entecostal experience. These are the two words I use to describe my GIVEN experience. For over a year, I had longed and prayed for something like GIVEN to help discern my lost vocation. Before GIVEN, I was studying international relations and was presented with the opportunity to work for the Long Beach Mayor’s Office. My passion and drive to bring about peace surfaced all the more as I assisted with the city’s international trade. Three months into my internship, I was invited to the United Nations Leadership Summit in Washington D.C. My dream at that time was to work for the United Nations, so this opportunity was a dream come true.
“My spirit was crushed by hearing and seeing the deep needs of our brothers and sisters around the world.”
During the United Nations Leadership Summit, my spirit was crushed by hearing and seeing the deep needs of our brothers and sisters around the world. I was amazed at the way issues were addressed, witnessing voice wars of who could scream the loudest when discussing pressing issues. I felt so troubled hearing others determine the destiny of families by pushing contraceptives and abortion as “disease-ending solutions.” I came back from Washington D.C. and closed my heart to international relations, government, and diplomacy. I felt hopeless halfway through my bachelor’s degree and unable to be in a position of power to make significant change to protect families and the most vulnerable.
“God had a divine plan, but never wanted my heart to be hardened. He had allowed me to see what happens behind closed doors in places where He is not well received.”
At the end of the semester, I changed my major to undeclared (avoiding my calling) and later changed it to environmental science and public policy. God had a divine plan, but never wanted my heart to be hardened. He had allowed me to see what happens behind closed doors in places where He is not well received. I went in with so much hope to be a beacon of light and was shut down multiple times when defending life. God embraced me in the deep sorrow I felt during and after attending the summit. A year after the United Nations Summit, I discovered the GIVEN Forum and the more I read about it, the more I was convinced that God had answered my prayer. I wanted formation and guidance to better protect my brothers and sisters. Still in denial, I wanted answers and longed for God to breathe life into my hardened heart.
Restored and Healed
t the GIVEN Forum, Anna Halpine, CEO of FEMM, shared her story of founding the World Youth Alliance at the United Nations. Her tenacity and resilience in standing up for the truth brought healing to my hardened heart and, by God’s grace, I was made new. My prayer was answered! I was filled with gratitude because Anna’s witness to the truth helped me understand that my “lost vocation” was a gift from God. A gift I was now ready to accept, restored and healed, ready to stand firm as a warrior of God.
“Her tenacity and resilience in standing up for the truth brought healing to my hardened heart and, by God’s grace, I was made new.”
Relationship with Our Lady
s I was getting on the plane to Washington D.C. for the GIVEN Forum, I knew something beautiful was about to happen. In the midst of the cotton-white clouds, a deep fear stirred, and I felt the need to pray the rosary. Since I didn’t have a deep relationship with Our Blessed Mother, I asked for her intercession for less turbulence on the flight and for my anxious heart to rest in hers. I closed my eyes and started to pray. I felt so safe and loved in Mary’s arms.
“I closed my eyes and started to pray. I felt so safe and loved in Mary’s arms.”
Since my Baptism, Our Lady of Guadalupe has wrapped me under her mantle. My parents were very devoted to Our Lady and had me baptized at The Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico. During the GIVEN Forum, I kept feeling Our Lady’s embrace as I contemplated Our Lady of Guadalupe’s beautiful image and the words spoken to Juan Diego, “Am I not here, who is your Mother? Are you not under my protection? Am I not your health? Are you not happily within my fold? What else do you wish? Do not grieve nor be disturbed by anything.”
“So many graces were poured over me during the GIVEN Forum.”
One day after Mass during the GIVEN Forum, I felt drawn to enter a little hall in the Crypt Church with a beautiful statue of Our Lady of Antipolo (Peace and Good Voyage). I knelt and saw the golden plaque with a prayer to Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage. I prayed the prayer and asked Our Lady to help me listen with an open heart to what she was trying to tell me. I silenced myself and heard her speak, “Be not afraid. I will protect you from all harm. God has a great mission for you. Be not afraid for I will always be with you. Fear nothing, no matter where this mission takes you, know that I am your mother and I love you. Don’t fear to say “yes” to God’s calling for you.” I had no words to describe this beautiful moment. I left the Basilica holding very dearly Our Lady’s message to me. So many graces were poured over me during the GIVEN Forum.
oday I have a better understanding of Our Lady’s message. I connected with a woman running for Congress who is unapologetically pro-life. I was offered the opportunity to assist her for the 2020 elections. Remembering the message Our Lady gave me and the strength I need to stand against all odds, my journey has begun and I am consecrating all my work in supporting this candidate to Our Lady. I thank God for the gift of GIVEN.
Kasandra Ortiz-Lopez, GIVEN ’19
Kasandra is majoring in law with a minor in government and public service. Her greatest desire is to serve the Lord by loving His people and delivering the message of hope by protecting the most vulnerable. She hopes to live out her faith with great boldness and joy.