During the Jan. 23 Fiat Festival, sponsored by the Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS), the Knights of Columbus and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Drew and Kim Dillingham, parishioners of Immaculate Conception Parish in Washington, spoke to World Youth Day pilgrims about the series of “yes’s” that transformed their lives.

“If you told me five years ago that I’d be on a stage in Panama talking to you about marriage, I would have said you’re crazy,” said Drew, who is now 28.

At that time, he had been working on a congressional campaign that had lost, and had asked his friend if he could sleep on his couch in Washington for the time being.

“I definitely wasn’t close to marriage, and I wasn’t close to God either,” he said. “…But God was always calling us. He was always calling Kim and I to the vocation of marriage.”

At the same time, Kim, who is now 27, had just graduated and moved to Washington to start her first job, and by the world’s standards she was doing well – she had a job that was making good money and had great friends, but “deep down I felt unfulfilled and a little lost,” she said.

One of her friends encouraged her to start rediscovering the Catholic faith, and as she began to read and pray, she “started to slowly open myself up to God, and pretty much immediately he transformed my life.”

She soon got an e-mail from her former college chaplain inviting her to the new Saint John Paul II National Shrine in Washington, which she said she would have turned down if it had come just a few months earlier. But because God had already been working on her heart, she decided to go.

Meanwhile, Drew’s friends also invited him to that shrine. They met there, and began to date. At the beginning of their relationship, Drew decided that he wanted to make sure God was at the center of their relationship, which he had never done before in other relationships. In order to do this, they committed to three main things, he said: putting prayer into all of their dates, going to Mass every week together, and remaining chaste.

Those three "yes’s" to God “really strengthened our relationship and helped us discern our vocation to marriage,” he said.

Ten months after they began dating, Drew and Kim got engaged, and soon started facing a lot of questions from people around them. Though these questions sometimes gave her some doubt, Kim said ultimately, “I knew that God was calling us to embrace our vocation.”

“We had agreed from the beginning to put Christ in the center of our relationship,” she said. “We also encouraged each other to grow in our understanding of the faith and seek God’s will in everything we were doing.”

Since they had met at the Saint John Paul II National Shrine, they chose that saint’s feast day, October 22, 2016 as their wedding day.

“Marriage teaches you what the definition of love is,” said Drew. “Love isn’t just a feeling… love is much deeper than that.”

Love, he said, is about sacrificing for one another; about being on the same path to Heaven and carrying out God’s will on Earth.

Through the sacrament of marriage, they also received the grace to be open to life, and although the world told them to delay the sacrifices involved with having children, they now have a nine-month-old daughter named Anna Maria.

Deciding to accept this invitation to speak at World Youth Day was another ‘yes’ that they had to say to God, because when they were asked to speak, Kim said her first reaction was to wonder “Why us? We are just an average couple.”

But as they thought about it, they realized, “God has given us so much,” including each other and their daughter, and “it felt like an opportunity to give back to Him and glorify Him,” Kim told the Catholic Standard.

They hoped their talk would empower others not to be afraid to say "yes" to God’s will for their lives, said Kim. Because he had noticed that a lot of people are afraid to get married, Drew said he felt the talk was an opportunity to share with others the reason why they should do so.

Though they were telling the story of their particular marriage, Kim said their hope was that the pilgrims would not learn just about her or Drew or their daughter, but instead about “how God has worked in our lives.” She believes an important part of their story is how they both invited God into their lives before they met each other, which she thinks is “the most important step before you can fully embrace your vocation.”

Though the times they said “yes” to God did come with some sacrifices – such as Kim staying home to raise their daughter and moving to a cheaper apartment with a tighter budget – Kim said, “God has taught us that the more we give ourselves away in love, the more He fills us with His joy and His grace.”