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Turlocker reflects on life-changing encounters with the Pope
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Brean Bettencourt (pictured just above the 'L' in the banner) awaits the Popes arrival to Philadelphia last week along with other Youth Teams of Our Lady International members from the United States and Canada. - photo by Photo Contributed

Amidst the thousands of people who gathered to see Pope Francis during his whirlwind visit to the United States last week was Turlock resident and international leader of a worldwide Catholic organization Brean Bettencourt.

As the International Responsible of the Youth Teams of Our Lady, which is an international Catholic Young Adult Movement present in 14 countries, Bettencourt saw Pope Francis this past weekend at the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia.

This meeting is a triennial event sponsored by the Holy See’s Pontifical Council for the Family and the world’s largest Catholic gathering of families. With an underlying goal of adding depth of meaning to each participant’s understanding of families, this year’s event marked the first year that the event has taken place in the United States since its inception by Saint John Paul II in 1994.

“YTOL International had a booth at the World Meeting of Families, which gave the movement a great opportunity for further international exposure,” said Bettencourt. “While the exact numbers have yet to be announced, there was expected o be upwards of one million attendees at the event.”

Bettencourt said that there were a total of eight representatives from the United States YTOL Movement—with a majority of them from the Central Valley—and an additional five representatives from the Canadian YTOL Movement.

Although Bettencourt struggled to describe what it was like for her to see Pope Francis, she said that she believes he brought joy, peace and love to America.

“He’s not a celebrity. He doesn’t seek his own interests,” said Bettencourt. “Everything he says and does is to point in the direction of Jesus, and to be an example of what it means to follow him. His presence moves people beyond description.”

Bettencourt, like the many others who got a chance to see Pope Francis during his visit, said that he greatly impacted her with his devotion to being a faithful follower of Jesus and the servant leader of the Church.

“He’s not a Republican or Democrat, nor a conservative or liberal. Rather, he is a Catholic,” said Bettencourt. “He did not come to the USA to ‘change’ what the Gospel and the Church have always taught, but he’s here to affirm those teachings in a unique way.

“Furthermore, he was not just here to speak to Catholics. The Pope is for everyone, because Jesus and the Church are for everyone,” added Bettencourt.

During his visit, Bettencourt firmly believes that Pope Francis did not kiss babies or bless those who were sick, injured or disabled to bring attention to himself. Rather, he wanted to demonstrate the “love God has for us through these small, yet meaningful acts of kindness and humility.”

“Two of my favorite quotes of his include, ‘We all have the duty to do good,’ and, ‘Have the courage to be truly happy,’” said Bettencourt. “His message is inclusive to everyone, Catholic or not. His visit to our country has changed my life.”

The papal visit to the United States last week did not mark the first time that Bettencourt saw Pope Francis. Earlier this month, she was also invited to a private audience with the Pope at the Vatican as a guest of the Teams of Our Lady, which is a Catholic movement for married couples.

“I was invited to give a talk at their conference which took place that week in Rome, and the private audience was in conjunction with that meeting,” said Bettencourt.

During her visit to Rome, Bettencourt gave a conference to over 300 people from over 80 different countries on how young single adults today view marriage, as well as the challenges these young adults face in regards to the sacrament.

“Traveling to Rome and the Vatican for this event was truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” said Bettencourt. “Never would I have imagined that I would have the opportunity to be invited to speak at such a large event and furthermore, to attend a private audience with Pope Francis.”

During the private meeting with the Pope, Bettencourt said that he spoke at great lengths about the beauty and importance of the family. He encouraged Bettencourt and others in attendance to remain close to wounded families, which he said are numerous due to lack of work, poverty, health problems, mourning, worry caused by a child, estrangement or absence or a climate of violence.

“We must have the courage to come into contact with these families in a discreet but generous way—materially, humanly or spiritually—in those circumstances where they find themselves most vulnerable,” said Bettencourt.

Overall, Bettencourt said that she considered her trip to be special since she is the first YTOL International Responsible from North America since the movement’s inception nearly 40 years ago.

“It was a humbling experience to say the least,” said Bettencourt. “I still can’t believe it happened.”