Pilgrims gather in Shelby County hoping to feel presence of Virgin Mary

Birmingham News/July 4, 2009

More than 2,000 people from across the country have been gathered in rural Shelby County since Wednesday, hoping to feel the presence of the mother of Jesus.

Pilgrims today parked along Shelby County 43 near the headquarters of Caritas of Birmingham, an organization dedicated to promoting the visions that started in 1981 with six visionaries in the village of Medjugorje in the former Yugoslavia.

Marija Lunetti, whose reports of daily visions of the Virgin Mary have drawn millions of pilgrims to Medjugorje in Bosnia-Herzegovina, has spent the past week in Shelby County. She continues to have her daily visions, including Thursday and Friday at 10:30 p.m.

Crowds gathered around her in candlelight to watch her look up and converse with an apparition of the Virgin Mary that only she can see.

Although the pilgrims can't see the apparitions, they believe the Virgin Mary appears and speaks to Lunetti.

"Many people want to get very close to Marija because they think they can see Our Lady when she appears to Marija," said Renee Reams, who drove six hours from Florida to be in Shelby County this week. "But only the visionary can see Our Lady. Our Lady wants the rest of us to have faith."

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