Mari Pablo, a presenter in The 99, put God in charge of her life and it has been better than she could have imagined ever since. You can learn about her story below.
Mari is a Hispanic Miami native. She graduated from Franciscan University with a double major in theology and psychology, and has a master’s degree in theology from the Augustine Institute.
Mari has worked with youths in the Church for over fifteen years as a youth minister, a high school theology teacher, and a speaker at the Steubenville summer youth conference. She has dedicated her life to ministry. Her goal is to be God’s instrument in order to spread his transformative message to all! You might recognize her from, YOU: Life, Love, and the Theology of the Body.
She was kind enough to answer some questions about her relationship with God.
1. When did you first feel called to evangelize?
I had a very Catholic upbringing. Both my parents have dedicated their life to evangelization. However, God first placed this desire in my heart when I was young for a different reason. I spent most of my childhood in a hospital. I have had thirteen ear surgeries. They began when I was seven years old. Long story short, I was near death and God performed a huge miracle and saved my life. This gave me a desire to share my story and tell everyone, including my Jewish doctor while I was under anesthesia, of the incredible God who makes all things possible. This call continued but went unfortunately dormant for a while, especially through high school.
I had a reconversion moment in college where God wrecked my life in the best way possible. He reminded me that the only one who could fulfill every desire in my heart was him! After this moment I remember being in Miami and looking around seeing the brokenness, lies, and so many hearts trying to fill the void with the things of this world. I had a desire to want to share truth and to be an instrument in helping others encounter Christ. With this desire I told God that I would do and speak to whomever he wants. I just asked him to open the doors and be in charge. Well, he has called me to do things beyond anything I could have imagined.
2. Do you remember the first time you stepped forward and shared the gospel with someone?
I was eleven years old. I had snuck into my first teen retreat when I was ten years old. Because of my great Catholic upbringing some adults thought I was ready to give a talk. This now seems so crazy but I think the crazier part though is that I said yes! The course was called “Isaiah” and it was all about the Bible and the talk was on the “ 7 keys to understanding the Bible”. My talk was supposed to be thirty minutes and it was seven!
Yet even though this was my first “talk”, I think the better answer to your question would be my encounter in college. I think God needed me to first understand the importance of living out the truth and not just speaking it. I remember the first time I was able to share about the things God had been doing in my life to my friends and family. Though I specifically remember sharing it with my youth group, which for so long I had been a bit hypocritical with. It felt like God had brought me full circle because it was at the same Charismatic Movement that I had grown up in and gave my first talk in so many years before!
3. How has your life changed since then?
Drastically! Some simple things like meeting people, traveling and just seeing the beauty of our universal Catholic Church! On another note as you can see from the previous question I often state that God wrecked my life in the best way possible” and that is because my plans, how I acted, spoke, interacted with people was all different. I think the greatest difference was that God was in the center of my life and the more I spoke about him the more I was reminded why he needs to remain the center.
I have also been able to see that evangelization isn’t about speaking to the masses, but it’s about simply loving as God loves and trying to see others as he created them. Every encounter, whether at a retreat, with a family member or the cashier at the supermarket is an opportunity to see and be a light in this world.
4. Have there been any particularly memorable moments in your life as an evangelist?
There have been many great moments, like speaking at a Steubenville Conference, going to Columbia to give a Theology of the Body retreat (entirely in Spanish), working with Ascension, and of course one of my favorites which is simply being in the classroom. All of these opportunities that God has placed in my life to share the truth with thousands of people have been great.
But the most memorable times are the personal conversations that come from the different moments of evangelization. I don’t usually remember the talk in front of a crowd. What I do remember are the one-on-one encounters and individual conversations with people at a retreat. I remember talking to students in my classroom where they opened up and shared their struggles and joys. In those moments, you are standing there in awe of the words that you are listening to and those that are coming out of your own mouth. It’s in times like that when I remember the phrase that I very often state:
“God, I am nothing and you are everything.”
5. How has evangelization brought you closer to God?
It’s quite simple. In speaking the truth I am reminded of it! I can’t tell you how many times God uses me to speak to … me. Being Catholic can be challenging, especially because so many people have pushed God aside. There are numerous lies regarding our identity, what we should be doing, who we should be with, what love is, and so on.
The more I share the truths and beauty of our faith, how I have seen God working in the lives of others, the more it calls me on to holiness. This is especially evident every time I share my conversion story. There is a Scripture that speaks about remembering your first love (Revelation 2:4). Sharing that first encounter reminds me of the incredible things that God has done and know he has so much more. Evangelization, both speaking and hearing it, is what keeps me accountable. It reminds me to not settle for the things of this world. Instead, it inspires me to strive for the greatness I was created for, to strive for him!
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