My first time coming here was in 2000 with my mom. At that time, I was 25, therefore I was two years sober.
When we got to the point where we visited Cenacolo Community, I really connected there because I had been doing recovery, and the people were young there. I thought, “Where was this when I was getting sober?” I thought it was so wonderful.
We were so excited about it that we came back to the states and told my mom’s cousin who had a son with a heroin addiction. Through prayer, he ended up going all the way through Cenacolo Community and doing icons and moving to Italy. He was an artist and really did great.
I’m 23 years sober now. It was half my life. For half my life I’ve been sober, by the grace of God.
I am in 12 step recovery and I continue to go because I knew that the life that God had given me, I needed to give back in service and help others. It became my life’s purpose and mission to help other alcoholic women or drug addicted women.
I met this girl. She had been through treatment after treatment, and her parents were hopeless. I was helping her through the 12 step recovery, and I even started to think, “I don’t know if she’s ever going to make it.”
It set me on a mission of prayer and fasting. I had been fasting like Our Lady has asked but not diligently and with my heart. I hadn’t really thrown my whole heart into something like that.
It was ultimately her decision to enter Community… and I thought this was totally an impossibility.
For six weeks, every Wednesday and Friday, I fasted for her.
I spoke with her and told her about Cenacolo. I thought that it might be her only hope. With mountain moving prayer and fasting, both combined, she said yes to Community. She entered into Community.
To this day, she is clean and sober. She goes to adoration every day. She met someone, and she’s really happy, carrying on her faith.
For me, it’s one of the fruits of Medjugorje, one of the miracles that has come out of coming here.
Every time I go back, I like to visit Cenacolo.
When we went to Cenacolo yesterday, I bought a bunch of their rosaries. They are poured out with love in each bead because they’ve made them with their own hands. It also gives me a recovery rosary to pray for people who suffer from addiction.
For me, it was a burning bush experience. I didn’t want to go into a treatment center, but I did because my mom asked me to, and I love my mom. Something traumatic had happened, and I was going to die. We had left the hospital, and everything inside of me was screaming that I didn’t want to go. I did because I love her.
While I was there, I was still kicking and screaming and fighting it, like, “I don’t want to be here. I don’t want to get sober. This is what my life is; it’s going to be boring if I get sober.”
I never envisioned my life without a chemical that was going to help me to feel better. I remember, I got on my knees, and I said, “God, please just give me the willingness to want to quit because I don’t want to.”
The next morning I woke up, and it was like I had new eyes to see. I knew in my heart that I never had to use drugs or alcohol ever again for the rest of my life, but that I was going to have to help others to maintain. It was going to be a daily thing, a daily surrender. Every day I have to lay down my life. Each day starts over new, therefore I have to start over new because I could get into a slippery spot if I didn’t.
This full dependence upon God brings on an incredible grace that’s indescribable. I live in God’s grace. I know that it’s nothing that I have done. It’s been a great gift and a miracle that He has given me.
I’m really lucky that I got sober so young, at age 23. It’s given me a life that I never dreamed possible.
There was a specific person that I was praying for every day for two years and three months and a few days. I had met this particular person in Medjugorje, and we didn’t have a very happy experience together. However, after the Blessed Mother in my heart told me to pray seven Hail Mary’s every day for this person, my heart began to change. On the first night here, I was able to go to this person and realize that he was not all at fault and that I played a part in that as well.
My recovery has helped me to see that whenever there needs to be amends, I need to take a look at myself. It’s not about the other person, it’s about me. It’s about making an amends whenever possible.
I felt like, “Well, this is possible, and obviously I’m supposed to see him today.” I was able to be released from that, not only from the obligation of praying for him every day, which I will probably continue because I’ve grown to love this person, but for me to have this freedom. I did my part, all I could do to make amends and reparation for my sin in that.
Usually, in AA if you have a problem with someone, you pray every day for two weeks for them and see what happens to your heart.
For me, the Blessed Mother knew it would take a couple years for me to get past. It was a really slow and gradual process for me, but toward the end, the closer that we got to coming on this trip and knowing that I would be seeing him, my heart began to shift. Then I was saying a prayer to Mary to lend me Her heart, “I have a hardened heart. Lend me Your sweet heart.”
It’s been on this trip that I’m like, “Wow I really do love this person. I really want to continue to pray for him because I know he’s doing great things for so many people.” It just happened that our human personalities were like oil and water.
This pilgrimage is special because of the group of women that came with us. I’m here with my cousin, Eve, whom I’ve only known for a couple of years thanks to Ancestry DNA and God’s great mercy and gift. He allowed us to be on the earth together as cousins. I realize that the bonds of family run really deep, eternally deep. I love her.
I’m so happy that she and I are on this pilgrimage together. It has brought a true closeness to our families.
Also, the group of women that I’m with, most of them are my ACTS sisters. ACTS stands for adoration, community, theology, and service.
It’s like being on an ACTS retreat times a thousand because, as a group of women, we share our experiences. We share how God has been instrumental in our crosses. Getting to know these women through ACTS at my parish, I got involved in my Catholic faith like I never had before.
In 2015, I went on my first ACTS retreat. Then I served on team twice a year after that because I loved it so much. I loved how people became alive in the parish. You would see a wave of people smiling at each other in the church because they knew each other.
It’s not, “Hey, I show up for Mass and then I’m running out the door because somebody might make eye contact with me and I might have to say, ‘Hi.’”
Now, I’ve got a group of women that are really special. Obviously, Mary brought them along. I have asked everyone, “Hey do you want to go to Medjugorje? It’s so wonderful there!” and they’ve said yes.
There are twelve of us that came on pilgrimage. I’m like, “Oh Jesus, did you bring your twelve women followers?” This is just really special.
I’m called the ‘Hair Evangelizer.’ When people are in my chair, first of all, I always greet them with a warm smile and happiness to see them. Then when I’m washing their hair, I always pray over them and just ask that the Holy Spirit allow me to share what needs to be shared or not. A lot of conversation about Medjugorje has come out in my chair and about God in general.
It’s something I never dreamed I would still be doing because I thought I would become a nurse like my mom, but I can see now that God has placed me there and that is what I am supposed to do. It has nothing to do with hair.
Yes it’s an art, and yes it’s fun, and yes I make women and men look pretty, but it has nothing to do with that really. It’s about how can I be a witness for Christ.