A small promise with a big impact

A small promise with a big impact Pilgrims pray at a statue of Mary on Apparition Hill in Medjugorje. Mary “is not a postmistress, delivering messages every day,” Pope Francis said in 2013 when asked about the Marian shrine. Photo: CNS

Carmel Kelly

With the boys both married and after my mother’s death in 1994, my husband Bill and I were free agents and enjoyed the following few years having no one to really worry about and going wherever we wanted to. A regular thing with myself and some friends was a biannual visit to Lourdes. This did not interest Bill, pilgrimage did not appeal to him. Little did I know how this was to change.

At that time I knew nothing about Medjugorje, but someone gave me a copy of Heather Parsons A Light between the Hills, which is a series of stories of people whose lives have been changed by Medjugorje. I did not read it at that time, wasn’t interested, just left it lying around. I thought no more about it until one day in January 1997. After he read the book, Bill expressed a wish to go there. I could not know then how Bill’s desire to go to Medjugorje would change my life, but I was so pleased he wanted to go. I read the book, booked for us to travel on the May 22 and we looked forward to our trip.

In March, Bill was diagnosed with a bad chest  infection which, after two lots of antibiotics and steroids showed no signs of improving. On the April 15 the doctor sent him to Beaumont for an x-ray, after which he was kept in for further investigation. After 10 days of extensive tests, we were informed that Bill had extensive cancer in both lungs. Explaining our plans to the consultant, he made it clear all travel was out of the question. Believing at that time that Bill could be treated, I explained the situation to Marian Pilgrimages, our organiser, and they gave us a credit note for two years. We could go when Bill was better. Telling Bill this the following day in the hospital he asked me to promise that if he could not go to Medjugorje, I would go anyway and bring my friend on his ticket. Trying to explain to him that I had no interest in Medjugorje and was only going because of him was no use. He insisted I promise to go and because he was getting agitated I made the promise, still hoping he would recover and we could go together. However, this was not to be as on May 12, 10 days before our expected trip, Bill died.

Five weeks after Bill’s death, and only to “fulfil” a promise I explained everything  to Tom Field in Marian Pilgrimages who had no problem with my friend Agnes going to Medjugorje on Bill’s ticket. So on June 17, 1997, knowing nothing about the place I set off with my friend on what was to be “once off pilgrimage to Medjugorje”.

However, being invited to be present at an apparition with Ivan the Visionary at 10pm on apparition Hill, changed everything for me. In the presence of over 3,000 people and being very close to Ivan I had an unforgettable experience. Once the apparition started, the silence, despite the crowd was total. I cried a lot, missing Bill yet feeling he was there in spirit and in my heart I had no doubt of the presence of our Blessed Lady at that time. I felt an incredible urge to bring others to Medjugorje. I remember saying “Blessed Mother, I cannot see you, I cannot hear you but I know you are here and I promise I will bring others here.” Coming down the hill that night, Agnes could hardly believe when I told her what I planned, but she too has been a constant returnee with me. I went to Medjugorje to fulfil a promise, and returned from that first visit having made another promise.

With the help of Marian Pilgrimages in May 1998 I brought my first group and two further groups in October 1998. Medjugorje took over my life and in October 2017 I brought my 106th group. I now benefit from and am blessed by friendships made and the experiences of Medjugorje. There is no way to explain the satisfaction and joy I derive just being with the people in my groups. Every group brings something new and every first timer is a special blessing.

I could not have foreseen as Bill was dying, the change my life would undergo as a result of the promise made to him. This happened when all commitments were done. Family married and gone,  mother and husband gone. I was a free agent and into this place came the Blessed Mother and the rest is history. At this stage in my life it is good to be useful and God willing, I hope to continue to be useful for some time to come.


About Marian Pilgrimages

Marian Pilgrimages, a Dublin-based pilgrimage company, is Ireland’s first and foremost Medjugorje Specialist. For more than 25 years their experience in organising pilgrimages to this religious shrine has been unsurpassed. In 2009, Marian Pilgrimages extended its expertise and ethos to offer pilgrimages to the major Marian Shrines including Lourdes, Fatima, the Holy Land, Poland, Shrines of France and Italy and Camino De Santiago.

Medjugorje, Marian Pilgrimages’ specialist region, begins for Holy Week and continues with a couple of flights weekly until the end of October. With departures from Dublin, Cork, Belfast, Shannon and Knock, the Dublin team can put you in contact with group leaders across the country that may be suitable to where you live. Pilgrims, either part of a group or travelling by themselves, will experience from the extensive program, professional guides and services both on the ground and here in Ireland.

For the last 17 years, David Parkes, Marian Pilgrimages’ pilgrim director has led the Marian Pilgrimages’ program in Medjugorje. David has in this time successfully organised, coordinated and helped over 100,000 pilgrims. He has a special connection to Medjugorje and can indeed relate to many people who have been touched by Medjugorje. This connection allows him to be entirely involved with any aspect of a trip and does so with great reverence and understanding. He is responsible for all aspects of the pilgrimage experience, he is joined by the assistance of five full-time staff. Each of them has numerous years of experience working with pilgrims and group leaders. The guides have built up a strong relationship with pilgrims and group leaders creating a sense of family and an atmosphere of a home away from home. The support received from the staff on the ground is unmatched and is invaluable in times of need.

Sunday, May 12, has marked a triumphant day for those lucky enough to have Medjugorje in their lives. The announcement to allow dioceses to pilgrimage to Medjugorje was made at Mass by the Apostolic Nuncio Luigi Pezzuto in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Archbishop Henryk Hoser, the Holy See’s Special Apostolic Visitator.

The fruits of Medjugorje are undeniable and it is heard first hand from pilgrims and group leaders. The Marian Pilgrimages’ guides continue to speak of Medjugorje with true love in their hearts which is testament to the power of peace and renewal there.

With the vast amount of tours Marian Pilgrimages is offering, there is just too much to see and explore in one trip. This year sees the usual destinations combine to offer a two-centre trip. We are offering the superb opportunity of combining the holy shrine of Medjugorje and the idyllic coast of Croatia. Travel to the small religious village in Bosnia and Herzegovina known as Medjugorje, where Our Lady has been appearing since 1981. From there you can take a relaxing holiday along the beautiful coast of Croatia. If you wish to combine two religious programs, you can combine Medjugorje and San Giovanni, the second most visited Catholic site in the world. It was here that St Padre Pio received the stigmata.

With a loyalty in providing successful pilgrimages and a belief in the messages and meaning of the Shrines, Marian Pilgrimages offers not only a spiritual pilgrimage but an extensive and professional program.

For further information on any of the above, please contact Marian Pilgrimages on 01-8788159 or visit their website www.marian.ie.