Church cautious as thousands arrive in search of Mary

Church cautious as thousands arrive in search of Mary

Image on cross inspires the faithful

NORTH PROVIDENCE - Eyes gazed upward, tears mixing with the pelting rain, they stood with hands clasped in prayer at the sight in the sky.

The object of the adoration was at times barely discernible through the downpour, but the people of faith who came here for inspiration were not deterred. For many, this was the divine sign they were waiting for, a fulfillment of their long-held hope for a miracle. For others, it was nothing but a natural occurrence, a not-so-impressive shape on a cross high overhead that was likely caused by natural elements.

Thousands of hope-seekers and simple sightseers, people of faith and those with none at all, have descended on Mineral Spring Avenue in North Providence since a story in the North Providence Breeze shared how members of the Church of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, at 1081 Mineral Spring Ave., were claiming that an image of Mary herself had appeared in the cross atop the church.

Traffic was backed up all the way beyond the Pawtucket and Johnston lines as WPRO radio host John DePetro urged listeners to visit North Providence to see the "miracle" for themselves.

Some motorists became so frustrated with the slow crawl along Mineral Spring Avenue that many started using the center lane to pass others, compounding the issue. But those who came to see the image said the wait in traffic was entirely worth it.

Social media lit up with a wide range of opinions. Several posted on The Valley Breeze Facebook page that they could see the familiar Catholic silhouette of Mary, while others said it could just as well have been Michael Jackson or Star Wars' Chewbacca.

Visitors to the Presentation Church tell what they see on the cross:

The Rev. Edward Cardente, pastor of the Presentation Church, has not commented on the significance of the image that parishioners say is Mary.

Representatives for the Diocese of Providence issued a statement Monday on the "image at the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary Church."

"The Catholic Church is always very cautious in evaluating alleged miracles," reads the statement. "It is highly unlikely that the image of the Virgin Mary that individuals are seeing on the cross of the Church of the Presentation in North Providence is the result of divine intervention."

They add, "nonetheless, God often works through ordinary means, and if the image on the cross, even if it is the result of natural causes, inspires individuals to a renewed faith in God and greater charity for their neighbor, that's a positive message to be welcomed and embraced."

Michael and Erene Petit, North Providence residents and former members of the Presentation Church, told The Breeze they could see the "absolutely amazing" picture of Mary right in the middle of the cross.

"It's a once-in-a-lifetime thing to see," said Erene Petit.

Michael McConville, of Cumberland, said he came for this "special day" in part because he's on a transplant list for a life-saving new lung.

"I'm hoping this will, by the grace of the Virgin Mary, quicken my lung to be available," he said.

McConville, like others nearby, also saw the face of Jesus, as it appears on the Shroud of Turin, below Mary.

Patricia Messere, a North Providence native who now lives in Lincoln, said she was shocked to hear that Mary had appeared, and rounded up family members to come right away.

"I'm so pleased that it's our church," said Messere, who attends the Presentation Church and was planning to go inside to pray to Mary after she was done looking at the image. "It's a miracle," she added.

Margarida Sousa, of Central Falls, said she could hardly believe what she was hearing when received a call from her son about an hour earlier. But Mary was there as clear as could be, she said.

"I see the shape of Jesus' mom holding the baby Jesus," she told The Breeze. Sousa, like others, was seeing new images in the cross beyond the one of Mary. She could see the mother of Jesus actually moving, she said.

Haley Croke, of Rehoboth, Mass., was among those who saw a lighter spot above Mary's head that she said could have been a halo. Further, said Croke, she and family members were seeing three small images on the left side of the cross, which she and others said could well be the three children of Fatima.