When Elena Martín and Tatiana Amundsen arrive to Panama City for World Youth Day in January, they will meet up with other people from around the world whom they have never met, but have been praying alongside every day.

The two women are a part of a global organization based in Spain called the Crusaders of Mary, which includes an apostolic movement for youth called the Militants of Mary.

Amundsen, who is from Seattle, was recently introduced to the Militants of Mary through her professor in the architecture school at The Catholic University of America, where she is studying to get a master’s degree. Martín was introduced to the community through a summer camp when she was just 11 years old.

“I really liked the atmosphere. Even though I didn’t like to pray, I liked the people,” she said. “They helped me to be coherent with my faith.”

Now, she is a part of the Secular Institute of the Crusaders of Mary, where members take vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, but live their vocation in the middle of the world. She was sent to the Unites States from Spain to start a foundation of a community here, so she came to Catholic University in Washington as a visiting scholar before earning her doctorate in philosophy. Now, she is studying at the Saint John Paul II Institute, where she hopes to earn a master’s degree in theological studies. Her community currently consists of three women: an architect, a chemist, and Martín, who is a philosopher.

Martín did not like the idea of consecrated life at first, but said she later discerned that “God had different plans for me,” and wanted her to be a missionary.

“I realized one way to be a missionary is to give myself to God,” she said.

Tatiana Amundsen, at left, is pursuing a master's degree in architecture at The Catholic University of America. Elena Martín, at right, is pursuing a master's degree in theological studies at the Saint John Paul II Institute. (CS photo/Jaclyn Lippelmann)

Throughout the year, the members of the Militants of Mary and Crusaders of Mary share a prayer life, focusing on different themes at different times of the liturgical calendar.

“Even though I don’t know these people, I don’t speak the language…the way I have lived is very similar,” said Amundsen. “It is kind of nice to realize you are so different than someone but in a lot of ways similar, too.”

Through the faith and their shared prayer life, Amundsen said they all “have the joy that is universal.” Because of that shared foundation, she thinks it will be easy to build a relationship when she meets the other members of the group at World Youth Day.

“When you have something in common…you go knowing you can meld with them faster,” Amundsen added.

They expect their group to be about 80 people, mostly from South America. Amundsen does not speak Spanish, but she said when she did the Camino de Santiago in Spain with members of the group, she discovered “ways to communicate outside of words,” which is a part of “the beauty of international experience.”

During that pilgrimage, she walked for five days, which she said was the longest amount of time she had ever worked physically toward one goal.

“It helped me realize I need to define my goals…to find strength to reach them when I don’t feel I have strength to reach the goal,” she said.

Martín, who will be attending World Youth Day for the seventh time, said she enjoys seeing the international Church, and how the Church is made up of not just priests and religious sisters, but also lay people. She said her experience always pushes her faith not only in a spiritual dimension, but also in an apostolic dimension.

“I come back and want to share; invite people,” to show them that there is more to the Church than what they may have seen or heard before, she said.

Amundsen, who will be attending World Youth Day for the first time, said she is excited to meet more members of the Militants of Mary and to “understand how big the Church is.”

“I think it will bring me great encouragement and fortitude,” she said.