My first trip was in 1990. I was 32.

When I came, five days later, I was walking through the field and that’s when my heart opened up and it was like this stream of water. I knew God existed in that moment. 

I’m a burn victim. I was burned by oatmeal. I dumped it on top of myself by mistake when I was five. I’m from a family of 18 kids. I’m number 10. 

I go through a lot of suffering, but in that moment, when I experienced God, it was like every suffering was worth it. 

I actually wanted to die because it felt like I found God. His love and His peace was so strong. I was ready to go. I found God the Father instead of finding Mary. 

The only way I can explain it is, my heart opened and it was like this stream of fresh water. Truth was infused into me. I knew God existed. I knew the value of suffering. In an instant. 

It was difficult. I didn’t want to go home. I went home and two weeks later, my brother, one I’m closest too, was killed in a plane crash. It was so horrible. 

I was angry with God because it was like, “Why did you take him? I found You first.”

In time, I realized, I wasn’t ready. 

On my seventh pilgrimage is when someone challenged me to take a group over. That’s when I started meeting Mirjana. 

It was interesting because, when I first met Mirjana, it was like, “She’s seen the Mother of God. I don’t know if I really want to meet her.” The only way that I’d be comfortable somehow is if she had a sense of humor, and you know, she’s got quite a sense of humor. 

After I brought the first pilgrimage group over, I said I’d never do another one.

I think this is my 67th pilgrimage. 

It’s like Fr. Slavko said, “School of love.” It’s a school. There’s a different lesson. 

Miki said, “Like a mother, She keeps repeating.” It’s true. Hearing again the message of prayer and fasting hit me more this time. 

With the pandemic, it gave time to take a step back and see where your own faith is at. Obviously, it was difficult to receive the Eucharist and the sacraments. The sacraments give so much grace, but it was realizing, like on this trip, this could be our last. It was appreciating the Mass more, appreciating praying more, because you never know. 

It’s all in God’s hands. 

What can you share about what it’s like to see pilgrims on the first day versus the last day of the trip?

It’s watching them slowly open their heart, kind of questioning, then all of sudden you can see a smile starting and people starting to open up. For me, it’s watching them experience the Heavenly Mother, watching them open their hearts to their Heavenly Mother. 

I know my first time, I thought of God as this judge, but it was finding Him as pure love and mercy. 

And I’m watching the pilgrims find peace. There are a lot of distractions back home. We can see them find that time that they need to let go. 

If you doubt God’s mercy, come. If you want to experience your Mother, come, and allow Her to lead you to Her Son.