Web site fratri3.net, the official web site of seminarians of Herzegovinian Franciscan Province, published the interview with Fr. Ante Vuckovic, a priest, a theologian and a philosopher. Fr. Ante among other things spoke about his experience of Medjugorje and the 25th Youth Festival. Every day, through the lectures, he was teaching young people how to pray, how to participate in the community and in their work by entrusting themselves to the Blessed Mother, inviting them just like Jesus invited St. John when he said "Behold your Mother". He said:"The Youth Festival was precious experience of encounters with young people who are led by their longing for God, prayer, communion in the spirit of God. I did not hide how thrilled I was. Even more, I felt so happy that I was able to be part of that event. After the whole-day prayer programme, young people wanted more and more. They had huge hunger for God and for praising Him.
The Third Franciscan Order was established in Medjugorje on September 17, 1885, by Fr. Anzelmo Culina. According to the information from 1940, the parish had 625 members of the Third Franciscan Order. After the apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary in 1981, not just the Third Franciscan Order but the whole parish radiated with peace and joy. The new members were taken into the Order, and since then, members were celebrating all major feasts in their communion. From1991 -2007, we do not have any official record about the work and the activities of the Third Franciscan Order.
This year we will celebrate 46 years ever since the solemn blessing of Medjugorje parish church of St. James. After the parish was established in 1892, the first parish church, beautiful and spacious at the time, was completed in 1897. Due to the unstable grounds it was built on, the walls began to crack and the building started to sink, so immediately after the World War I, the parish began to consider the construction of the new church. The works lasted from1934 until January 19, 1969, when the church was blessed. The church of St. James is today the centre of the sacramental and prayer life, not just for the parishioners but for the pilgrims from all over the world. The historian Dr. Fr. Robert Jolić said for the programme of radio Mir Medjugorje that even Glas Koncila, famous Croatian Catholic magazine wrote about that: „Everything was solemn and really superb and I believe it was the event that deserved all those praises. That event, the blessing, was the end of one long journey that had started more than thirty years before. But in 1969, only the rough construction works were completed and many more works followed even afterwards. Our Franciscans, Fr. Stanko Vasilj and Fr. Leonard Oreč had sent one report to Glas Koncila magazine that was published in the beginning of February 1969, and published in our magazine Oasis of Peace in 2012. There were many people and the Provincial was also invited. They also read the list of donators for the church.”- said Dr. Fr. Robert Jolić.
Liam Driver from England told us that Medjugorje completely changed his life. He found out about Medjugorje from his granny who used to regularly send him messages of Our Lady, and he came here in 2005 for the first time. Ever since that time he comes here and brings groups of pilgrims. He gave interview at radio Medjugorje and spoke about his life and fruits of Medjugorje: “My older brother who used to take drugs, came here, converted here and he is now a missionary in the USA. Those are all fruits of Medjugorje. It is not easy to live messages, but Our Lady says that if we completely surrender ourselves to Her, nothing is going to be difficult. I know that, as I used to work for media and that is what the young people believe in. They are all impressed by the media and not by the faith.
Two-days seminar for girls attending the 1st and 2nd grade of high school was held in Medjugorje, organised by the Franciscan School Sisters from Mostar, and it was completed with the Holy Mass held on Sunday, January 18. The seminar was held in Domus Pacis house and 32 girls from Posusje, Ljubuski, Siroki Brijeg and Gorica-Sovici participated. The Franciscan School Sisters are conducting these seminars for nearly 25 years now. “The greatest encouragement to continue our work comes from feedbacks of these girls who gladly remember these seminars and come again always.
On Saturday, January 17, at Srebrenica cemetery in Miletina, prof. Marko Vasilj was buried. He was the associated member of Radio station Mir Medjugorje for many years, born in Miletina, Medjugorje where he completed elementary school, while he attended Grammar school in Zagreb and Ljubuski, where he graduated. As a young student, he began to work as a journalist and in theatre. He completed the first year in Sarajevo, studying German language and literature, and he graduated in Zadar at the department of German and French language and literature. While working at radio Zadar and radio Zagreb, he started with culture and children’s shows, and for more than ten years he was the editor of Zagreb Radio II from Zadar.
On Wednesday, January 21, we will commemorate the thirteenth anniversary of death of former Medjugorje parish priest and the founder of religious – humanitarian organization “Medjugorje – Mir”, Fr. Leonard Orec (born in Posuski Gradac, 1928 – died in Zagreb, 2002). Fr. Leonard served in Medjugorje from 1988 to 1991, in that period he served as a parish priest for more than one year. During those three years, he indeed left a permanent mark as a wise and experienced priest, and fervour promoter of Our Lady’s messages of peace and reconciliation. In 1992, he established humanitarian association “Medjugorje – Mir”, that is still active. Since 1997, Fr. Leonard was active in the General Curia of the Franciscan Order in Split, until 2001, when he got seriously ill. It was in those last days that he had celebrated his 50th Jubilee of Priesthood and then he died in Zagreb on January 21, 2002. He was buried on January 23, in Posusje.
Fr. Hrvoje Miletić was the main celebrant in the church of St. James on Sunday, January 11 on the Feast of the Baptism of Our Lord that concludes the Christmas Liturgy Season, and is at the same time the beginning of the liturgical year in the ordinary time. Fr. Hrvoje said in his homily: “St. John the Baptist and Jesus are very often in the centre of Gospels during the Christmas season. The baptism on river Jordan is the event of God’s revelation. What the stars had indicated to the Wise Men, and what the Wise Men had recognised, that is what the Heavenly Father had witnessed. He revealed Jesus was His Son before all those who were listening.
Members of Totus Tuus community from Croatia were in Medjugorje from December 29, 2014 – January 3, 2015. Around twenty young people from Čakovec, Varaždin, Križevci and Osijek were in Medjugorje for the celebration of the New Year. It was five days retreat when they participated in the programme of Totus Tuus community as well as in the evening prayer programme in St. James’ church. The spiritual programme consisted of: prayer of the Rosary – prayer with the heart, Holy Scripture, fasting, Eucharist and confession, climbing of Apparition Hill and Cross Mountain, spiritual lectures of leaders, spiritual conversations and praise and worship. At the same time, the 2nd Totus Tuus Camp for Girls from the area of Mostar and Medjugorje was held with the theme “Guardian Angels”, when 30 girls led with 5 leaders participated.
Every year apart from the regular seminars of fasting and prayer, there are various international seminars held in Medjugorje. Some of these seminars have at this point long tradition, while some were initiated only recently. They are intended for priests, lay people, leaders of centres, married couples, doctors and medical staff. The first seminar to be held this year will take place from March 2-6, 2015 and it will be the 22nd International Seminar for Organisers of Pilgrimages, Leaders of Peace Centres, Prayer and Charity Groups related to Medjugorje. The theme of this seminar is: “Peace be with you! (John 20,21) in Our Lady’s School”. The lecturer is Fr. Marinko Sakota, parish priest of Medjugorje parish.
On Tuesday, January 6, 2015, the Feast of Epiphany was solemnly celebrated in Medjugorje. Along with the parishioners and local pilgrims, we registered groups from the United States and Italy. Four Holy Masses were celebrated in Croatian language and one in Italian and in English language. Fr. Hrvoje Miletic celebrated Holy Mass at 11 a.m. for Croatian pilgrims and parishioners in the packed church of St. James. He reminded us in the beginning that only Mathew’s gospel brings description of the visit of three Magi. „The Gospel today begins with remark that three Wise Men came to look for Jesus in Jerusalem. They did not go to Bethlehem, as they have not probably heard about Bethlehem, but they looked for Jesus in the centre of the religious and cultural life of that time.
There were many pilgrims who arrived for the New Year’s Eve celebration to Medjugorje and we had opportunity to talk to two friends - Ivan Juretić from Rijeka and Dražen Kraljić from Omišalj, little place on Croatian island Krk. This is Ivan’s third time to arrive here for the prayer vigil to Medjgorje and for the last 23 years he has been involved in organising pilgrimages from Croatia to Marian shrines of Italy, Slovenia and Austria. This is what he said about Medjugorje celebration in this special period: „I think that New Year’s celebration is the most beautiful at two places in the world, in Rome and in Medjugorje. I love coming to Medjugorje privately, without obligations towards the group or other people, to receive spiritual strength. I feel many graces here.” This is Drazen’s fourth time to Medjugorje, but the first for New Year’s celebration. “I think that the world today is packed with various world offers that all fail to fulfil us and that is why so many young people come here to find and to discover here that spiritual treasure that will completely fill them up”, said Drazen.
Fr. Yozefu – Balikuddembe Ssemakula comes from Uganda, but he is serving as a priest in the United States. He has been a priest for 21 years and lately he arrived to Medjugorje for his third visit. The first two times when he came here was together with other pilgrims in a group, but he felt that he needed to come alone, to pray here more on his own. He said that Medjugorje always gives him additional strength:
In the last year there were 1 802 800 Holy Communions distributed, and there were 37 498 priests concelebrating at the Holy Masses.
There were 65 baptisms of children (39 girls and 26 boys).
There were 55 persons who died (23 female and 32 male);
Married were 30 couples.
There were 55 children who received the sacrament of the Holy Communion (34 girls and 21 boys);
There were 79 young people who received the sacrament of the Holy Confirmation (32 girls and 47 boys).
Apart from the parishioners, there were thousands of pilgrims that came to Medjugorje for celebration of New Year from all over the world and we registered organised groups from Poland, Ukraine, France, Korea, the United States, Ireland, Czech Republic, Slovenia, Romania, Austria, Spain, Lebanon, Italy and Germany. Many young pilgrims arrived also from Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. Fr. Ivan Landeka celebrated Holy Mass of Thanksgiving on Wednesday, December 31 at 6 p.m. with 60 priests concelebrating. It was gratitude for all goodness that dear Lord gave to this parish through the Queen of Peace. Fr. Josip Marija Katalinic led the prayer of Rosary. After Holy Mass, the members of Cenacolo community held performance of nativity scene outside the church of St. James. The prayer vigil began at 10 p.m. and Fr. Stanko Cosic led that prayer. The parish priest, Fr. Marinko Sakota, celebrated the midnight Holy Mass that was broadcasted live on radio and internet, while thousands of people gathered all around the church, outside altar and hall at the back of the church to praise and joyfully celebrate God. (photos)