Mary Apparitions on the 13thMarian Apparitions on 13th
Virgin Mary Final Appearance in Georgia
Tuesday October 13By June Preston
Crowds gather for message from Virgin Mary
CONYERS, Ga. (Reuters) - More than 100,000 pilgrims were converging on a rustic farm in Georgia Tuesday to await what they believe will be a final message from the Virgin Mary.
The faithful began gathering over the weekend at the farm where former nurse Nancy Fowler has relayed messages she says are from the Virgin Mary over the past seven years. The farm is located on hilly terrain 35 miles east of Atlanta.
The annual event, which is not sanctioned by the local Roman Catholic hierarchy, drew 30,000 believers last year, but the Rockdale County Sheriff's Department estimated between 100,000 and 150,000 people would turn out this year.
Fowler, 47, has told the faithful this will be the last message the Virgin Mary will issue through her to the public. Fowler says she has received hundreds of private messages from the Virgin Mary and Jesus since 1983.
``I understand from Our Lady that next year will be the last of her public messages,'' Fowler told pilgrims last year. ``His Mother said my life will continue, but the public messages will come to an end.''
Many Catholic leaders in the region have distanced themselves from Fowler's claims. Archbishop James Lyke wrote to priests saying he doubted the authenticity of Fowler's apparitions and urging them to discourage visits to the farm.
Rockdale County authorities have also expressed concern about the influx of visitors in the largely rural county with a population of just 60,000.
In 1991 the county health department asked Fowler to post signs warning pilgrims about water from a well on her property. The well, which Fowler said Jesus blessed in an appearance to her, tested positive for coliform bacteria.
In 1992 the county asked Fowler to help regulate the flow of vehicles entering and leaving the farm after a traffic jam prevented emergency workers from reaching an elderly woman with heart problems.
In 1993, The Atlanta Constitution reported, the county threatened to declare large crowds at the farm a public nuisance. The complaint failed to deter the public, however, and in November of that year 80,000 people showed up, the largest gathering so far.
Fowler said that year that her monthly messages would stop and she would speak only once a year, on Oct. 13, the anniversary of a reported appearance by the Virgin Mary to three children in Fatima, Portugal, in 1917. Pope John Paul has recognized the Fatima appearance as a factual event.
Caravans of buses from the United States and Latin America began rolling into Georgia over the weekend for the final message. A local television station reported that Fowler plans to move to Florida next month.
Authorities said the final message would be a nightmare for commuters bound for Atlanta on Tuesday.
``It's going to be extremely bad, that's all I can tell you. It will be backed up for six to eight miles,'' Terry Stewart, a dispatcher at the Rockdale County Sheriff's Office, said. ``It's going to be traffic hell -- and more.''
Fowler, who shuns interviews, surprised the faithful Monday with an impromptu appearance on her front porch. She took questions from her audience, but when one pilgrim asked what Jesus looked like, she said she did not know.
``I can't tell you that it was a visual thing,'' she said. ''But it was a feeling of love. My heart was filled with love.''
`Virgin Mary' Message Draws CrowdBy JAMES PILCHER Associated Press Writer
CONYERS, Ga. (AP) _ Amid gasps and scattered applause from a rapt crowd of 100,000 people, Georgia homemaker Nancy Fowler read her final public message from the Virgin Mary.
Mrs. Fowler claimed that Mary had visited her earlier Tuesday inside her small farmhouse about 30 miles east of Atlanta.
``If you are worried about the future, put not your attention to these matters,'' Mrs. Fowler read from handwritten notes. ``The future holds no concern to those who truly seek God and love him and remain in his favor.''
From October 1990 to May 1994, Mrs. Fowler delivered the messages on the 13th of each month. Then she announced that the Virgin Mary would appear with a public message only once a year on Oct. 13.
The crowd has steadily increased over the years, swelling the town of 60,000. Mrs. Fowler announced a year ago that this year's public message would be the last.
``My crowning words are to be holy, to be witnesses, and to walk in my faith,'' Mrs. Fowler told the throng of mostly women. ``I love you all, my dear children.''
Mrs. Fowler, whose visions have not been endorsed by the local Catholic hierarchy, said Mary told her she would not be permitted to visit with her again in the way she has since 1990.
``She, being the loving mother she is, reassured me that she would always remain with me,'' said Mrs. Fowler, who would not give a reason why the messages were ending. ``Just as she reassured me she would always remain with all of you.''
For the most part, the crowd was quiet and attentive while Mrs. Fowler read for 30 minutes.
People fell to their knees, gasped and clapped when Mrs. Fowler said that a multitude of souls accompanied Mary in her vision. She said the souls were in purgatory but were being released into heaven in honor of Mary.[Purgatory, or any place of temporary punishment for "souls", is not in the Bible - ww]
Mrs. Fowler attracts many visitors from Mexico to hear her messages.
``We in Mexico and Latin America believe in the power of Maria and that's the only thing that can unify us,'' said Christina Peschard, who traveled to Conyers with her sister and mother from Zacatecas, Mexico.
Some of the faithful said their cameras caught images of Mary along with strange colors and shapes emanating from the sun.
``I come because of all the miracles I have experienced,'' said Angie Moogalin of Chester, Va., clutching a Polaroid of Mrs. Fowler's house with another shape she claims is a door above the house. ``I've seen different lights and different images. There's just a feeling of holiness here.''
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