly through the youth. Whenever I talk with youth leaders I hear the same voice that is thirsting for answers and for their solutions to be heard. John Paul II´s ´Theology of the Body´ is the new lens for understanding the Catechism and the way to explain the Church´s teachings to others,” she said.

“The youth in Adelaide are ready to launch out into the deep and gather
A mini-youth day at the d’Assumpcao family home.
A mini-youth day at the d’Assumpcao family home.
many souls for Christ. They also want to know about and practise traditional devotions like the Brown Scapular of Mount Carmel, and to know more about the traditional religious orders like the Capuchins. There seems to be a movement towards the traditional, as though a greater and purer sense of truth can be found through the old practices of the Church.”

“The ‘renewal’ is really a purification and empowering of truth. The youth want to hear that what is in their heart is good and true and that what the world teaches is a lie. They want to know that they can draw from the font of life and mercy through the sacraments and thus find deeper purity, humility, and sanctification,” she said.

For more information about the World Youth Day preparations in Adelaide, Australia, visit the web site at
For ongoing coverage of the World Youth Day events, visit



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