I heard about Medjugorje through a close friend at Franciscan University of Steubenville. I didn’t know what it was, I didn’t know think Our Lady could still be appearing in this time and day. When I first heard about it, I’m going to be completely honest, I was very skeptical and uncertain. I think it was the curiosity that made me interested in going.

During my study abroad semester in Gaming, Austria, the University gave the students the opportunity to visit Medjugorje. When I got to here, I experienced something I wasn’t expecting at all. 

I was sitting on top of Cross Mountain by myself, taking some time to reflect and pray. As I was sitting there, I heard a beautiful voice say my name softly four times. I immediately knew it was the voice of Our Blessed Mother, calling me. It followed with an incredible stillness and peace.

See, during this time, my Mother was fighting against terminal cancer. When I was standing on Apparition Hill, I prayed from my heart, “Blessed Mother, I don’t know if any of this is real, but I ask you to pour peace into my heart in this time of suffering. Allow me to suffer well and joyfully.” I believe in that moment I experienced a conversion in my heart.

The year after my first trip to Medjugorje, Our Lord did so much through the intercession of Our Lady.

My Mother always had a devotion to the Our Lady, I always remember watching her pray the rosary. Although, I think she had a very cultural devotion to Our Lady. Being a Mexican family, Our Lady of Guadalupe was always very near and dear to our hearts. In 2016, I learned about Consecration to Jesus through Mary for the first time. In 2017, I completed the consecration and this was my first time learning about the life of Our Lady and how she was the perfect model of how we are called to love Jesus. We are called to give our own ‘fiat’ to Jesus: “be it done unto me according to thy word.” However, it wasn’t until Medjugorje that I began to foster this devotion within my heart.

When I came home, I wanted everyone to know about this place and the work Our Lady is doing here for the kingdom of God. Medjugorje speaks to the power of intercession, especially Our Lady’s intercession. My family and I, that year, started praying the Rosary together every night. My family learned how to suffer well as we prepared for the passing of my Mother. It wasn’t easy, but through prayer, especially praying as a family, we were given the grace to bear our crosses with beauty, dignity, and joy.

Medjugorje, I believe, allowed for a transformation of my heart. It helped me bring hope back to my heartbroken family. I realized that they were thirsting for that too, and because they saw it in me they became inspired. Funny enough, that year I taught my dad, Jesus, how to pray the rosary for the first time! He knew the prayers, but he had never used a rosary. I walked him through the process step-by-step, he is so patient.

A few years later, I decided I wanted to return to Medjugorje, but this time I helped lead a pilgrimage.

I wanted others to experience the amazing joy and peace that is in Medjugorje. As much as you can try to describe it, it has to be experienced to be understood. I haven’t experienced anything like that anywhere else. When you’re climbing either Apparition Hill or Cross Mountain, they’re so rugged and hard to climb. But for some reason, you have this grace and almost adrenaline that gets you up. Those hills somehow show me that there is something so much greater than me. You have to consider every step you take, it’s a lot like our walk with God – slow and steady towards the heights. Again, I hoped bringing people along on this pilgrimage would allow them to experience the same supernatural peace that I had encountered when I came before. And now, myself and a few other leaders have brought 60 students from Franciscan University here to Medjugorje! The only certainty about the future is that God’s plan is worth trusting.

My next chapter in life will be spent serving as a missionary for The Culture Project! There, alongside other missionaries, we will aim to set out to restore the culture through the experience of virtue. We work to proclaim the dignity of the human person and the richness of living sexual integrity, inviting our culture to become fully alive. I’ve come to see that I can’t do missionary work without the intercession, love, and example of Our Blessed Mother. She was the first disciple of Jesus. Her yes, or ‘fiat,’ to the Angel Gabriel brought Jesus into this world. He trusted himself completely in the hands of the Blessed Mother – shouldn’t follow his example?

Prayer and the Sacraments are the key to everything. We live in a culture that dehumanizes us. It tells us that love, as God designed it, isn’t possible. We’re told that the world ‘love’ can be used to describe a variety of things and can even be used to mistreat others. I want to work to proclaim the dignity of every human person! People, especially young people, need to hear about the richness and fullness of living out sexual integrity and chastity. We were made to live a life fully alive, to experience something beautiful. I always love the quote by Pope Benedict XVI, “The world offers you comfort. But you were not made for comfort. You were made for greatness.” I believe, that if it wasn’t for Our Lady’s intercession throughout the storms of life, I couldn’t do it. But I have given everything her and Jesus – Totus Tuus Maria, ‘Totally Yours Mary.’