She eventually ran away again and lived by couch hopping until she went back to the group home. She got back in touch with her family, and her great-grandmother – who she calls "mama" – inspired her to go back to school.
But when she was 18 and her great-grandmother died, she, in her own words, "relapsed," didn't go to school, and fell into a "depression."
"I started stealing. Eventually, I lost everything – again. I still had my apartment, but I didn't know how to survive," she wrote in a statement prior to the Rome pilgrimage.
"Struggling for food and clothes, and drinking a lot, I was lost. But something hit me. The Holy Spirit, I think. Something made me completely stop doing all the bad things I was doing."
"I started going to school. One step at a time, I picked everything up, piece by piece."
Montoya, now age 22, has an apartment and said she loves her job working at Auntie Anne's pretzel shop. Starting next year, she plans to study social work at a college in New York City through a program that helps pay for higher education for those who grew up in foster care.
She said she has dreamed of living in New York City ever since she was a little girl. Going to Rome, on the other hand, "never crossed my mind."
"Not a day goes by that I don't reminisce on the past," she said. "With every struggle that I faced and that I am facing today, I'm not negative about life. I always have a smile on my face and it's rare when I don't believe that everything happens for a reason."
Despite the challenges to this year's Rome pilgrimage, Cangelosi said God's "calling me to do it again next year."
In the meantime, though, Montoya said she is grateful for the experiences she's had in life, if only because she's learned from them. Everything "definitely made me open my eyes and appreciate life and everyone who walks in it," she said.
"Because even though sometimes I may not like them, I always remind myself that the sky isn't the limit because there's footprints on the moon."
(Story continues below)
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Hannah Brockhaus is Catholic News Agency's senior Rome correspondent. She grew up in Omaha, Nebraska, and has a degree in English from Truman State University in Missouri.