May 21, 2012
“I don’t think I would be alive today if it wasn’t for the hope God had to offer that there is so much more to life than the suffering I was going through at the time.”
For 26-year-old New Jersey native Maura Byrne, that suffering stemmed from 15 years of physical abuse, an eating disorder and serious self-image issues. Maura revealed to me on Christopher Closeup that her eating disorder began because her life was spinning out of control. The amount of food she chose to eat—or not eat—was one area in which she could exercise some control. It was a situation that almost killed her.
The turning point in Maura’s struggles occurred during a summer she spent in Calcutta, India, volunteering with the late Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity. Though she was raised by parents who are devout Catholics, she had no conception of the role God’s love could play in her life.
Maura says, “One of the missionaries told me about God the Father’s love. I remember breaking down in tears, and I wanted to get to know this loving God. It happened through time spent in Eucharistic adoration, discovering my dignity as a daughter of God created in His image and likeness.”
That experience led Maura to a Catholic counselor who approached her issues from a physical, emotional and spiritual perspective. Maura found herself especially motivated by John Paul II’s words, “Do not be afraid. Do not be satisfied with mediocrity.” She says, “Those words taught me to rise above all that was going on in my life and to not be afraid to take those small leaps of faith, knowing that God the Father is right there next to me.”
Maura soon felt called by God to help other young women survive the trials she endured. In May 2011, Maura—now living in Nashville, Tennessee—created a blog for a ministry called “Made In His Image.” On the blog, she shared parts of her own story and welcomed readers to contact her about their own struggles with eating disorders and abuse. E-mails soon started coming in. So did monetary donations that allowed Maura to hire a Catholic counselor to offer professional advice to those in need.
With a board of directors now in place, Maura hopes to grow “Made In His Image” beyond its online presence into a physical reality. She says, “There are no Catholic centers in the country for women to go to for eating disorders, so I want to build one because I believe that God is such an important component to healing.”
In addition, Maura continues changing the lives of young women through her writing. One reader recently wrote the following in an e-mail to her: “Reading your blog helps me remember that there is a kind of beauty…to sharing your own personal crosses, and to connecting with God and with His children through suffering. In fact, had I never hit the low I hit in my early college years, I probably still wouldn’t be going to Mass today. So there are blessings if we look hard enough.”
When Maura hits times of darkness now, she knows from past experience that God will provide a brighter future. She says, “When I felt so low I didn’t know how I was going to get out of it, I would go to adoration and take part in sacraments like the daily Mass. Through that, I kept striving to hope that God would bring about healing in my life. I wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for Him. I want to encourage other women to do the same – no matter what you’re going through, keep striving after Christ because He’s never going to let you down.”