The Eucharistic Youth Movement was founded in Europe during World War I and was known as the Eucharistic Crusade. Its purpose at that time was to pray, especially to the Blessed Sacrament, for the conversion of hearts and the reconciliation among the disillusioned youths affected by the War. Although the Eucharistic Crusade was founded by a Jesuit, Pere Bessiere, S.J., it was brought to Hanoi, Vietnam, by the Sulpicians in 1929. By 1951, it had spread throughout the whole country and became an organised movement in the early 1960's.
In 1964, in keeping with the spirit of the Second Vatican Council, the Vietnamese Eucharistic Crusade was transformed into the Vietnamese Eucharistic Youth Movement and was approved by the National Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Government. This new transition integrated both prayer and apostolate services. From 1964 to 1975, the Movement grew considerably in spirit and in number. In order to accommodate the growth of the Movement, the first National Convention, "Promised-Land I", was held in 1972. Over 2,000 coordinating-leaders attended it. By 1975, there were about 140,000 members, under the leadership of 3,800 coordinating-leaders serving in 650 parishes within 13 dioceses in South Vietnam.
With the fall of South Vietnam in 1975, the Society's activities ceased temporarily. However, with the waves of refugees fleeing to new homelands, the Movement came to life again. The Vietnamese Eucharistic Youth Movement is currently active in many different countries in the free world: Australia, Canada, Europe, Japan, and the United States.
In 1993, the Vietnamese Eucharistic Youth Movement joined hundreds of thousands of youth from all over the world to attend the Pope's “World Youth Day”, in Denver, Colorado.
In Australia, there are about 1700 members in 17 Vietnamese Catholic communities and parishes under the direction of 250 coordinating-leaders and chaplains: In order to correspond to the growth and revival of the Movement, “The National Leaders Convention I” was convened in December 1984 at Geelong, Victoria.
The goals of the Eucharistic Youth Movement are:
- To educate youths in both social and spiritual life and help them become better people and responsible Christians.
- To organise and guide all youths and help them become more aware of the Church's mission to the world by engaging in the spreading or Good News, and be involved in working for the good of society through apostolate services, in serving others.
The objectives of the Eucharistic Youth Movement are:
- To promote prayers for the Holy Father who is the Vicar of Christ on earth and to pray for the needs of the whole Church.
- To Promote constant devotion to the Eucharist, to give thanks to God for the living bread and in turn share it with others as Jesus did.
- To honour Mary as a model for discipleship.
- To Support the missionary efforts of the Church through a life of prayers, sacraments, services, and sacrifices based on the discernment of God's will.
In order to meet the above goals and purposes, the Eucharistic Youth Movement uses suitable methods for the education of its members, both in social and spiritual life. The Society bases its education on two essential elements: the love of God in the Eucharistic Sacrament and God’s living Word in the Bible.
- The Eucharistic Sacrament is the centre of the spiritual life, in which each individual starts his/her day with a morning prayer with a deep desire to be ready for Holy Communion and to make sacrifices with God in mind, through loving charitable activities and through apostolate services. The day ends with minutes of silence and a moment to record ”A Bouquet of Spiritual Flowers” in thanking God. All activities during the day is called a “Eucharistic Day”. Every day of life shall be “Days of Eucharist”.
- Living Words of God in the Bible is used as the Source of Inspirations. Images and stages of the life of Jesus along with the sites in the Bible, related to the different groups of youth are also used to serve the natural method in educating all age groups (Seeding: 5-10, Search: 11-13, Companion: 14-17). The gradual development proceeds from easy-to-difficult. The real and workable activities such as group meetings, training camps, seminars, public games, folk songs and dances, studying and sharing God’s Word, Annual Spiritual Retreat, etc. are carried out with the educational goals of meditating and interpreting God’s Word.
Three Stages of Eucharistic Youth’s Life
The Eucharistic Youth Movement stages are classified into three groups in order to meet the needs of the different ages of its members.
Step 1: Seedling
Seeding is a group consisted of two sub-group fledging members between the ages of five to six and seven to ten years old. Generally, the boys and girls at these ages are active, inquisitive, and fond of nature. The members wear the pink (five to six) and green (seven to ten) scarf, the verdant colour of a young wheatling, to symbolise their innocence and youthfulness. Like the wheat in the field blowing with the wind, the youth members are easily adaptable to new situations and receptive to new ideas. The group’ s model is the youth and obedient Jesus to his parents. The members learn and practice obedience to God’s will through the daily responsibility: praising God for many blessings, obeying their parents and teachers, helping and loving others.
Step 2: Search
Search is a group consisted of pre-adolescent youths between the ages of eleven and thirteen. Generally, the members during these ages are becoming more aware of their physical and emotional changes. During this transitional period into young adults, they are confused and ambivalent to set rules imposed by authority figures. They are searching for their own identity and the rationality of their existence. Consequently, this nameless quest affects their spiritual beings as well. The members wear the navy blue scarves which symbolises their unfathomed uniqueness and identity with a great hope of life and society. The scriptural model for the group is based on Jesus’ hidden and evangelical life. Like Jesus, who was patiently praying for a deeper knowledge of his mission, they must find who they are in the solitude of prayer. Imitating Jesus, who was willing to fulfil the Father’s wills, the will learn to accept who they are with gratitude. The members’ natural inclination to reason and question abstract thoughts and concepts is now integrated into their development through concrete apostolate works.
Step 3: Companion
Companion is a group consisted of adolescents between the ages of thirteen and sixteen. The adolescents at these ages begin to consolidate their emerging values and beliefs. They start to formalise their own identity and group dynamic. The basic needs to love and be loved, to understand and be understood become the beginning for friendship and cooperation among the members. Thus, the cannery yellow scarf wore by the members symbolises the sunrise of the youths before coming into their adult ages, and the manifestation of the heart, the opening of one’s life to others. While the evangelised Jesus is still the primary spiritual mode, Saint Paul is adopted by the members as their inspiring patron figure. Like Saint Paul, who became Christ’s zealous disciple after his spiritual lightning-conversion on the way to Damascus, the members constantly seek for God’s will and conversion of hearts. In addition, the members are encouraged to familiarise with communal apostolates and to live out the spirit of charity and generosity (Corinthian 13:1-13).
Leadership and Management
The Coordinating Leaders are those individuals who went through the formation of the Movement from the Seeding to Companion group. They know the charism and spirituality of the Movement. After specialised periods of training, they are initiated to become leaders of the four former groups. They wear the red, yellow stripe scarf which symbolises love, service, sacrifice, and responsibility.
Chaplains & Assistant Chaplains
Priests who are responsible for the spiritual characteristic of the Movement are appointed to be Chaplains. They shall invite seminarians and religious members to be their Assistants. chaplains wear the white, red stripe scarf; and Assistant Chaplains wear the red, white stripe scarf which symbolises the dedication to follow Christ.
The Vietnamese Eucharistic Youth Movement in Australia is managed and directed by the National Council of the Chaplains and Coordinating Leaders, who are representatives of the Movement. The national office is currently located in Sydney. Geographically, the Movement is divided in 7 regions. Each region has its own Regional Board of Chaplains and Coordinating Leaders, consisted of many district groups of local Vietnamese catholic communities, to coordinate with the national office.