Fr. John Chisholm, the Holy Ghost priest from Ireland, long-time Medjugorje pilgrim died on Thursday, October 23, 2014 in his 93rd year of life as a consequence of a heart attack. Fr. John was ordained as a priest in 1946, and he spent six years in Medjugorje from 2000 to 2006, serving to God, Gospa and English –speaking pilgrims. While he was once with his mother, he heard about the events in Medjugorje and felt desire to come to this place. Soon after her death, he received invitation to come to Medjugorje with a group of pilgrims. In that week, he completely fell in love with Gospa, in love that he faithfully served to until the last breath of his earthly life.
The Third International Pilgrimage for Persons with Disability ended with Holy Mass at the White Dome of St. James’ church and the pilgrimage was held with the theme “In Mary’s School” and gathered around 1380 participants. The parishioners from Medjugorje – 85 families (pansion houses, hotels and family homes) gave free accommodation to all pilgrims that arrived from Croatia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Poland, Ukraine, Lithuania, Italy and the United States. This pilgrimage was organised by the Association “Susret/Encounter” from Citluk, parish office Medjugorje and Mother’s Village. Jasminka Vasilj, the President of Association “Susret” said at the end of this pilgrimage: “I am proud of our parish, everything went well, we had 1380 pilgrims with disability, their parents and volunteers who were here for three days and on Saturday there were around 150 people from the area that joined the pilgrimage.”
The Third Pilgrimage for Disabled Persons “In Mary’s School” that is being held in Medjugorje, gathered more than 1300 participants. This pilgrimage was created as the fruit of pilgrimages of Sr. Rastislava Ralbovsky with the community of persons with special needs from Djakovo. “I am strongly convinced that this is Our Lady’s plan that I was aware of from the beginning. I moved slowly in the process and I can see it is the work of God”, said Sr. Rastislava and emphasised that Medjugorje was in her heart from the very beginning. Magda Kaliterna, volunteer from the church of St. Phillip Neri from Split said that they came for the pilgrimage last year for the first time. “We came last year not knowing what to expect, but everyone from volunteers to parents were thrilled. Some young volunteers who were 18 – 19 years old returned home and told their parents that they had spent the four most beautiful days in Medjugorje. Our volunteers are young people and we would like to form and raise them in the Christian spirit so they would understand that serving is the most important thing in their lives.”
The Third International Pilgrimage for Persons with Disability is being held in Medjugorje from October 23-26, with the theme “In Mary’s School”. This pilgrimage gathered more than 1300 participants and most of them were from Croatia, then Slovakia, Ukraine, Lithuania, Italy and the United States. All participants were again hosted by families from Medjugorje which again confirmed their great hearts and desire to help and also why Our Lady had chosen this parish in a very special way. This pilgrimage that was organised by Association “Encounter/Susret” from Citluk, in cooperation with Mother’s Village and the Parish Office, began on Thursday with the evening Holy Mass celebrated at the White Dome of St. James’ church by Fr. Josip Vlasic, the parish priest from Mostar parish of Sts. Peter and Paul. The inspiration for this gathering is a pilgrimage that took place for many years to Medjugorje by Sr. Rastislava Ralbovsky that had been coming here with the community of special needs persons from Djakovo. She gave interview on radio Medjugorje and said that today people with disabilities are meeting in Medjugorje so they could find love and protection with Our Lady: “May all of them be encouragement to us, that by looking at them, we may understand ourselves, our wounded hearts. We all carry within ourselves deep desire to love and to be loved: that is what the core of human being is.” The programme is also this year filled with many activities, lectures and prayer meetings.
Seventy seven pilgrims from the parish Brestovsko came to Medjugorje this October. Immediately upon their arrival to Medjugorje, they climbed Cross Mountain while meditation on the stations of the Way of the Cross and praying Rosary and then they went to Apparition Hill. Along with all other pilgrims they participated in the evening pray programme and their parish priest Fr. Damir Pavic was the main celebrant at the evening Holy Mass. One after visiting their parish web site can read some of the testimonies that young people received during this pilgrimage: „It was so special on Apparition Hill. God’s love streamed through me and I felt beautiful. I could not have even imagined that this place is so nice. When I came to the statue of Our Lady I felt something indescribable, something so nice. It was love of God that strengthened me and gave me force to remain strong in my faith. When I receive another chance, I will go to Medjugorje again”, wrote young parishioner from Brestovsko.
The priest Mduduzi McHunu came to Medjugorje for the second time from South Africa. He is a member of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate and in his interview told us that he heard about Medjugorje for the first time after one spiritual retreat in 1999. “I believe this place was chosen in a special way so it would bring us renewal of faith especially in this time. I meet many people in my country who think they can do alone without God in their lives. We call it crises of faith. The experience that Medjugorje offers is Our Lady’s Motherly love and care that She desires to show us so She would return us to our faith and God, to Jesus, Her Son”, said Fr. Mduduzi from South Africa.
All members of one family decided to gather at a pilgrimage in Medjugorje. Mairead Peoples, pilgrim and a group leader from Ireland was able to gather 35 members of her family for a one week pilgrimage to Medjugorje. Mairead said that she has been coming to Medjugorje for many years and came in 1985 for the first time: „Every year I bring pilgrims and I think that I only missed one year -1991. I was able to see in all of these years how lives of people are changing. Faith in our country is very week. I bring pilgrims and I beleive that Gospa has a plan for each one of them and that she does soemthing special for all pilgrims. I really love my family to come over here" said Mairead.
Ollie Clarke, journalist from Ireland was in Medjugorje in the past few days and he works on Christian radio– Spirit Radio Ireland. He said that the job he has is a great gift because he is able to witness his faith. He came to Međugorje in 1995, for the first time and ever since then he was here for 30 more times and said: „Međugorje is my home. It opened my faith and gave me tools that I needed to witness and to enlighten the message of the Gospel in my heart”. The life story of this pilgrim is very interesting and is imbued with God's blessing despite family tragedies and facing with serious illness that he was able to beat thanks to Jesus and Mary.
Our journalists recently had chance to speak to many pilgrims and one of them is a priest Juan Carlos Zapata, born in Columbia who serves in the parish of St. Joseph in Newark Diocese New Jersey and was ordained ten years ago. “I worked in the various parishes in the United States and up to four years ago, I was director of radio Maria, which is still part of my duties, I conduct shows there and I speak about Marian themes and I am also a marriage counsellor. My love to Gospa is so big, I was always aware that the Lord is doing His work with the heart of a Mother. I prayed that He, through Mary, may show me the needs of people. I desired to come to Medjugorje for many years, after I heard about it from my colleagues - priests. I asked Him to answer my prayer and to send me to Medjugorje when mostly needed and that is exactly what He did.”
Sisters of Servants of the little Jesus and their assistants came to Medjugorje on Saturday afternoon on October 11, 2014. They arrived from communities active in educational work with children from Mostar, Vitez and Sarajevo. After greeting and words of welcome, Fr. Dragan Ruzic, director of Mother’s Village presented them the work and history of Mother’s Village. They walked around the village and community “Merciful Father” and visited one of the houses where children live at the end. “Fr. Dragan prepared gifts to us as well as refreshments and filled with beautiful impressions, we went to the church of St. James to thank our Heavenly Mother for such a beautiful day and many graces of this encounter and to give her all of our intentions. We thank all those who participated in organisation of this encounter and we are so grateful for all new experiences we gained. May the love of little Jesus and our wonderful Mother Mary continue to guide and lead us in our serving to the smallest ones”, they said.
There are few more days left until the beginning of the Third International Pilgrimage for Persons with Disability that will be held in Medjugorje from October 23-26 with the theme “In Mary’s school”. Around 1000 persons registered for this pilgrimage that is organised by the Association “Susret/Encounter” from Ciltuk in cooperation with the parish office and Mother’s Village. The participants will gather on Thursday, October 23, 2014 and parishioners will provide them free accommodation and food. The inspiration for this pilgrimage came from Sr. Rastislava Ralbovsky that had been coming here with a group of persons with special needs from Djakovo. The programme will be filled with workshops lectures and prayer meetings.
The seminar for music groups of the Franciscan Youth Herzegovina was held in “Home of Peace” in Medjugorje from October 12 to 14, 2014, with the theme “Blessed be God forever”. The seminar was organised by the regional brotherhood of the Herzegovina Franciscan Youth and 40 young people participated from 16 fraternities. The seminar was conducted by Fr. Tihomir Bazina and Fr. Branimir Novokmet and the regional assistant Fr. Slaven Brekalo was present as well. The introduction to the seminar was on Friday at 4 p.m. with the evening prayer programme that followed. On Saturday, the programme began with the prayer and workshops followed. The conductors made emphasis on selection of songs for the Eucharistic celebration. The whole seminar was full of songs, music and prayer.
The feast of St. Francis, the founder of the Franciscan Order was solemnly celebrated in Medjugorje on October 4, 2014. The traditional service of Transitus was held after the evening Holy Mass, on the eve of the Feast, at the White Dome of St. James’ church. Fr. Stanko Cosic was the main celebrant and conductor of this service. Many pilgrims were present, among them huge number of Irish pilgrims that traditionally come here in October. Mary O’Farrel came for the first time and she told us that she had been refusing to come here for years: “I always used to say that one day I would go to Medjugorje. My neighbour organised trip to Medjugorje and I had booked pilgrimage to Lourdes. She told me that the pilgrimage was organised specially for me, just to make me come here, and that is how I came at the end. The purpose of this pilgrimage is to pray for inner peace and for my mom who had car accident. I do not know many things about Medjugorje, but I am positive Gospa brought me here for a special reason. I am in the organisation board of pilgrimage for disabled persons to Lourdes and I also organise Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament back home. We had just celebrated the 25th anniversary of Adoration in our parish and I am very proud of that.”
Many pilgrims are arriving to Medjugorje from all over the world in this period, especially since October is a month devoted to Our Lady. The Information Office registered groups of pilgrims coming from Italy, France, Poland, Slovenia, Belgium, Spain, Argentina, Austria, Ireland, Ukraine, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Germany, Romania, Lithuania, the United States, Canada, England, Korea, Lebanon and Malaysia. The journalists of radio station Mir Medjugorje met Hans Theo Müller from Germany who has been coming to Medjugorje since 1986. He stopped counting his trips to Medjugorje a long ago and said that he feels like at home when he is here. He always stays in the same family, always grateful for their hospitality but also for the fruits that Medjugorje brought to his spiritual life. He told us about his first trip to Medjugorje: “I heard about Medjugorje for the first time from one Croatian priest who was in the parish close to ours and he was in charge of the Croatian missions there. He told me that we need to go to Medjugorje together. Soon, the first pilgrims from his parish came here and among them were my parents and my younger brother. As soon as they returned, I could see they were different. I came here in 1986, for the first time with my mother, it was the Anniversary Feast and I was deeply moved by that. That trip to Medjugorje was a turning point in my life.”
Number of Holy Communions: 226 400
Number of priests that concelebrated at Holy Masses: 4706 (156 per day)