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The world comes to Turlock
International young adult Catholic movement annual meeting set for July
YATOL pic2
Turlock resident and National Responsible for YATOL USA Brean Bettencourt, and her co-responsible Sandra Machado (third from right in the second row), are pictured at the National Responsibles Annual Meeting held in August 2011, in Seville, Spain. - photo by Photo Contributed

This summer more than 200 young adult Catholics from around the globe will converge on Turlock for the 2012 Young Adult Teams Of Our Lady International Meeting, which will be held at California State University, Stanislaus in July.

YATOL is an international young adult Catholic movement built on the principle of youth serving youth, which began in1975 in France and is now headquartered in Seville, Spain. YATOL is for young adults who are unmarried between 18 to 30 years old. Members seek to grow from a shallow understanding of their Catholic faith to a meaningful relationship with Jesus, through community, prayer and action. The movement is devoted to Mary (Our Lady), choosing her as a model of openness to the Holy Spirit. The purpose of the teams of Our Lady is to help its members to live the double dimension of the Christian life: being with Christ and being sent on a mission into everyday life. YATOL has gained enough world-wide interest and was officially blessed and recognized as a youth movement by Pope Benedict XVI in July 2009.

The first United States YATOL community was built in Turlock in 2003 when Jorge and Noelia Sousa were on a trip to Portugal. The Sousas are members of Teams of Our Lady, which gives married couples similar opportunities as YATOL.  

What started in Portugal, the Sousas say, can only be described as a miracle and an open call to spread God’s will to young adults in the U.S. While waiting for their return flight to the U.S. they realized they had left their plane tickets in the taxi they took to the airport. They couldn’t get a hold of the taxi driver and were forced to wait in Lisbon, Portugal for several days until they could get new tickets. The Sousas decided to rent a car and drive to the town of Evora, just east of Lisbon. They went to eat at an Italian restaurant, and as they waited for their food they heard loud singing from a table full of young adults. The group, they discovered, was part of YATOL in Evora for the annual international meeting. During the international meeting the group of Portuguese YATOL members had been praying for their movement to reach the U.S. The Sousas became that answer.

Less than a year later the first U.S. YATOL was established at Blessed Sacrament chapel of Our Lady of the Assumption Church in Turlock. There are now teams at all four Turlock Catholic churches and teams in surrounding cities like Hilmar, Atwater and Modesto. YATOL has reached Texas, Iowa, Oregon, Florida and Virginia.

Turlock resident and National Responsible for YATOL USA, Brean Bettencourt, explained why she believes YATOL is growing.

“We are growing because I believe there is a huge need and desire for young adults to become part of something bigger than themselves. They want to reach out and they are hungry to touch others’ lives through faith and Mary,” she said.

Bettencourt said what is most unique about YATOL is the large international membership.

“I can think of no other (Catholic) movement that has so many people in so many places who want to do good works in their communities and the world. YATOL is like the Catholic Church because we have so much diversity but we are all unified in Christ through Mary,” she explained.

Most YATOL teams consist of about a dozen young adults, a married couple from TOOL to serve as advisors and a spiritual advisor, typically a priest.

This summer when YATOL members from across the world visit for the week-long international meeting many will get their first taste of the United States right here in Turlock. Team members will be coming from countries like Canada, Spain, Portugal, Italy, France, Brazil, Mozambique, Angola, Haiti, Lebanon, Syria, and Costa Rica.

An intriguing aspect of the Turlock international meeting will be the presence of teams from the Middle East, specifically Lebanon and Syria.

“Young adults in Syria especially will be taking extreme measures and making significant sacrifices to come to U.S. for this pilgrimage, despite the fact that they are living in a war zone and their country is in a destitute economy,” said Bettencourt.

“It will be such an honor to have so many people here in Turlock at one time from across the world and the country. This doesn’t happen very often and what is really awesome is that the YATOL movement in the United States began right here in little Turlock,” she said.

For more information on YATOL visit