Andrea Cunningham, who came with her family, husband and five children from Northern Ireland, was one of many pilgrims that we met and had chance to interview. This is her fifth visit. She thinks that Medjugorje is indeed a special place and she keeps coming back here because this is where she feels at home. “This indeed is a special place. I heard about the apparitions in the beginning of 90’s and I arrived here for the first time in 1994, at the time I got married. How does Medjugorje help me? It keeps my relationship with God, strengthens and renews my faith, gives me strength. I think it is really easy to become part of hectic life, stress of everyday living, we are easily distracted by other things, and when you come to place like Medjugorje, that means return to the nature, return to the personal relationship with God”, said Andrea who thinks that young people always seek for something, and they actually seek for God. “It is wonderful to see so many young people here who walk around and pray Rosary and they all look so natural, since it is easier for them to do that here than back home. It is hard to be like this at home because there is general opinion that something is wrong with the people who pray and do not do some other things. I do not know what will happen in the future. I can only say that Medjugorje is a little piece of heaven on this earth, and that is what we are all longing for, whether we were aware of that or not. We are longing towards that, and here you get the feeling that it is possible to achieve that.”
The Second International Meeting of Persons with Disability will be held in Medjugorje from September 20 to September 22, 2013. Similar to the last year’s programme, most of the programme will be held again in the facilities of Mother’s Village, which together with the parish and Association “Susret/Encounter” from Citluk, is at the same time the main organiser of this event. All participants will be gathering in the afternoon on September 19, 2013 and accommodation and food are free for all participants. All who would like to take part in this Meeting can do that by sending the exact number of persons with disability, persons with wheelchairs and their parents or those who will come to accompany them, at the e-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org. The programme of this Meeting will be filled with workshops for children and parents as well as with the lectures and prayer meetings. Prayer on Apparition Hill will take place on Saturday morning, and this whole event will be concluded with Holy Mass on Sunday at 11 a.m. in the parish church of St. James.
The Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Heaven was solemnly celebrated in Medjugorje in the presence of numerous pilgrims from our country and from abroad as well. Majority of pilgrims were youth, many of them arrived throughout the whole night, confessed and participated in the Holy Masses that were celebrated from 6 a.m. in the church of St. James’. Pilgrims from Germany, the United States, England, Ireland, Kanada, Italy, France, Spain, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland and Croatia were in Medjugorje in those days. Holy Masses were celebrated in Croatian language and in many other languages, while the central Holy Mass in the evening at 7 p.m. was celebrated by Fr. Stanko Cosic with 66 priests who concelebrated at that Holy Mass. It was on August 10, 2013 that one married couple from Poland arrived to Medjugorje and they came after 82 days of walking and 1500 km of their journey: Andrzey, who is 69 and Kararzyna Sieminscy, who is 60. Karazyna told us: “I decided for this trip on February 28 when Holy Father Benedict XVI resigned and I felt strong desire to walk to Rome again, but I decided to come to Medjugorje first. We thank all people that we met on our journey who have expressed their love to us. Gospa blessed each of our steps.” (photos)
Stefano Rotondo is a doctor from Italy. He heard about Medjugorje at the beginning of the apparitions and made his first pilgrimage here in 1983. He told us that his life changed dramatically after that visit.
“It was then when I understood that it is very important to find God where I live and that I can discover joy of simple encounter with God. I came in 1983 for the first time and Medjugorje is today everywhere for me, everywhere I live. It helped me understand the Gospel and to live it in everyday life. I learned how to listen here, I learned what is silence, I learned how to accept myself – simply, I started opening my heart to God,” said Stefano whose family together with two another families formed a prayer group. This is his fourth year that he comes and brings pilgrims to Medjugorje. “In the depth of our heart we wanted to continue prayer in our place and that is why our three families began to pray the Rosary together and we do that on regular basis. We felt Gospa’s presence in our homes and how She wanted us to bring others to Medjugorje as well.”
Agnes Nick lives in Canada for the last twenty years and finally her great wish to come to Medjugorje was realised in these days. “Every day of my life I feel Gospa’s and Jesus’ grace. I am a member of prayer group in Saint Tomas in Toronto that is called ‘Mary moves priesthood’. We gather every Wednesday evening and we pray Rosary to the Blessed Virgin Mary and read Her messages from Medjugorje. Ever since I do that, I feel that I can carry all life difficulties in easy way: you simply surrender to God and His Mother, and they know the best all of our needs. They always come to help in our aids”, said Agnes.
Many people of various vocations and professions from all over the world came to give a testimony at the Youth Festival. Among them we found two young men from the United States, from New York and their names are Cliffored Azize and Charles Kinnane. It was couple of years ago that two of them established production company “Grasfids Films” that films documentaries and one of the most famous works of their production is movie Child 31. This moving documentary speaks about the great project of organisation “Mary’s Meals” that helps more than 700.000 children in sixteen countries throughout the world. Thanks to donations and huge help of numerous volunteers who are trying to resolve one of the greatest problems in these times – hunger, but in the way that meal is provided at the schools and in that way children are encouraged to education.
The 24th International Youth Festival that began on Thursday, August 1, 2013 finished on Tuesday, August 6, 2013 with Holy Mass of Thanksgiving celebrated at 5 a.m. on the top of Cross Mountain by Fr. Danko Perutina, coordinator of this meeting.
Dozens of thousands of young people gathered in Medjugorje this year and they came from 60 different countries. The programme of the Youth Festival would start at 9 a.m. with the Morning Prayer and would continue with lectures, testimonies and lessons from Christian life throughout the rest of the day. The evening prayer programme would begin at 6 p.m. with Rosary and the central event of every day was Holy Mass at 7 p.m. The opening Holy Mass was celebrated by the Provincial of Herzegovina Franciscan Province, Dr. Fr. Miljenko Steko. Every other night, four newly ordained priests were the main celebrants: Fr. Stanko Cosic, Fr. Mario Ostojic, Fr. Josip Serdjo Cavar and Fr. Mijo Sarcevic, while the homilies were given by their older brothers: Fr. Slaven Brekalo, Fr. Petar Ljubicic, Fr. Svetozar Kraljevic and Fr. Danko Perutina. The largest number of priests who have concelebrated at those Holy Masses was on Thursday, when 515 of them were present. (foto) ; (video)
Marijo Jerković, Petra Grancarić and Antonija Rebrina walked from Zagreb to Medjugore and it took them sixteen days for the journey of more than 500 km. It was Marijo who initiated this trip after he read some of the testimonies from Medjugorje, among those one about lady who walked from Poland and about pilgrim who converted in Medjugorje and became a priest. Our young pilgrims began their pilgrimage on July 11, 2013 and were very impressed by goodness of the people they met on their way and who have helped them in many ways. “We received one beautiful experience; Gospa followed us on every step we took. We always carry beautiful impressions from Medjugorje”, they said and thanked all from Zagreb to Medjugorje.
The community “Merciful Father” introduced their work and activities to young people at the 24th International Youth Festival on Monday, August 5, 2013. This community is based in Bijakovici and it is led by Fr. Svetozar Kraljevic who said: “Today I would like to congratulate boys - some of them have been with us for more than three years. It is huge when one young man comes from the street into the prayer, serious work, into love, care, affection where he learns how to say: I am sorry…thank you…can I help you…where rosary beads become every day decoration of soul, heart, mind and body. People in the community discover gifts that God gave them at the birth, they discover beauty, kind words, mercy, compassion, something they never knew of. Therefore, I would like to congratulate these boys once again and I am rejoicing because of the extreme happiness of their families.
The Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament took place nearly every night after the evening prayer programme. Many have told us that it was exactly Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament that they found to be so special and most moving for them. Suzana from Petrinja comes to the Youth Festival for seven years now and she came this year in the group of ninety pilgrims. She told us: “More people come here every year. I love listening to the testimonies and I found them moving indeed, but I am most impressed by the Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.”
Tatjana from Slovenia also told us that she loves coming here because of homilies, Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and Holy Masses.
Fr. Liam Lawton from Ireland grew up in a big family with five children and he was ordained as a priest in 1984. He said how he was moved by the faith of the local people when he first arrived to Medjugorje. Fr. Liam comes from the family of musicians and his desire was to live music at the same time with priesthood. The crucial moment for him was encouragement he received after confessing before Fr. Slavko Barbaric who invited him to sing few songs during the Holy Mass that same evening. After singing during the Holy Communion he also accompanied Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament with his music. That was the beginning of the Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament that we have today in Medjugorje.
The traditional procession with thousands of young people from sixty different countries took place on Sunday, August 4, 2013, after the evening Holy Mass, as a part of the 24th International Youth Festival. Procession started from the church with Our Lady’s statue and candles in the hands of participants and followed the main road towards the Apparition Hill, Cross Mountain and ended with the prayer outside the White Dome.
Fr. Stanko Cosic celebrated the evening Holy Mass on Friday, August 2, 2013 along with 515 priests that concelebrated.
Fr. Slaven Brekalo gave a homily and said to youth: “You have come here, but we cannot all stay here, we need to return to where we have come from. That is exactly what God wishes for you so you would witness what you have experienced here. You should never forget Holy Scripture. The Gospel is joyful news and not some tyranny, it is not some condemnation but it is joyful news full of grace and love. Gospa invited you here but She sends you further because that is God’s logics, God invites and then He sends. He has no one else to send but you. Be holy!” (photos)
Among young people from sixty countries who participate in the 24th International Youth Festival in Medjugorje we met Tatjana who came from Slovenia. This is Tatjana’s twelfth visit to the Youth Festival. She briefly told us: “I come because of homilies, Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, testimonies and Holy Masses. It is good for us to be here with the Queen of Peace. It is crowded, but we do not have problem with that.”
Young people from Slavonija, region on north of Croatia, arrived to the Youth Festival in the great number. We spoke to Sanja Stivanovic and Darko Ilijasic from Slavnoski Brod. “Medjugorje is alwas a special event for us, we always bring something beautiful from here. As we look at such a great number of young people that were gathered here by Gospa, that is indeed experience that changes every one of us.” Darko came for the first time and said: “I was extremely impressed by such a great number of young people at one place. So much joy and so much sincere and open love.”
Medjugorje is all about youth in these days since this is the week when the 24th International Youth Festival is held with theme: “Faith working through love.” The official beginning of the Festival was on Thursday, August 1 at the White Dome. Rosary was led by Fr. Antonio Sakota and Holy Mass at 7 p.m. was celebrated by Provincial of Herzegovina Franciscan Province, Dr. Fr. Miljenko Sakota along with 470 priests who concelebrated at Holy Mass. At the beginning of this Holy Mass, young people from Medjugorje greeted all young people from all over the world, and then every country had opportunity for short introduction. Young people from 60 countries came to participate. (photos)