Children of MaryLaurence Tiblis
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Living Faith as Children of Mary
The Miraculous Medal was not the only request Mary commissioned to St. Catherine. Lesser known is the Children of Mary (Vincentian Marian Youth), a group who works with today’s youth in living a life of faith, devotion, and service.
For Marian devotees, the year 1830 will forever be associated with Mary’s apparitions to St. Catherine Labouré at Rue du Bac, France. Most people are aware that she sat on a chair with St. Catherine kneeling at her feet (see “The Director’s Chair,” page 24), and a few months later appeared to St. Catherine a second time, giving the world her Miraculous Medal.
But very few people realize that Mary also requested that a confraternity of children be founded. She promised many graces to those who joined it, as well as to Fr. Jean Marie Aladel, CM, to whom Mary entrusted this work. Although it took him several years to respond, Fr. Aladel finally created the Children of Mary. After receiving the Pontifical blessing from Pope Pius IX on June 20, 1847, the apostolate spread like wildfire, and the mission expanded globally.
In the late 20th century, the Holy See renewed and approved new statutes for the Children of Mary. Today, this apostolate is widely recognized as the Vincentian Marian Youth or VMY (known internationally as Juventude Marial Vicentina) and remains the only association that the Blessed Mother requested.
Today, the Vincentian Marian Youth has more than 100,000 members in 66 countries. The association’s dynamic leaders and members continue to work together to energize and encourage young people to live their faith with Mary as their role model.
Meet some of the leaders behind this amazing movement.
Leading VMY International as president is Yancarlos Carrasco, a lawyer by profession and Vincentian at heart. He first got involved with VMY in 2003, after serving as an altar boy at Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal in the Dominican Republic. This sparked his exciting journey under “the fixed gaze of our Blessed Mother.” After being elected president in 2015, he has taken on the responsibility of ensuring that the vision once shared by our Blessed Mother to St. Catherine Labouré continues around the world.
“VMY is a lifestyle of formation and service. We are part of the Vincentian family and that brings us much closer to meeting Jesus through the needy. I have great admiration for the VMY groups who serve in countries with wars or great numbers of people living in poverty. The youth themselves, living within that same reality, seek a way to make the lives of others easier. It is not easy, but the rays of light from our Mother illuminate the way for us to take the gospel of Jesus from word to action.
“Being part of VMY is an immense responsibility. We trust, as always, that in the hands of our Mother, we can continue carrying out the mission once commissioned to St. Catherine Labouré by our Blessed Mother. We cannot disappoint her. We must continue her order and carry it with pride.”
Yasmine Cajuste made her Marian Consecration in 1997, went to Spain to work in the VMY International Office as a French-speaking volunteer, and served as president from 2005 to 2015. She is currently the project development manager at the International FamVin Homeless Alliance, but she hasn’t forgotten her VMY roots in Haiti and continues to provide assistance to this apostolate when needed. There are many facets of VMY that still impact her, one of them being its diversity, which she says is “a great gift, but also a challenge at times; that’s what diversity is about. We can embrace the beauty of it, or we can be stopped by the challenge of it.” The other is the importance of members feeling connected to something bigger than themselves.
“There are three elements instilled within our hearts during the formative years at VMY. The first piece is human formation (building your character as a person). The second is spiritual Marian formation (getting to know Christ better and discovering the role of the Blessed Mother in our spiritual life). The third, yet very important piece, is service to others (providing service to the poor directly).
“As a young person, sometimes you feel overwhelmed by the challenges of modern life. If you’re connected to a bigger group, then you have a support network that helps you navigate those different realities and challenges.”
Mary Lou Rico
Mary Lou Rico is the Western Region Director for Vincentian Marian Youth in the United States. She’s been involved with VMY for more than a decade and recognizes the importance of not only building faith and community, but providing practical tools to leaders who often work full time.
“I have seen how our leaders impact our youth. The majority of them are full-time teachers, who volunteer and dedicate their time after school to walk with our youth through their faith journey. Not only do they inspire our youth to humbly serve those in need, they delve into our Vincentian and Marian roots, as well.
“Many of our members live at, or below, poverty level in communities ridden with crime, gangs, and violence. And they put their faith into action: feeding the poor, serving those in need, helping out during prayer services—and all with a devotion for Mary. Throughout the pandemic, our members made more than 1,000 care packages for those in need, and we are still continuing to serve.
“We have so much to learn and share with each other that it fills my heart. When our youth members want to help and serve our brothers and sisters in Christ, I just feel our Vincentian founders are smiling down, knowing that their mission continues.”
Michael Giasi is the executive director of Vincentian Marian Youth SEMO (Southeast Missouri). He finds joy in watching the students grow in faith and love, in learning life skills, and in working hard to improve the living situations of the people they serve. This year, six of their members will complete their Marian Consecrations, and he prays that their relationship with Mary will continue to lead them closer to Jesus.
“In 2019, we started a new, on-going service program called Service on Saturday. These are one-day service projects where students assist VMY volunteers in remodeling the homes of people in need (VMY SEMO takes on the cost of the projects). Our work is centered on achieving God’s will by positively impacting students’ lives, and those we serve, through faith, hope, and charity.”
Judith Vasquez is a teacher at St. Vincent School in Los Angeles, California. She has been running VMY for two years and loves watching the students celebrate Mary and the Holy Family through the Posadas. They make the costumes and props, memorize their parts, and have leadership roles in helping the whole community with the procession that starts at the church.
“I have grown in my experience of sharing Mary and St. Catherine Labouré with the students. Wearing the Miraculous Medal keeps us close to Mary and her Son, Jesus. It reminds us of her love and the graces
Silvia Macias is the Coordinator of Liturgy and Confirmation at St. Vincent de Paul Church in Los Angeles, California. At 19, she emigrated from Mexico to the United States and has been in charge of VMY for several years. Even during the pandemic, the group gathered (in the parking lot, six feet apart) to prepare food bags for the needy for Thanksgiving. She shares, firsthand, the positive impact this apostolate has made on the youth and in her own life.
“I have heard some of the young people say that because of the program, they began to interact with their peers in a different way. Their hearts are filled with love and compassion.
“Over time, I began to realize how much I have grown through this program, too. When you begin to share what God has provided you, not only the material but the spiritual, you grow along with the people you serve.”
Karla Arvizu-Sotelo is currently the Assistant Principal of Mother of Sorrows School in South Los Angeles. She has been involved with VMY for 13 years, still remains fascinated with its rich history, and has not only personally experienced the fruits of this ministry within the school, but within her own life.
“VMY is not an ordinary group. It’s not focused solely on service but encourages members to participate in fellowship, prayer and reflection, and service for others. I am always amazed at the enthusiasm our youth demonstrate as they brainstorm, organize, and participate throughout the year.
“Many of the other organizations on campus are directed toward sports, art, and academics. Students, who are not naturally inclined to those organizations, have found a home in VMY. Here, they have the opportunity to be themselves and begin to demonstrate and strengthen leadership skills. Many students in our school have begun their journey as VMY members and developed the confidence to run for student government on our campus and in high school.”
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