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VIRGIN MARY 'VISIONARY' TO SPEAK

Ivan Dragecivic, a visionary from Medjugorje, Bosnia-Herzegovina, will talk about his apparitions of the Virgin Mary and the messages he says he has received from her during appearances next week in Catholic churches in Buffalo and Orchard Park.

One of six Croatian Catholics who claim they have been experiencing apparitions for more than 16 years, Dragecivic will speak following a Mass at 7:30 p.m. Thursday in St. Teresa's Church, 1974 Seneca St.

He also will give a talk at 7:30 p.m. Friday in St. Bernadette's Church, 5930 S. Abbott Road, Orchard Park. The talk will follow a Mass at 7 p.m.

In addition, Dragecivic, who says he began seeing apparitions when he was 16, will be present during the recitation of the Rosary at 5:30 p.m. Thursday in St. Teresa's and at 5:30 p.m. Friday in St. Bernadette's.

Monsignor Richard T. Nugent, pastor of St. Bernadette's, said the visionary, who is 33, continues to experience apparitions daily at 5:40 p.m. while he recites the Rosary.

Dragecivic and five others claim that Mary began appearing to them in June 1981 on a mountain overlooking the tiny village of Medjugorje in the corner of Bosnia-Herzegovina, near the border of Croatia.

Later, they say, they had apparitions in the village Church of St. James, in their homes and other places.

"I really believe our lady is appearing there daily. I believe it is authentic," said Monsignor Nugent, who will make his ninth pilgrimage to Medjugorje later this month.

"Medjugorje has opened many eyes to the true church and has taken us from being cradle Catholics to true believers," said Joanne Zabielski, leader of the Marian Eucharistic Prayer Group at St. Bernadette's.

Two visits to Medjugorje, she said, have made her "appreciate the richness of our faith and the beauty of the Mass and the blessed sacrament."

Louise Bresnock, a St. Teresa's parishioner who visited Medjugorje 10 years ago, said she was "kind of in awe" during her visit.

"I believe that the Blessed Mother is giving us a message. I believe that she is truly present there and appears to the young adults, but the rest of the world isn't listening to her message," said Mrs. Bresnock.

The Rev. Christopher Coric, a Croatian priest who serves as pastor of Our Lady of Bistrica, Lackawanna, said he first met Dragecivic in Medjugorje less than a month after the apparitions began. Since then Father Coric has served as his interpreter during numerous appearances in the United States.

Initially, Father Coric said, Dragecivic was "very humble, very quiet" and appeared overwhelmed "by the situation he was in."

"He has developed into a fellow who dares to go around the world and speak about the apparitions and the messages that Mary gives him," he said.

Father Coric, a Franciscan, grew up about five miles from Medjugorje and returns once a year to visit his family. During those visits he has gotten to know all of the visionaries and has been in the room with them many times when they experienced apparitions.

Donald Dwello of Waterloo, who arranged Dragecivic's appearances in Western New York, said the visionary spends several months each year in the United States visiting his in-laws in Boston, Mass.

Dragecivic is married to Laureen Murphy, a former Miss Massachusetts, who met him during a pilgrimage to Medjugorje. They have a young daughter.

"His occupation is spreading the word of our lady around the world. He lives on donations -- love offerings -- for his talks. He never charges a fee," said Dwello, who has led nearly 70 tours to Medjugorje.

Recently, he said, Dragecivic spoke to 85,000 people in the Philippines.

In an interview in her book, "The Visions of the Children," Dragecivic told author Janice Connell that the woman he sees in his daily apparition has identified herself as the "Queen of Peace" and is beautiful beyond description.

She usually appears in a gray dress with a white veil, standing on a cloud and wearing a crown of stars, he said.

Dragecivic said that shortly after the apparitions began he entered a Franciscan seminary to study for the priesthood but left after a year because of his struggles with Latin, philosophy and theology.

"If God had wanted me to be a priest, he would have provided me with the intellect and the grace to succeed," he told Mrs. Connell.

The Vatican has reserved judgment on the apparitions at Medjugorje, the monthly messages that Mary supposedly gives to the visionaries and reports of unexplained cures and other miracles that occur there. Nevertheless, millions of pilgrims have visited Medjugorje since the first apparitions were reported.

Monsignor Nugent said the apparitions and messages are considered by the Catholic Church to be "private revelation."

"The church is not obliging anyone to believe them," he said.

The visionaries say that in addition to the messages they are allowed to make public, Mary is giving them 10 secrets about the future of mankind. When they are directed to reveal them, they will give them to a priest who will make them public.

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