Dena – 18 years old

I was here June of 2017 with a group. It was my Christmas gift. It was my mom, my older brother, and I, and she surprised us. She was like, “Hey, we’re going to Medjugorje with Father Anthony in June. It’ll be great.” 

Immediately, I was like, “You’re out your tree Mom. I’m not going. There’s no point in leaving America. What is there in this Bosnia? I don’t even know how to pronounce it.”

So I, up until we got here, was ‘Grumples.’ I was very grumpy. I didn’t want to be here

We got to Medjugorje. I was 15 at the time and we got here late one evening and went to sleep. Woke up the next morning, the first thing we do is come across the street to [visionary] Mirjana and we hear her testimony. Before she came out to speak to us, we’re praying the Rosary. 

I was baptized Catholic, had gone through all the sacraments up to that point, still didn’t know how to pray a Rosary. I’m just going through the motions, and all of a sudden I’m in this excruciating pain all around my body and I didn’t know what was happening. My heart started to race and my head was pounding and it was like I couldn’t keep my eyes open. It just got so heavy. And I was sitting in my mom’s lap. So she felt me tense up and was like, “What’s up?” And I couldn’t speak. I couldn’t answer her. 

As they kept praying the Rosary, the entire dining hall was filled with people from all around the world. I’m in all this pain and suddenly it’s gone in a split second and I felt nothing. And it’s just tears coming down my face. At that point, Mirjana had come out and started giving her testimony. The whole time she’s speaking, I’m just crying and crying. And it’s really in one ear, out the other. I don’t know what’s going on. I’m there, but I’m not there. I was freaking out on the inside, my heart’s still racing, but I felt nothing. I couldn’t even feel my mom under me, sitting in her lap anymore. 

Then Mirjana finished speaking. It lasted the entire time from when we started the Rosary until about 5 minutes after she stopped speaking and left the room. I’m still crying at this point. I was not expressive. They were just streaming down my face. And everything stopped, that feeling went away, and I started to feel normal again. 

I went outside, we went about our day, and then we were going on a walking tour of the church grounds. We’re on the side of St. James by all the confessionals and I went up to my priest and he’s like, “What’s wrong?” And I just broke down. And I was like, “I don’t know what happened to me.” I explained it to him as best as I could, and he stopped me, looked at me dead in my eyes, and he said, “You felt Heaven.” 

This new life was just thrusted upon me. From that point on, Mary was like, “I’m not letting go of you. I’m gonna make you my warrior — my prayer warrior.”

I visited the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe, and there I was given my vocation. It was a vision of me holding a child and leading children of all different ages and sizes and ethnicities from all over the world to Our Lady here in Medjugorje.

After that, we came back home and we got together to share, me and four other people from my parish that had visited Medjugorje before, and they just wanted us to give our testimonies because we had heard about Youth Fest and we wanted to bring a group from our church back here so they could experience all these great things Medjugorje has given to us.

Our third night here, we finish mass, and we were under the trees just sharing. I’ve been told by youth that did come on the trip, “I just want to thank Dena because if it wasn’t for her giving her testimony that day, I would not be here, and I would not have been blessed with what I’ve been blessed with and received the graces I’ve received.” It’s only the third or fourth day, and they’re like, “I’m already changed. I have faith now.”

Immediately I broke down. To get the validation that I’m doing what He wants me to do. She has made me Her little soldier. It’s giving me chills because now I know there’s more work to be done, and there’s more youth to be brought.