Maria, who is 19 and comes from Norwich, was one of eight young people who took part in a new programme, living together a life of prayer, community, formation and mission.
“Of everything which I experienced during this time,” writes Maria, “the gift of going deeper in prayer was quite possibly the greatest of all. God has done so much in my heart, speaking into my life and working healing within me.”
Maria says she knows now that God has a marvellous plan for her life and that, in His generosity, He wants to use her to spread the Gospel. Part of how He equipped her for this was through the community aspect of the Mission House. Prior to joining the Mission House, Maria had a taste of the joy of fellowship in the faith when she attended Mass at the UEA Catholic Chaplaincy (the young people there very kindly welcomed her in, even though she wasn’t actually at the university). She was aware of needing more of this and it was a joy to live alongside the other missionaries on fire with their faith. They are now some of her closest friends and she imagines that they will be for a very long time.
Over the nine months, the group studied more of their faith, receiving teaching from the Bible and Catechism. However, the focus of all the study was not book learning but practical and prayerful formation. The ultimate key to the evangelisation which they were formed in came not from theory but from a real and deep encounter with the love of the living God; an encounter so profound that ‘we cannot help but speak of what we have seen,’ as Peter and John exclaim after Pentecost.
With this perspective, they gave their time, prayers and love to a variety of missions. A large part of this took place at the house itself as they helped in the running of a variety of retreats. “But the Gospel cannot be contained,” writes Maria “…and neither could we.” They frequently left rural Dalmally to travel to Glasgow in order to minister at monthly prayer nights, which drew many young people to a night of eucharistic worship, enriching talks and Christian fellowship. They also went treasure hunting around Glasgow; approaching people on the streets which they felt led to by the Holy Spirit (these people being their treasure), praying with them and sharing with them the Gospel.
“Perhaps the most powerful mission trip of all was one we did in St Benedict’s High School, Bury St Edmunds,” writes Maria. “I could not believe it when I heard that we were going to my home diocese on mission (the Lord was clearly at work). Here we gave teachings, testimonies and prayer ministry to the students for a week which finished in a beautiful and reverent Mass. Though optional, it nonetheless saw a hall full of students attending to worship our God.
“God has done so much in me this year – it’s a joy to share,” she concludes. “I would definitely encourage everyone to be open to formation, retreat and mission. May God Bless you greatly!”
Pictured above is Maria Belderbos in the Scottish Highlands.