My name is Ursula Agnew, I am 32 years old and I live in Belfast. I was brought up in a Catholic family with my Mummy, Daddy and my four brothers and sisters. I was the middle child. As far back as I can remember my mummy was always a devout catholic but my daddy didn't believe, this brought a divide into the family. When we were kids my mummy used to bring myself and my brothers and sisters up the stairs to pray the rosary so that my daddy wouldn't know it was happening. It was probably the best thing my mummy could have given to us as children-
One day I was out with my friends drinking, it was St. Patrick's Day and we went into a local park, there I met a fella who I had heard about before. I wasn't attracted to him physically but I was attracted to his bad reputation and his bad lifestyle. We started going out together, before I met him I was drinking every night then I was drinking morning, noon and night. I was only with him two nights and we were out in a stolen car, I was with him and his two mates. We were flying up the back roads when we crashed into another car. Instantly we all got out and run, we ran through swamps and fields to get away, I lost my shoes running through a swamp but I kept on running, eventually we got away. If I'm honest, that is the only reason I stayed with him, these were my kind of people and I was attracted to this adrenaline fueled lifestyle, so he became my boyfriend. I am ashamed at when I look back that not one of us stopped to think about the people in the other car. Our main priority was to get away, we didn't think for a second if those people were dead or alive and if I'm honest we didn't care. We were just a pack of thugs living a life of crime. We didn't care who we hurt or what we had done to people. This was the way we were.
After 6 months of being in a relationship with my boyfriend I found out I was pregnant. I had went into labour at just 27 weeks. I gave birth to my son Shane that morning, due to being born 3 months premature one of his lungs wasn't developed and there was a blood clot in his brain, he also had a small hole in his heart. The doctors didn't think he would live, but despite the odds he did. He was very sick and weak for a good while but bit by bit he regained his strength. Shane was diagnosed with mild cerebral palsy and he has learning difficulties as a result of being born premature.
However my life didn't change, I would be a mummy Monday to Friday but as soon as the weekend came I got Shane babysat and I was out with Shane's daddy getting up to no good just as before. My relationship with Shane's daddy became very violent, this was from both our parts, there was no love in our relationship just violence and arguments. Despite things being so bad between us we still stayed together. This went on for years. Shane was very fortunate never to witness the violence.
One night we were out in a party in a friends house, we had been on drink and drugs from the night before so myself and Shane's daddy decided to go home. When we got home we got a phone call from our friend saying he had got beat up by the other fellas that were in his house, so we got into my car and went looking for these fellas. We saw them not far from the house we were previously in and our friend was there too, there was arguing among them so we got out of the car and we all got into a fight. It was a pretty bad incident. We left the scene and got back into my car, I wasn't driving I was in the back, Shane's daddy was driving. We were on our way back up to the house we were partying in when we noticed the police were behind us. There was no way out of the estate except the way we drove in. The police surrounded my car while Shane's daddy desperately tried to ram his way out. At this point a police man jumped out of the jeep and fired a gun shot into my car. One of us could have been shot dead. The police then smashed the windows and trailed us from the car. We were arrested with GBH with intent and took to the police station.
When I was in the interview room, my solicitor came in to me and said that one of the fellas we were fighting with was in intensive care and if he died and I was linked to the offence I would be looking at life. The blood drained from me and I thought what am I doing with my life. The police had taken my clothes for forensics and I had to wear a boiler suit. My car was also away for forensics. When I got back in my cell I couldn't help thinking about the fella in intensive care. What was it all about anyway? It was just a drunken argument and it turned into a serious fight. I just kept saying to myself "what am I doing with my life?" I couldn't help think about Shane and how he needed me and here I was lying in a cell and so was his daddy. Shane deserved more than this. At that point I turned to God and I said "get me out of here". I said to God that if He got me out of this trouble I would change my whole life, I meant every word.
When I got released from the police station I went to my mummy's house. I found that the story was all over the news and in the newspapers. It was a bad incident but it was made out a lot worse than it actually was. There was so many stories going about about what I had done and my mummy was in a state over it all but I told her that half of what she heard hadn't even happened and I told her the truth. I said to my mummy that if I got out of this trouble I would change my life, leave Shane's daddy and get away from the crowd I was in. I'm not sure if she believed me or not but I was serious.
Two weeks later I had finished my relationship with Shane's daddy, I told him I was changing my life. I had been with him just over 6 years. I prayed for the strength to stay away from Shane's daddy and I prayed that he would leave me alone. I knew he would never just let me go, I knew he would torture me but I also knew that I had to just take it and I kept telling myself that one day he would leave me alone. However he kept on harassing me. One night a few friends called to my house, they were from the crowd I had just got away from. They kept saying "Ursula, come on down to a party with us" I wasn't going to go but the more they asked me the more I thought what harm could it do, so I went with them.
Later that night one of them rang Shane's daddy to say I was there drinking with them and he sent a girl up that we all knew. She came into the party and we started arguing. We got into a fight, a glass had fallen off the worktop during the commotion and smashed on the floor. We both fell, she fell on top of me and lifted a piece of glass from the floor and stabbed me down the right side of my face, from below my cheekbone to under my chin. I didn't realize I had been stabbed until she got pulled off me. I just held my face together and lay back against the wall.
I had to practically hold my face on, it was hanging off and the blood was everywhere. As soon as she stabbed me, everyone left the room and I was left lying there holding my face together. Then one of the fellas came back in and helped me up, he took a tea towel from the kitchen drawer and give it to me to hold to my face. I walked outside and watched as the girl that stabbed me got into her car and drove off. I was in complete shock, I remember thinking I was disfigured and all I could say was "my face".
One of the fellas that had called up to my house that night and invited me to the party took me to the hospital, I was covered from head to toe in blood. I started to cry when I got into the hospital and the nurse assured me that they had the best surgeons and they would take good care of my face. She told me that I had lost 4 pints of blood but I didn't need a blood transfusion as my body made it up again quite quickly. I went in for surgery and the nurse was right, the surgeon was amazing and spent 3 hours stitching my face. I got 27 stitches.
Our Lady gave me the grace and the strength to walk away from this incident without retaliating and leaving that girls face just like she had left mine. If I'm honest, it was extremely hard to do but I knew it was the right thing to do. Despite that I was left very bitter about the whole incident, a great hatred grew inside me and I wanted to kill her. Even though I had left it in the hands of the police it didn't stop me wanting revenge. I was very difficult to be around, from I woke up in the morning till I went to bed at night all I could do was think about what she had done, I couldn't let it go from my thoughts, I went on and on and on about it, to the point where I was driving people crazy. My daddy would say to me "Ursula, that is like a cancer, that is eating away at you" and my mummy would say "Ursula, you need to let this go, this will make you sick". I knew deep down they were right but I couldn't let it go.
The hatred inside me was getting worse and worse. However, God worked a miracle in me. He gave me the grace to forgive her, something I wasn't capable of doing myself. It's as if God just took her out of my head and she never bothered me again. I couldn't believe how much peace I had in my heart and how much I was at ease. I clearly had not felt like that in a long time. I was then able to pray for her.
During that time when I was dealing with being stabbed I had met a fella, and we got on brilliant. I honestly couldn't believe my luck after all I had been through. He was so good to me and I fell for him soon after. After a few months of being with him I found out he was with a girl behind my back and he had got her pregnant. My world just fell apart and I couldn't take anymore. Every one I had loved or cared about had hurt me to some extent and I hit rock bottom.
As the months passed I went out to Medjugorje for the third time but this time it was for the youth festival. Out there I met a group called Pure In Heart, this was a prayer group from Ireland that promoted chastity. When I heard their chastity message I knew that this was what I needed in my life and God gave me a strong desire to live this way of life. I knew that this was the only way I was going to find the right person that God has for me, I knew that this was the only way I could truly put my trust into a man again. I got myself a purity ring and I wear it on my wedding finger. I will wear this ring everyday of my life right up to my wedding day, when I husband, whoever he is will stand and take this ring off my finger and replace it with my wedding ring, and I will belong to him. I know that the person God has for me will love me for all the right reasons and not cheat on me or send someone up to stab me. I know now that I deserve to be loved and not used, something I didn't know before. I had no confidence or self esteem before but by living this way of life and letting God heal me from my past experiences I know now that I am worth waiting for. I have had to do a lot of work in myself to get to where I am now and it hasn't been easy, there has been a lot of tears and pain but I thank God now that I am finally out the other end of it.
I am only alive today due to my mummy's prayers for me. She told me just a while ago that when I was at my worst and getting into trouble all the time that she seen my funeral leaving our house. She said "Ursula, I seen it" She then told me that she got out of her bed at 3 am every morning and knelt beside her bed and said the Divine Mercy Chaplet for me. She would send Jesus over to me wherever I was and ask Him to protect me and keep me safe and out of trouble. She done this for a whole year, getting out of bed at 3 am and praying that Chaplet, She prayed tirelessly for my conversion. That is the reason I came back into my faith. Even going back to when I was a child and my mummy getting us to say the Rosary as kids, even though I hated it at the time it was what I turned back to when my back was against the wall. God was the one I turned to.
There have been many times in my life when I just wanted to end it all but I had Shane, and he was the only reason I didn't take my own life, I couldn't leave him without a mummy, that would just turn his world upside down. When I just found out I was pregnant it was the worst news ever but it turned out to be the biggest blessing in my life. I honestly believe If I didn't have Shane I would have been dead before I was 25. God knows what He's doing, and He knew what He was doing when He gave me Shane. Shane is 14 now and I am so grateful that God blessed me with him.
I always wanted to be a fighter, I wanted to do kickboxing and get into the ring and fight. I don't know where the desire came from but it was always there. When I would watch kickboxing on the TV I would be pumping with adrenaline and I knew I just had to do it, so I took it up in 2008 and started competing. I started off well and would win my fights, but then a heaviness came over me and I couldn't seem to perform well in the ring. It was like all I could give was a 50% effort. This frustrated me so much and I couldn't seem to shift it. I tried all my positive thinking and repeating pieces of scripture but nothing worked. This heaviness persisted and I kept losing my fights. I was losing fights I should have won and that made it even worse.
I was always afraid to hand my fight career over to God as I thought He would take it off me. I used to think because of the violence in it He wouldn't want me doing it, so I was reluctant to hand it over and I kept soldiering on and trying to overcome this obstacle myself. After a year of losing fights I had had enough. I kept on saying to God "can you not see what this is doing to me?" "why are you letting this happen?" I was training for a European Title fight and on the day of the fight I could still feel the heaviness and I couldn't get my mind mentally right and I said to God to help me. Then the words, let go and let God, came to me. They kept coming over and over so I said "Jesus if this is You saying this to me please confirm it". I then lifted a piece of paper that was folded up on my chair and I don't know what made me lift it, but when I unfolded it it was a novena to St. Joseph and it read, Say this novena for nine days for anything you may desire then let go and let God. I just laughed as I knew He was confirming the words I had just got.
One of the promises of this novena is that the person saying this will never be over powered in battle. That was exactly what I needed. I was about to go into the ring in a few hours time to fight for a European Title and so I said this novena nine times then I let go and let God. I surrendered my fight career into Gods hands and I completely put my trust in Him and walked into that ring in complete faith and walked out a European Champion. I couldn't believe it I was over the moon. So every time before a fight I say that novena and I have won every single one of my fights since then. I am now a 2 x World Champion all thanks to God. He really is amazing and has done so many amazing things in my life.
On the 12th of September 2014 I will retire as a fighter, I have surrendered my whole life into Gods hands and I am prepared to do whatever He wants me to do. God fights for me in the ring believe it or not and now it's my time to go out and fight for Him and do His works. I will do anything for Him because He has done so much for me.