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Called to be Bold

My name is Simone, I’m 23 years old and I’m from Sydney. I studied Sociology and Behavioural Science at Notre Dame, served on the Melbourne Youth Mission Team last year and am now Events Assistant at CREDO, the Archdiocesan Office for Renewal and Evangelisation.

I was brought up in a wonderful, loving Catholic family of four. My parents took my older brother and I to Mass every week and we prayed the rosary as a family quite often. I didn’t really understand the importance of it all and most of the time it felt like a routine and nothing more.

It wasn’t until the age of 14 when I joined a youth group that this began to change. My older brother, who had recently joined the youth band at the neighbouring parish, invited me along to the 6pm Youth Mass. I was struck by the upbeat music; I had never experienced Mass like this before! A couple of my friends from school were at this Mass and invited me to come along to the youth group afterwards. I decided to throw caution to the wind and go along and it very quickly became the highlight of my fortnight from then on. It was at this youth group that I made fantastic friendships and began to learn more about my faith from the leaders and the other youth. I realised that I didn’t know what it meant to be Catholic; for example, I had heard the Gospels so many times but I had never really listened to them. It was in this community of young people that I gradually began to understand and appreciate the Mass, the Sacrament of Reconciliation, the Scriptures and the significance of daily prayer. Most importantly, I began to come to know and experience God’s love.

Something that was a challenge to my faith was the fact that I have suffered from chronic eczema for the majority of my life. It was difficult growing up with this quite visible and often unbearable condition. It was something I was embarrassed to even speak about to my friends.My parents were constantly looking for different treatments. Many of these treatments would work for a short period of time, however, my skin would either worsen or return to its previous condition. The eczema not only affected me physically but emotionally as well. It was frustrating and I felt hopeless as there seemed to be no cure. The eczema dictated my personality in this way; I was a timid, anxious, negative and tense person. I was self-conscious of my skin and battled with my self image as well as my body image. I held a bit of resentment towards God because He was letting me suffer and it took me a very long time to see it as part of His plan for my life.

In 2013, at a week-long retreat held in January every year, I was prayed with for the healing of my eczema. I desperately sought physical healing but what I really needed was emotional healing and this is what God gave me. I wasn’t completely healed physically but I was set free from the fear, anxiety and despair which had been a huge part of my life for so long. For the first time, I was able to truly experience God’s peace, love and joy without any barriers. It was with this healing that God called me to be bold.

My year on the Youth Mission Team allowed me to be just that. I never would have imagined myself answering God’s call to move interstate, speak in front of, and minister to, hundreds of young people and challenge myself everyday to step further and further out of my comfort zone and into the arms of God. This is what God enabled me to do. This whole experience strengthened my faith and trust in God and increased my passion for evangelisation. I now have a real desire to help others to know and experience the love of God.

When I look back now, I can see that God was at work all along; He made sure I was at that Youth Mass so that I could go along to the youth group which would teach me the fundamentals of my faith, which, in turn, would set me off on my faith journey. I know that there are going to be many more obstacles for me to overcome in the future but I am eager to live out the plan that God has for me.