St. Paul wrote that there are different forms of service but the same Lord and different workings but the same God who produces all of them in everyone. One example of what St. Paul meant by that phrase can be seen in the vast number and type of religious movements that exist in the world. Many of those are present in Madrid helping to prepare World Youth Day, each bringing their own special gifts to the job.
Among the movements represented in Madrid are the Schoenstatt community, based in Germany, Shalom of Brazil, Anuncio, and an order of religious sisters known as the Siervas del Hogar de la Madre or Servants of the House of Mary.
While some of these names may not be entirely new, the name Anuncio is almost entirely unheard of outside of France and pockets of Spain. It is an association of young people you believe that “God is Love” and want to tell it to the world. The association began taking shape in 2008 when Raphael Cornu-Thénard, a French layman who had been involved in various youth ministry projects in France. Cornu-Thénard and some of his friends in youth ministry decided to organize a youth festival that would serve as a tool for evangelization. The goal was simple: talk to an as many people as possible about God’s love for them.
150 young people participated in that first Anuncio festival. It included three days of formation and prayer. Once the formation stage was completed the youth set out for for different villages where they set to work planning local music festivals in parishes that had agreed to host them.. Of course these music festivals included an evening of prayer and time spent heading out to the beaches, the parks, and any place where two or more are gathered to tell them about the God’s love for them. That week of local music festivals was capped off with one large festival and prayer vigil in Paris’ Montemartre neighbourhood.
The unique approach to evangelization quickly gained the support of several French Bishops, including Cardinal Philippe Barbarain of Lyon and caught the attention of French youth. The festival was held in France again the following summer and by 2010 Anuncio was planning festivals in 10 villages in France and Spain.
It was in the summer of 2010 that Wandrille de Préville discovered Anuncio. The 27 year old lobbyist from Paris, was helping organize the Marial International Festival. He had heard about Anuncio and their plan to spend a year in Madrid preparing for World Youth Day. “I forgot about it though until, at the Marial Festival, I saw a video about Anuncio and their Madrid project. I went on retreat and ten days later I handed in my resignation at work and I arrived in Madrid in September to start on this amazing project,” he said.
De Préville said his family was understandably surprised. Even though it didn’t seem like the best career move they stood behind him. Support also came from unlikely places. “One of my closest friends who is not Catholic just said to me, ‘good for you. Enjoy this time.’”
At first impact Anuncio’s mission, ‘talk to people and tell them that God loves them’ – proclaimed by young people who seem impossibly, radiantly, happy – can seem overly simplistic, especially in a European context that is increasingly secularized and hardened against anything with the faintest scent of religion. However, these young people aren’t walking into their mission blind, nor are they naieve. They are equipped with the graces of a deep prayer life and continuous formation in doctrine, catechesis, and church history, and a radiance that can only come from the peace of God’s love.
Casa Anuncio in Madrid is made up of 10 young people, most from France with a Spaniard and Columbian mixed in. “The surprising thing is that Anuncio is that those organizing the festivals are all young lay people, ” Wandrille explains, adding “Anuncio is really a response to the call John Paul II made to the youth of France in 1980 when he said ‘young people of France, this is the moment to work for the civilization of love’”.
A typical day at Casa Anuncio in Madrid begins with Mass, followed by breakfast and time for silent, personal prayer. “That time is tremendous. I meet Christ in that time of silence and meditation on scripture,” said Wandrille. That time of prayer is followed by formation sessions, classes given by local clergy, religious sisters, or even lay people qualified to be teaching doctrine and ecclesiology. The afternoons are dedicated to preparing the festival that would be held during WYD and the formation session that Anuncio will give at Plaza de España. “We will offer formation in evangelization to those who want it, and then a chance to put it into action,” he said. The work day ends at Casa Ancio at 8pm with a Rosary and a group prayer session, which also serves as a moment to reflect on the day and draw lessons and insights from the day’s events.
What good is it to spend a year planning a festival in a new city and not leave something behind? On weekends the group from Casa Anuncio offers formation in Evangelization and takes to the streets of Madrid to talk to people about God’s love. They focus their efforts on the Madrid’s Chueca neighbourhood, an area known for it’s concentration of young people living alternative lifestyles.
Reflecting on Anuncio’s time in Madrid with WYD Wandrille said, “if even one person out there has drawn closer to God because of our work, then we’ve accomplished our mission.”