After my mom passed away in 1994, I felt deeply inspired by the Blessed Mother to embark on a pilgrimage to Medjugorje, a tiny remote village in Bosnia-Herzegovina as the Bosnian War raged on all around us. Despite the war 50,000 people gathered from all over the world there in June 1994.
I later learned that through the Great Love and Mercy of God, not one bomb touched down on that remote little village, I believe touched by God, the entire time of the war.
While there I learned since June 24, 1981, six young people (two boys and four girls, ages 9-17) now in their 40’s and 50’s claim to this day that the Blessed Virgin Mary still appears to them on a regular basis, three of them daily. The apparition identified herself as the Blessed Virgin Mary. When asked by Vicka, one of the six visionaries, at the onset of the apparitions, “What is your name?” She replied, “I am the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Queen of Peace. My Son has sent me to you. Peace … and only Peace. Humanity is in great danger and threatens to destroy itself. I have come to tell the world that God exists. He is fullness of life, and to enjoy the fullness and obtain peace, you must return to God.” Our Lady presents herself as a servant and messenger of God. The messages she brings do not convey any new teachings, but echo the Gospel and teachings of the Church.
The visionaries describe her as beautiful beyond words. Her presence is preceded by a brilliant light. She greets them with “Praise be Jesus.” At the end of each apparition, she says, “Go in the peace of God, my dear children.” Her appearances take place daily in and around St. James Church in Medjugorje and wherever the visionaries are simultaneously shortly before 6:00 p.m. preceded by praying of the rosary and followed by Holy Mass. Our Lady stays for the entire Mass, Medjugorje visionary, Ivanka Elez, says. Her basic messages are Pray with the Heart, especially the Rosary, Eucharist, Holy Bible, Monthly Confession and Fasting.
As I share my pilgrim journey … a story which began in 1994. At that time I had no idea what a pilgrimage was, but I desperately needed to learn. As a mere human being I feel deeply compelled to share what I have come to know of the Great Love and Unfathomable Mercy of God which is for all His children regardless of one’s beliefs. Through Divine Providence this journey is interwoven with Medjugorje and a Mother whose love has no boundaries.
I ask that the Ever Blessed Virgin Mary Mother of all God’s children be with us, calling us as always, to open our hearts to hear the Good News of Jesus Christ which I believe with all my heart is unfolding every day in the tiny village of Medjugorje for you, me and over 50 million people and counting who have traveled there from all over the world. It has become Cana for them as in the Bible here and now for a world who has lost its way and thirsting for God and the Peace He alone can give.
Not long ago, this day was a dream written on my heart to share Medjugorje, but I was ill and home bound for quite a while, but now my heart is overflowing with joy, because you now reading this are a part of that dream come true, for we are all God’s children needing Peace, Love and Hope and His Mercy as never before. We are all pilgrims on life’s journey, and we can’t do it alone especially today.
I feel inspired to first tell you Our Lady’s words to the young visionaries in Medjugorje at the onset of the Apparitions when they asked her, “Why us”? Our Lady said, “I do not always pick the best.” I truly believe to walk with God, especially led by Our Lady, we can truly “see” His footsteps in our lives. We all know God’s ways are not our ways, they are often mysterious and to say one understands why He does, or permits, what He does in our Lives and others dear to us is truly not possible at times in this Valley of Tears. But if we persevere, only by God’s grace will He allow us, what I believe is one of His greatest gifts to us, the gift of Spiritual Sight.
My life and my family changed in 1991 when I was diagnosed with a very rare blood disease called mastocytosis which has no cure … and led to an even more rare manifestation of malignant non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in 1997. The disease seemed to take hold of me over 30 years ago when I began to experience great fatigue, but the doctors did not diagnose the disease until biopsies were done in 1991. At that time the disease was truly a death sentence for me because it took me away from all I loved in life especially time with my family the way I knew it before. My spiritual healing did not begin until I went to Medjugorje and I was in a very long dark night. I look back at this time and know that only God’s grace and Our Lady’s intercession and constant care of me allowed me not to shut down emotionally, spiritually and physically. Simple tasks like making my bed, taking a shower, cooking a dinner, or going to a family gathering became huge mountains for me to climb, each moment of each day. I spent the majority of my time in bed every day.
During this time on January 11, 1994 my mom, my best friend and soul mate passed on. Our immediate family had a long history of serious illness and just before my mom passed on I truly was asking Our Lady why there was SO much pain and suffering. It was the Blessed Mother to whom I went, since I was a young child, to go to God for me because in ways I can now only begin to understand, I did not feel worthy to ask God myself. At the hardest most challenging time of my life thus far I received an answer in a way that would begin a new chapter in my life and life would never be the same again.
At my mom’s one day of the viewing at the funeral home, I requested that her rosary beads be put in her hands. These rosary beads turned from crystal beads and links and crucifix to a beautiful rose gold from 8:05 to 9:00 pm. My pastor, Father Ward, who was at the funeral home that evening said that it was a message from the Blessed Mother telling me my mom was OK and not to worry about her. This was witnessed not only by family but also by friends there that evening. Truly, Heaven touched earth that evening and I turned into a “little child” of God feeling loved as never before. This experience, coupled with continued gifts of spiritual phenomena through Our Lady, led me very ill, to Medjugorje in June of 1994, not seeking a physical cure, for I did not know then about physical or spiritual healings, but I just had to go and thank Our Lady for the gift of the rosary beads given to our family that night.
So very much has happened since my first visit to Medjugorje in 1994, and I truly learned that God so much wants to touch us, heal us, speak to our soul in so many miraculous ways. It was at this time I was called to Medjugorje by my Heavenly Mother who had heard all of my prayers and could see as only Jesus’ Mother could, all of the pain I was in. That first pilgrimage was truly Heaven on earth for me and I came home and asked Our Lady to please let me share Medjugorje with the whole world and I didn’t want anyone to heal me but Her Son, Jesus. My spiritual director said to be careful of what you ask for – because you might just get it. At that time, I truly did not understand what I was asking – it was just loving words to my Heavenly Mother whom I came home from Medjugorje more in love with than ever before.
Much has happened spiritually in my life since the onset of my illness and my first pilgrimage to Medjugorje in June of 1994. It is only through God’s grace, Our Lady’s constant care, spiritual direction since 1995 to assist me in my discernment, and through the Communion of Saints in Heaven and on Earth, my mom and dad, then Pope John Paul II and St. Faustina in a most special way that am I standing here today. The fruits of these years, and the suffering I was asked to endure, I believe, are blossoming in Mother’s Prayer Family, Mother’s Hope Foundation – an organization aiding sick and disadvantaged children, Mother’s Pilgrims – a travel group to Medjugorje, and yearly Divine Mercy Celebrations, all I believe Divinely Inspired and all named and in honor of and consecrated to Jesus through Mary. These were established while I was homebound and in bed and I believe directed by the Blessed Virgin Mary and the great gift I received in Medjugorje on First Friday, October 5, 2007, feast day of St. Maria Faustina on Cross Mountain in Medjugorje. I was healed of an incurable disease called mastocytosis which led to a diagnosis non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. The healing was witnessed by Rev. Brian Welding and a group of Mother’s Pilgrims that day. After an appointment with my oncologist at Hillman Cancer Center, he stated, “You are in complete remission,” and sent a letter to my then spiritual director, Rev. Joseph Luisi, stating there was no medical intervention and this letter was also sent to our Bishop, The Most Reverend David A. Zubik at the Diocese of Pittsburgh. I asked my spiritual director years back, amid many, many, many tears and physical pains and seeking much needed spiritual guidance, why God was asking me to start a prayer family and lead Mother’s Hope when I was so very, very sick, something I would have never chosen for myself, he said simply, “At times God asks us to do what we don’t want to do but what he wills us to do – thus it is a cross for us!”
Sharing with you in THIS WAY is truly a miracle for me – one in which I truly believe Our Lady wishes to be shared at this time.
Holding onto my mom’s rosary beads and Our Lady’s Hand, my cross turned into Easter Joy on October 5, 2007, the feast day of St. Maria Faustina, Apostle of Divine Mercy, who came into my life in a very special way years back. On October 2nd, Mirjana Soldo, one of the six visionaries in Medjugorje, had her monthly apparition from Our Lady; my group, Mother’s Pilgrims, was present and graced to be very close to Mirjana at the time of her apparition. I was taken back when asked to lead a decade of the Holy Rosary and truly felt we were all in Heaven’s arms. During Mirjana’s apparition I heard the words very clearly and softly written on my heart, “Climb Cross Mountain.” I immediately felt it to be Our Lady’s request. I told only our spiritual director, Father Brian Welding, on that pilgrimage what I heard so clearly written on my heart, and that I was scared, but knew I must try to do it because, I believe, Our Lady asked me to do something I would never have thought to do on my own. The year before, Father Brian was with our group in Medjugorje also, and I was so weak that Father and a friend, Dr. Barry Austin, literally, by holding on to both of my hands, got me to the top of Apparition Hill.
Two days later, our group was scheduled to climb Mount Krisivac, a climb much harder than Apparition Hill. This was my 14th pilgrimage to Medjugorje, and the majority of the time I spent back at my room resting while the group climbed the mountain. I was unable to even go to Mass while there many, many times. I remember feeling very scared that day as we all gathered at the bottom of Cross Mountain and saying to Our Lady, “I’m scared, like a little child, so you have to hold my one hand.” And with my mom’s rosary beads held so tightly in my other hand, I said to Our Lady, “And my mom has to hold my other hand, and we have to climb Cross Mountain for Jesus.” With a body that could not climb Apparition Hill alone the year before, I embarked on another part of my Spiritual journey trusting what I believe I learned through much suffering and yet so much joy at times led by Our Lady. I let go of my fears and thought with my heart and not my head as Our Lady was teaching me, and gave them to Her. That morning I know with Heaven surrounding me I made it to the top of Mount Krisivac, also known as Cross Mountain. No words can describe the feelings I felt and still do as I remember kissing the palm of my hand and touching the cross, then closing my eyes and putting my head on the cross for a very, very, very long time. We were one, the Cross and me. The huge white Cross loomed ever so high, and the sweetness I felt in my soul was indescribable. That big Cross and all the endless huge boulders on the way up reflected all of our lives. At that moment, I felt like I had made peace with my cross of poor health and it was taken from me. But I had to learn, one must climb the mountains of life, one step, sometimes one inch at a time, never looking up as I had been taught ever so gently by the Mother of God, and was able to do that special day. I also learned, God will never ask us to do anything we can’t do, because He will do it with us.
The sun shined so brightly and the blue sky and clouds seemed to lead me back down the mountain, taking one rock, one step at a time, like I had done it many times before. In fact, I like many of you, had climbed that mountain many, many times but in other ways. With inexpressible joy I found myself running over to St. James Church that morning and gazing up at the white statue of Our Lady in front of the church. We had been through so much together, Our Lady and me, all my life and since 1994, we climbed so many mountains together and at times, so many times, She and Jesus carried me. I felt compelled to go to the rectory to tell Father Svetozar, known as Father Svet, who was the assistant pastor at St. James Church in Medjugorje at that time. Father and I have become very close since 1995 and he knew well about my ongoing illness and my physical limitations. When I told him what I had experienced at Mirjana’s apparition, and my climb of Cross Mountain, he said “Praise be Jesus and Mary! Only Heaven could have done this!” I left the rectory and called home, and I shared the incredible news with my family who truly felt the weight of my cross and now would experience Easter Joy.
A few days after returning home, my husband and I went to a prescheduled check-up at Hillman Cancer Center with my oncologist. I shared so joyfully that after I climbed Cross Mountain, I had no fatigue, the energy I had not had for 26 years was instantly given back to me and I knew that deep inside of me I was healed and after sharing my experience in Medjugorje with my doctor and the other physician, and the reality of the symptoms I had experienced for so long all being gone, the doctor told me he would write on my chart that today the patient shows no signs of disease and is in remission. I said to my doctor, “That is not true because there is no cure for mastocytosis and my malignant non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma has not come back.” He said. “You are right there is no cure, and I know I did not do anything.” I said, “I know it is a MIRACLE,” and he said, “Well, I guess you could say it is a miracle, but I want you to come back and see me in one year.” I believed it was gone never to come back.
I so need to share that EVERYONE who goes to Medjugorje receives a miracle, and one is not bigger than another. I learned the greatest healing God can give you is a spiritual healing. I feel sad that the greatest healing, my spiritual healing, started taking place awhile back and only through that healing was Mother’s Prayer Family, Mother’s Hope Foundation, Mother’s Pilgrims and a book I have written were born and many will never see or understand that. I learned that you don’t have to climb any mountains for God. If you can climb Apparition Hill or Cross Mountain that’s great, but some people climb mountains every day of their lives wherever they are. A very wise priest, Father Dennis Sweeney, our spiritual director that pilgrimage, told me that in Medjugorje in 1994 when I felt so very sad, sick and had tears in my eyes because everyone in our group was going to climb Cross Mountain, and I couldn’t. If God had healed my body in 1994, I would not have understood what He did or why He did it. I feel God wishes me to share the gift of my miracle because it never was truly just for me because a gift is not a gift truly until you give it away.
I learned that healing comes in 3 steps, and God works in each person differently; first, spiritual healing, which if we cooperate can continue on forever; second, the healing of peace and joy; and third, physical healing if Almighty God deigns it. I learned also that sometimes the healing we want so desperately does not happen in the way that we wish, but the greatest miracle of all is the journey back home to Heaven. Once one learns to live with this reality, without fear, then death becomes the doorway to Eternity.
I had another doctor’s appointment with my oncologist one year after I returned home from my October 2007 pilgrimage, and he said that I did not need to come back to see him…I was in complete remission!! The next October, Our Heavenly Mother, embraced me once again, as Her dearly beloved chosen daughter, Medjugorje visionary, Mirjana, invited me to kneel beside her at her 2nd of the month apparition for the second time, and still to this day when I go to Medjugorje once a year in the spring with Mother’s Pilgrims, I am present with Mirjana at her apparition. No words can describe the peace and joy I feel as I thank Our Lady with each beat of my heart. In Her Messages in Medjugorje, Our Lady is calling us to be Her Little Children. Don’t ever be afraid to answer Her call!
Life unfolds in directions unknown. And in the summer of 2013 I found myself with a second diagnosis of Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. I was completely surprised and yet had felt tired for a while. Although the diagnosis seemed to come out of nowhere, I felt the arms of Heaven all around me as the most wonderful events simultaneously were happening in my family. Our newest grandchild, Cameron, was born on June 25, 2013, the 32nd anniversary of Our Lady coming to Medjugorje, and as I held him in my arms the day of his birth I could see the face of God in all His Glory. At a time when my heart should have been so very heavy, as I held our new little angel in my arms, I knew no disease can keep us from God’s Love and Care. A few weeks later, after much testing I received the diagnosis on the same day which had been planned for a while that my daughters Chelsea, Lyndsay, myself and my granddaughter, Mia, were to meet and choose the type of setting for Chelsea’s engagement ring. The greatest blessings of love and life were all around me and I reveled in all of it. I am being taught by the Master and as hard as it was to get through six very strong chemotherapy treatments, I feel so greatly blessed. As of my third treatment, I was cancer-free again. Praise be Jesus and Mary! I have many lessons still to be learned and roads yet to travel. My spiritual director had said that God never sends illness. He allows it for a greater good if we embrace it. I had either drove into a wall or a wall appeared. Either way a religious friend said to me I needed to sit back for a while and take in the view. A time out of the race of life which, I believe, is meant to be walked through step by step not ran through as I had begun to do. So much good was all around me and it was almost as if in a very real way to my spiritual director and me I came to a sudden halt. It was as if the message of hope I had been given was to be stopped. Only God knows truly but that great hope continued to be all around me, and I was reminded of that again on August 15, the day of my first chemotherapy treatment which just happened to be the Feast Day of Our Lady’s Assumption. We all have choices to make in life, and I choose to live each day. I look so forward to journey back to Medjugorje and the wedding of my daughter in September knowing the best is yet to come!
I am an imperfect human being like everyone – no more special – with a deep desire to share with you that, I believe, we are all the walking wounded, carrying our own crosses and wanting so for you to believe without a doubt that whatever cross you carry, however weary you may be, you are not carrying it alone.
On June 25, 2015, the parish of Medjugorje, Bosnia-Herzegovina, under the pastoral care of the Herzegovinian Franciscan Province of the Assumption of Mary, and people from all over the world will celebrate the 34th Anniversary of Our Lady coming there. Never before has God sent Our Lady on this earth for this length of time.
The Vatican announced on March 17, 2010, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith had established an international commission to investigate the claims of six young people in Medjugorje who said, and continue to say until this day, Mary appeared to them daily beginning in 1981. The commission has ended. All of the visionaries have been called officially to Rome, each one commissioned to share their testimony about the events in Medjugorje since the onset of the apparitions on June 24, 1981. Also visitors from the commission have officially come to Medjugorje to speak to the priests at St. James Church there. This is an unprecedented happening. Never before has a commission been set up officially to investigate the claims of an alleged apparition while it is still going on. In January 2014, The Director of the Holy See Press Office, Father Federico Lombardi, confirmed on the international commission investigating events in Medjugorje held its last meeting on January 17. The commission, created by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, was presided over by Cardinal Camillo Ruini. The Commission presented its findings, which essentially determined that there was no demonstrable fraud or deception occurring during the period of investigation. Much is still unfolding, and the Church cannot officially proclaim Medjugorje an official apparition site until the alleged apparitions of Our Lady have ceased.
In June 1986 then Pope John Paul II when asked by 12 Italian bishops about Medjugorje, said “Let the people go to Medjugorje if they convert, pray, confess, due penance, and fast.” Pope John Paul II met with Medjugorje visionary, Mirjana Soldo, in Castle Gondolfo upon his request. The Pope said to Mirjana, “Take care of Medjugorje. Medjugorje is hope for the whole world. I am with you in my heart each day. Ask the pilgrims to pray for me and my intentions.” Monsignor Slawomir Oder led the campaign to canonize Pope John Paul II. In his book, “Why He is a Saint,” published in 2010, Monsignor Oder writes in Chapter 3, entitled, “The Mystic in Conversation with Mary,” in the section titled, “If I Weren’t Pope, I Would Already be in Medjugorje Confessing,” a quote from Pope John Paul II himself to Medjugorje visionary, Mirjana Soldo. The author writes, “The Pope’s great love for Mary only grew and flourished when the connection between the third secret of Fatima and the assassination attempt of May 1981 became clear. In connection with that Dramatic event John Paul saw a clear link, the author writes, with the apparitions of the Queen of Peace in Medjugorje which began in June of the same year.” Mirjana Soldo, Medjugorje visionary gives witness to the incredible fact that it was the fervent prayers of our Beloved John Paul to God to send Our Lady to earth that culminated in the apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Medjugorje in June 1981. Mirjana also states, “Our Lady said that what She began in Fatima will be completed in Medjugorje.”
I feel deeply compelled to share with you four beautiful messages from the Blessed Virgin Mary that were given in Medjugorje. The first one is to Medjugorje visionary Marija Pavlovic Lunetti who sees Our Lady every day and is given a message on the 25th of each month from the Blessed Mother for the world.
Our Lady said:
“Dear Children, behold, also today I wish to call you to start living a new life as of today. Dear Children, I want you to comprehend that God has chosen each one of you, in order to use you in a great plan for the salvation of mankind. You are not able to comprehend how great your role is in God’s design. Therefore, dear children pray so that in prayer you may be able to comprehend what God’s plan is in your regard. I am with you in order that you may be able to bring it about in all its fullness. Thank you for having responded to my call.”
The second message from Our Lady is to the Medjugorje visionary Mirjana Dragicevic Soldo who receives a message from the Blessed Mother on the 2nd of each month for non-believers. On one occasion Mirjana asked Our Lady who would be non-believers, and Our Lady’s reply was, “Non-believers are all of those who don’t feel church as their home and God as their Father.” The pastor of St. James Church said at that time, “In all of us there is a part of us which is a non-believer whether we admit it or not.”
Our Lady’s message to Mirjana said:
“Dear children, Again, I call you to faith. My motherly heart desires for your heart to be open, so that it could say to your heart: believe! My children, only faith will give you strength in life’s trials. It will renew your soul and open the ways of hope. I am with you. I gather you around me because I desire to help you, so that you can help your neighbors to discover faith, which is the only joy and happiness of life. Thank you.”
The third message is to Mirjana on November 2, 2012. Our Lady said:
“Dear Children … As a mother I implore you to persevere as my apostles. I am praying to my Son to give you Divine Wisdom and strength. I am praying that you may discern everything around you according to God’s truth and to strongly resist everything that wants to distance you from my Son. I am praying that you may witness the love of the Heavenly Father according to my Son. My children, great grace has been given to you to be witnesses of God’s love. Do not take the given responsibility lightly. Do not sadden my motherly heart. As a mother I desire to rely on my children, on my apostles. Through fasting and prayer you are opening the way for me to pray to my Son for Him to be beside you and for His name to be holy through you. Pray for the shepherds because none of this would be possible without them. Thank you.”
And Our Lady’s message to Mirjana on March 2, 2011:
“Dear Children! My motherly heart suffers tremendously as I look at my children who persistently put what is human before what is of God, at my children who, despite everything that surrounds them and despite all the signs that are sent to them, think they can walk without my Son. They cannot! They are walking to eternal perdition. That is why I am gathering you, who are ready to open your heart to me, you who are ready to be apostles of my love, to help me, so that by living God’s love you may be an example to those who do not know it. May fasting and prayer give you strength in that, and I bless you with my Motherly Blessing in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Thank you.”
Mirjana said, “If you would see the Tears of Our Lady one time I am sure that you would pray from the bottom of your heart because Our Lady says this is the time of decisions and that we who call ourselves God’s children have a great responsibility.”
Our Lady blessed all those present and all religious articles. And she asked us once again to pray for our Shepherds.
Divine Providence brought Medjugorje Visionary Mirjana Soldo and me together. We have truly become sisters of the heart, and when I bring groups to Medjugorje, we have the great blessing of spending time with Mirjana in an intimate setting. She speaks to us and answers any questions our group might have. It is a great blessing for Mother’s Pilgrims Travel Group! Every year in the spring time Mother’s Pilgrims brings pilgrims to Medjugorje.