Assumptionists Organize 2011 Lourdes / World Youth Day Event Print

Brother Martin in LourdesEvery summer the Assumption Family organizes a series of programs for young people: retreats, pilgrimages, volunteer opportunities, etc. This summer, as in previous years, we are taking advantage of World Youth Day to plan a special program that will not only include WYD but the national pilgrimage to Lourdes as well.

Br. Martin Dulchev, a young Bulgarian Assumptionist who is studying in Lille, France, has been asked to organize international groups who are planning on joining the Assumption Family pilgrimage to Lourdes and participation in World Youth Day in Madrid in August. The following interview will help our readers know more about this program as well as a little about Br. Martin himself.

Q: Martin, you have been asked to be involved in this summer’s Lourdes/WYD program? How did that come about? Have you participated in other World Youth days? Are you alone in bearing this responsibility or are you part of a team?

Logo 2011 WYDMartin: Yes, I have been asked to assume responsibility for one small part of the program, i.e. international groups that are interested in joining our group from France. Last September, when a few Assumptionists presented their plans for ths program, I showed an interest in helping out. When I realized that this program would combine two powerful experiences, the national pilgrimage to Lourdes and WYD, I said to myself: “Now here is a project a young person like me can really get into. So, here I am!” Of course, for such an ambitious project, you need a team and such a team exists, one that reflects the young face of the Assumption Family: Fr. Nicolas Potteau, A.A.,overall director; Ms. Anne Guibert from Notre Dame de Salut, logistics Sr. Aurélie Karst, R.A., Br. Iiulian Prajescu, A.A., Br. Van Hieu Nguyen, A.A., and Sr. Patricia Sacré, L.S.A., pedagogical team;  Mr. Vincent Vaxelaire and Sr. Catherine Lesage, O.A., communications; and me, international groups. As you can already see from the list of names, the team has a diversity of “color” and that holds the project together and gives it its originality. We are trying to provide an experience that is as open as possible to as many groups as possible, to very rhythm and style. We want to be at the heart of the Church , a Church that is open and ready to proclaim the Good News to one and all. Within the team, all of us bring our who we are and the talents we possess as well as our limitations; and all of this makes for what we think will be a rich experience and one that will offer a powerful, common experience

Q: Why is the Assumption family so interested in getting involved in this event?

Martin: World Youth Days have proven to be some of the most powerful opportunities for young people to meet Jesus. Just look at the number of young people who have attended these gatherings. They recall Jesus’ encounters with the crowds in the Gospel. Often the miracle that took place was that the crowd left “satisfied.” And today, in our time, we who are Christians or not are hungry and thirsty, but paradoxically the abundance. Of the world around us cannot satisfy us...We need the One who is the Bread of Life, the one who not only fills our bellies but our hearts with meaning, direction, a goal for our life on earth. And World Youth days are such encounters with Him and we young people who attend come back our hearts on fire and a stomach filled just like the disciples of Emmaus who return to Jerusalem, i.e. toward the Church. That’s what happens at these gatherings. I’ve seen it first-hand.
In this way back to the Church, the Assumption cannot but be present. That is the charism of our founder, Emmanuel d’Alzon, who calls us to make our own the great causes of God so that we may be a sign of His presence in the midst of the world. The World Youth Day phenomenon has become a part of the experience of the Church and of our own religious life. This deep attachment to Christ drives us to walk toward Jerusalem and that the profound reason for Assumption’s involvement. We are not going to seek out vocations; we are going, rather, to deepen our own vocation as religious. This journey together, it is the journey of the People of God and not only do we want to be part of it but also to provide ways for others to be part of it. That’s another Assumptionist characteristic —disinterestedness — we dare to take the means, down-to-earth means to bring about already the great causes of God and to hasten the coming of the Kingdom.
We are taking part because it is Christ who is calling us and we are simply answering His call but also inviting our friends and those close to us We can’t simply go by ourselves. We must let others know about it!!

Q: This year’s WYD experience also includes the national pilgrimage to Lourdes. Could you explain to our readers the reasons for this decision? Is there a special link between Lourdes and WYD?

Martin: Yes, the Lourdes pilgrimage is part of our preparation program for WYD. Why? Well, because Lourdes is on the way! That would be a simple geographical reason ---- BUT there is a much more “Assumptionist” answer. The Assumptionists are the ones who initiated modern, large-scale pilgrimages to Lourdes some 135 years ago and this holy site is somehow part of the fabric of our spiritual make-up. We are part of Lourdes’ history and Lourdes is part of ours. Faithful to our tradition, we thought it would be a good idea to include this pilgrimage as part of our overall journey of faith this summer — walking with Christ, helped by Mary — to unite our own personal ways to that of the only true Way who is Christ himself. This is the Church’s experience.
In our program, Lourdes is the first step and as such it is meant to be a preparation for WYD. Each WYD proposes two stages: a time of preparation in a Church setting (a parish, a shrine, etc.) and a time together with the Pope who, in turn, refers us back to Christ. And when one goes on such a trip (my first one was to Cologne, Germany), one realizes how important both of these moments are for us Christians and non-Christians.

Q: Assumption is organizing an international group as part of the program. Was this decision deliberate? Do you have a sense of the diversity of this particular group? Where are they coming from?

Martin: It didn’t take long for us to decide how essential the international dimension would be since such internationality has been a characteristic of our congregation for some time now. Right from the beginning there were international groups saying us: we are one with you and would like to organize something with you7. What are you planning? Just look at the make-up of our planning team: a Vietnamese brother, a Romanian, and me, a Bulgarian..... This very fact demonstrates that the Church and the Assumption today reflect human diversity and the positive dimension of globalization, i.e. openness to the Other. This is what we had in mind when we made this decision. Group that will join us are coming from: the Philippines, Chile, Argentina, Bulgaria, Vietnam, Africa, and the USA. Besides, other groups are still thinking about coming. If you bring a group, how much richer we’ll be!!! :)

Qr: Are there any aspects of this Assumption program that give it a special character?

Martin: Yes, in Lourdes, every afternoon, there will be a talk and discussion for young people on themes associated with WYD. There will be evening youth get-togethers that will include prayer and special fun presentations that various groups will be asked to make (song, dance, etc.), alone or with other groups.
Yes, a lot will happen in Lourdes but don’t forget that the program continues once we get to Madrid and once we get there, there will be a huge choice of activities  — for every taste.

Q: Could you tell us a bit about yourself and your own vocational journey with the Assumptionists?

Assumptionist parish in Plovdiv, Bulgaria (dedicated to Blessed John XXIII)Martin: It’s a long story, even if I’m only 25 years old.. But I’ll try to be short! My family background is rather complicated such that I lived in an orphanage form ages 7 to 14. I got to know the Assumptionists in Plovdiv (Bulgaria) when I was 13 or 14 because they had just returned to a parish they once had and that had been taken over by the Communists 50 years before. I was a member of that parish. In 1997 a huge economic crisis struck the country and all the children of th orphanage had to leave because there was no more food or no means to pay for electricity in the house that accommodated 200 children.
At this very time the Assumptionists had made a decision to open their community to young people who wanted to live with them and they invited me to spend a little bit of time with them to see what I thought. I went for a week (we were two young people) and I stayed for a year, then for another year, and finally for seven years. It was there that I began to know the Church and grow in my faith. I came to experience the life of the parish but also the fraternal life of the Assumptionists and I was deeply touched. I had a lot of Christian experiences with other young people (Christian theater, pilgrimages, sharing groups, summer camps, etc.) and so I began my journey of faith. I can say that I was really happy with everything that I was experiencing with the Assumptionists and deep in my heart something profound was happening even if I couldn’t put it all into words.
The crucial moment came when Pope John Paul II visited Bulgaria in 2002 and beatified the three Bulgarian Assumptionist martyrs assassinated by the Communists in 1952. I was chosen by my bishop to make give the welcoming address to the Pope on the part of the young people of our diocese. I was totally blown away by the person of John Paul II. A man broken in body but alive in the Spirit. In my presentation I asked the Pope (that’s just the way I’m made — a little strange) why young people today are afraid of reality and try to escape it (at the time in Bulgaria, it was the thing for young people to spend all their in large arcades playing video games).
At the end of his own official talk, the Pope took the microphone and answered my question. He told me not to fear reality which can often by cruel and sad and to have the courage to live with Christ and to see reality with Him so that it might become again the beautiful reality which God wants for all men. In a word, after this powerful moment, I decided to yield to what was already happening my heart, to become one with the One who was alive there, and to conform the reality of my outer life with my inner life by following Christ just like this man of God, the Pope.It’s probably a bit pretentious but I have always said that it took a Pope to convert me and to enter the Church wholeheartedly. And now I say that it is Another who will keep me here. :)
What followed on my journey with Christ has been just as exciting and full of adventure. After I decided to join that group (the Assumptionists) where Christ had first come to life in my heart, I went to France where I did a year as a postulant and a year as a novice in order to become a religious. Then the adventure continued. I was sent to Florence, Italy, for the first three years of my religious and now I am back in France in His footsteps. I have had such powerful experiences that I can say that the words of John Paul II are becoming a reality day by day. I look at reality now with Christ and what I see is beautiful, if not at the same time difficult.

Well, let me stop here. If you’d like to share more, we can do at Lourdes and WYD 2011 !!!   :)

Last Updated on Tuesday, 25 January 2011 23:55