Thursday, April 25, 2024
14.3 C
Sydney

Natalia embarks on her first World Youth Day with confidence in Christ

Most read

Over 370 adult pilgrims from the Archdiocese of Sydney attended the Fidelis WYD event on 28 June. Photo: Alphonsus Fok
Over 370 adult pilgrims from the Archdiocese of Sydney attended the Fidelis WYD event on 28 June. Photo: Alphonsus Fok

Suffering has taught Natalia Matar a lot about herself and she says she is fully prepared for whatever God has in store for her first-ever pilgrimage to World Youth Day in Lisbon.

The 22-year-old Maronite Australian Catholic University student has been through “a roller coaster” trying to find her place in the world since childhood.

Feeling at times that she “didn’t really fit in anywhere” Natalia also endured painful health issues including degenerative disc disease, a condition of the spine that usually afflicts much older people.

- Advertisement -

Often just a dull back pain she’s learned to live with, at times it was so unbearable she needed help even to stand or get into a chair.

She felt useless not even being able to help her mother around the house.

By her second year at ACU she was unhappy with her chosen course in social work, and a relationship became toxic to the point it was pulling her away from her loving family and her faith.

Realising she needed help she reached out to her family, the campus ministry and a university counsellor and gradually emerged from a deep depression.

Today she’s confident that God is calling her to two things that give her the most fulfilment—growing in her faith and becoming a school teacher.

“You can kind of forget the things you truly care about until that point when you hit rock bottom and it forces you to look back at them, especially faith, but now I know my purpose,” Natalia said.

“With that support I was able to get back on my feet and I was a lot happier with myself and full of life, I was doing things that made me enjoy being alive and then it was much easier to turn to God.

“I had turned away a bit from my faith especially, but returning to God at that time when I was not feeling like myself was definitely the best decision I ever made.

“I’ve never been happier, my faith is getting stronger and I’ve got like-minded friends around me.

“A lot of people at uni don’t reach out, which is sad, and I guess makes the suicide rate a lot higher.

“But I recommend they do because there are support systems and people around who can help, as I found at ACU, even if they don’t have all the other support that I did.”

Today Natalie is confident that God is calling her to grow in faith and fulfil her dream to teach. Photo: Giovanni Portelli
Today Natalia is confident that God is calling her to grow in faith and fulfil her dream to teach. Photo: Giovanni Portelli

Natalia is now working towards a qualification as a maths teacher and loves her part-time job in learning support at Trinity Catholic College in Auburn.

She plans to study theology as well and is trusting God like she never has before.

“It’s been a lot easier to trust in God than to trust in anything or anyone else,” she said.

“It’s a lot more reliable putting your faith in something you’re not too sure even exists but still knowing you’ve been heard.

“I definitely know I’ve been heard, I can’t really explain it, because everything that’s happened to me I can learn from it.”

Natalia will make her World Youth Day pilgrimage with other students from ACU and the University of Notre Dame Australia, joining one million other young people at Mass with Pope Francis during the week-long festival.

She’s excited to see the pope but she’s especially looking forward to visiting Lourdes beforehand, to pray at the spot Our Lady appeared to the young Bernadette Soubirous in 1858 and encouraged her to dig a spring.

Officially approved by the Catholic Church, St Bernadette’s experience was followed by thousands of reports of miraculous healings from the spring’s water, 70 of them confirmed by doctors, with the most recent officially recognised in 2018.

“Everyone who I’ve spoken to who has been to World Youth Day said that it’s a life-changing experience and I think it definitely will be for me as well,” Natalia said.

“I feel so drawn to it I know I have to go, and I’m not too sure why, but I feel quite strongly about going to Lourdes.

“I feel like there is someone or something that I’m meant to meet or experience there that’s going to change my life.

“Maybe the springs won’t heal me completely but will help me in some way by changing my perspective on a lot of things.

“So I’ve been praying that I will experience whatever God wills.”

- Advertisement -
- Advertisement -