Silvia Janine Rusneac from Romania has a master’s degree in Roman Catholic and Greek Catholic Theology. Since 1994, she has been organising pilgrimages to Medjugorje. This is her testimony:
My name is Silvia Janine Rusneac from Oradea, a city in the west of Romania. My parents were both Catholics - my mother was a Roman Catholic and my father was a Greek Catholic - but during the communist regime, I was baptised in the Orthodox Church, so I was the only Orthodox Christian in the family! My parents were not fully practicing Catholics. My mother only went occasionally to the church to pray to St. Anthony. I myself knew almost nothing about God. I believed that God exists, but for me, he was in His heaven above while I was here on earth. I was not a practicing believer. I didn’t go to church. I didn’t know anything about confession… of all prayers, I only knew the Our Father. For two years I studied medicine, but I couldn’t handle the problems related to suffering, so I had to quit.
At that time, I had huge problems in my life, and I wanted to die. I recall a time when I said to God: “Even if only for a second, grant me the power to take my own life… to disappear from Your eyes. I don’t want Your Heaven. I just want to disappear from the universe. Give me this power.” If He had given me the power, I believe that I really would have taken my life. At that time, even if God had told me: “I will give you happiness”, I would have said NO. I was really suffering very deeply. This is what led me to Medjugorje…
I did not know that Our Lady could possibly appear on earth
At that time, back in the year 1990, I bought a lot of newspapers, and that is how I heard about the apparitions of Our Lady for the first time. I read an article about a variety of apparitions in various parts of the world, and I remember kneeling down and saying: “O God, I am so happy that you have begun to appear, because now people will begin to believe that you exist!” I knew nothing then about apparitions. I certainly did not know that it was possible for Our Lady to appear on earth.
When I was a little child, my Greek Catholic grandmother taught me to pray the Our Father. She transmitted to me an awareness that God is powerful, and that He is good. And so, during the phase of my greatest suffering, I remembered the God of my childhood, and I said to my mother: “I am going to God”. I went to church… a Catholic Church. From that very moment onwards God held me by the hand. I really only understood this many years later. From that very moment, my whole life was directed towards Him. After that, I began to ask people: “Have you heard about Medjugorje?” Nobody knew anything. In the meantime, my mother urged the whole family to pray for me, because she was afraid that I was going to die. As my weight was only 43 kg, we all began going to the Catholic Church. We all started to pray. I then began to study theology because I wanted to learn more about God.
In the particular church I had begun to frequent, I met a young man who had some contact with Medjugorje. He knew a priest in Budapest, in Hungary, who organised pilgrimages. He promised to contact him on my behalf. That was in 1991. I remember saying to God: “If I knew that you were on Mount Everest, at the very top of the Himalayas, I would go there, walking if necessary, and I would climb the mountain to meet you and to talk to you!” I wanted to fall into His arms and cry. I wanted to meet God physically! Among all the places of pilgrimage mentioned in the newspapers, I chose to go to Medjugorje because it was closest to Romania. I simply didn’t have the money to travel somewhere farther away!
The Queen of Peace gave me her peace
In the meantime, contact with the priest in Budapest was established, and twelve of us came to Medjugorje. All that I had to eat during those six days in Medjugorje were five meat pies. I had neither money nor food, yet I did not care! I was with Our Lady, in Medjugorje! I cannot tell you how much it meant to me! I believed that this would be my first, my last and my only visit to Medjugorje. I tried to remember every last detail. I was quite sure that there would not be a second time…
As our group leader spoke only Hungarian, I did not understand anything that he was saying. I didn’t even know that Our Lady of Medjugorje was the Queen of Peace. The first apparition I attended was on Cross Mountain, which meant that I did not have to climb Mount Everest after all! It was a public apparition. During that apparition, I tried to talk to Our Lady, to tell her my pain, my sufferings, my trouble. I wanted to cry and to lament, but I couldn’t! Something very powerful, a great peace, came over me. It was even within me! I could not resist the peace that overcame me. It was more powerful than my pain or my pride. Since then, I have never suffered as I did before. My suffering used to be destructive. It was killing me. From that day on, although suffering continued in my life, it was no longer destructive. It was a suffering that I could endure with the grace of God. Many years later, I understood that the Queen of Peace had given me her peace.
Why wouldn’t I organise pilgrimages to Medjugorje?
Two years later I came again, and then again and again… I would never have thought it possible! I hadn’t ever considered organising pilgrimages. I came solely for my own benefit. I came with Hungarians, because there was nobody in Romania to bring groups to Medjugorje. When I recall those days, I say: It’s so nice to be a pilgrim, not a leader! I had a very good spiritual director, a holy man who helped me a lot with his advice. He encouraged me to go to Our Lady.
During the summer of 1994, I was walking along a street in Romania, when suddenly, without thinking about anything in particular, a question occurred to me: Why wouldn’t I organise pilgrimages to Medjugorje? My spontaneous reaction was: No, no, this is not realistic! But the thought remained in my mind, and I spoke about it to my spiritual director. Without a moment’s hesitation he said: “Do it!”… I knew what it would entail on a practical level. First I would have to go to Budapest and ask the Hungarian priest to take me to Medjugorje free of charge. Then - in Medjugorje – I would have to ask Father Slavko for a written invitation, etc… So, without hesitation, together with a friend-interpreter, we went hitchhiking to Budapest to visit the priest who was organising pilgrimages to Medjugorje. We asked him to put our names on his list, and trembling, we told him that we had no money… He asked us: “Why do you want to go to Medjugorje?” I said: “I really want to meet Our Lady!” This would be my fourth pilgrimage, and it had a very precise goal, which was to get an invitation from Father Slavko to bring the first group of Romanians.
In Medjugorje, when I saw Father Slavko, I asked him to give me “only two minutes”. I was quite scared because I thought that he would consider me too young to organise pilgrimages. I was 28 years of age then, and in my fourth year of Theology. Father Slavko was very friendly, and he helped me a lot. He advised me what to do with the pilgrims. I got the invitation, and when I brought the first group, he organised free lodging for us. He did the same for the second and third pilgrimages. He helped us a lot! He introduced me to everything that was happening in Medjugorje. I will never forget his words… Sometimes he was very demanding. He knew how to tell us what NOT to do in Medjugorje!
I wanted others to share the taste of heaven that I myself had experienced
I continued to organise pilgrimages until they totalled 1,000 pilgrims, spread over more than 18 pilgrimages, but then I stopped counting.
I remember one special pilgrimage, the most beautiful pilgrimage of them all. I brought 28 orphans from Romania ranging in age from 14 to 18 years. These children were not used to prayer, nor did they know any prayers. I wrote everything down for them, but they did not want to pray. They refused point blank. We had a priest with us who was used to working with children, so we did not force them. In Medjugorje, we stayed in Domus Pacis, free of charge. Father Slavko took care of everything. Different people came and spoke to the kids. They played music for them… they played ball with them… all of which was very much to their liking. In the bus, on our homeward journey, they competed with each other to see who would pray the most!
I remember another trip: I had to take care of seven busloads of pilgrims! When I look back I am amazed that I even dared to do such a thing on my own, involving 350 people, in addition to all the translating! But later I got a helper, a theology student, who is now a priest.
Once, an orthodox priest came with us and Father Slavko arranged for him to celebrate the orthodox liturgy in the Adoration Chapel.
Another year, at the end of the Youth Festival, we spent the night on Cross Mountain. I remember an Irish guy playing his guitar and singing… you could hear the people breathing! There was total silence except for his voice… singing to God. It was like heaven… I wanted the experience to last forever. It was like eternity, an everlasting moment. I wanted to share this with others… the love of God, the hope that He gives, His beauty, His lasting joy! This is why I started organising pilgrimages… After all these years, I understood that I wanted to share with all my friends, and then with other Romanians, the taste of heaven that I myself had experienced in Medjugorje.
Medjugorje is the greatest gift of my life. I lack the words to explain it satisfactorily. It takes a lot of courage and a bit of self sacrifice to organise pilgrimages… I am forever grateful to Our Lady, and also to Father Slavko, for all the help I received at a time when I was quite lost. Fr. Slavko really was a holy man. He said we must keep Medjugorje authentic, neither adding to it nor taking away anything. We should avoid spiritual tourism. We should avoid spreading things that have nothing to do with Medjugorje, or that could lead to confusion, because the pilgrims could lose sight of the essentials. This is what Father Slavko told me, and I think it is very important to keep it in mind.
God gives us a lot; he is training and preparing us
One thought springs to my mind: When a person says YES to God great things can happen. This YES becomes a great tree... I like what is written in the Talmud: “If you save one single person, you save the whole world”! I am happy. Our Lady’s messages are now disseminated in Romania. I think that God was preparing me for this since my childhood. My mother is French, born in Paris, so my first language was French. In school I studied English. At University, I studied Theology… God gives us a lot. He trains and prepares us. The only thing we have to do is to say YES. Sometimes I think: what would have happened if I had not said YES at that time? Maybe somebody else would have organised pilgrimages, but maybe much later… Maybe it would have been somebody without any theological knowledge and culture… Who knows? It is very important to spread the messages…
In the Medjugorje prayer groups in Romania, the Greek Catholics, the Roman Catholics and the Orthodox are united
In Romania, we have Greek Catholics, Roman Catholics and Orthodox Christians. The Roman Catholic Vicar General from Oradea came to Medjugorje and saw for himself. Some Catholic bishops are really in favour of Medjugorje. Many Orthodox Christians also come to Medjugorje because they have a great love for Our Lady. They don’t come because of the Roman Catholic Church, but rather for Our Lady. When they come to Medjugorje, I try to explain things that they did not know. Adoration is something very special in Medjugorje. Orthodox Christians love it. They say that it feels like being in Heaven. Nowhere else can you find anything similar. We do not want anyone to change their religion. That would cause enormous difficulties in our situation in Romania, a situation which is already very complex, but everybody can come here freely and meet Our Lady. She is changing lives…
In Romania, we try to do something along the lines of the Medjugorje Evening Prayer program. Our Lady is inclusively healing the whole Church in Romania, including the Greek Catholics, the Roman Catholics and the Orthodox. All of us are Our Lady’s children. In the Romanian Medjugorje Prayer Groups, all of these Churches are united!