Statue of Mary glows, and faithful see the light
Whatever the explanation, the statue continues to draw crowds.
and MARALINE KUBIK
CAMPBELL — Crowds outside St. Joseph the Provider Church, 633 Porter Ave., have been growing larger every night since a group of women first noticed that the eyes and heart of a statue of the Virgin Mary appear to glow.
With many carrying still and video cameras and peering through binoculars, the crowd swelled to several hundred people of all ages as daylight waned Thursday, and the obvious glow of the statue's eyes and heart intensified.
Even with some notable light sources, the reason for the glow was unclear.
Light shined on the church and the crowd from inside the attached school building, where bingo was being played, and from security and streetlights outside.
Lights on TV cameras and the fleeting light from flashbulbs also illuminated the scene. The sky was overcast and winds were calm Thursday evening.
The eyes of the statue on the bell tower began glittering about a week ago, said Rocky Yeropoli, who has lived directly across the street from the church since 1974.
Yeropoli, a 35-year member of the parish, said he remembers the statue's being painted with gold leaf about 30 years ago but doesn't recall ever seeing it glow the way it has the past few nights. "It's strange. Last night, she just had a glow to her," he said Thursday.
Gathering to pray
People have been gathering to pray for a variety of things. Some who are sickly have come with their oxygen tanks to pray for good health, he said.
"One lady was here for about three hours praying that her son would find a job so he doesn't have to leave," Yeropoli said. The crowd was talkative, and some people could be seen making the sign of the cross as they left the church grounds Thursday evening.
"I prayed for everyone to have peace of mind and good health," said Betty R. Tobias of Youngstown, a parishioner at Sacred Heart Church. "It touches me and a lot of others. It's a beautiful vision," she added.
"It reinforces your faith. It's a pretty obvious sign," said her daughter, Barb Malizia of Youngstown, a parishioner at St. Paul Church in New Middletown.
Her visiting friend, Amanda Johnston of Australia, also a Roman Catholic, said she prayed for world peace.
"I wanted to come and say a few private prayers and see if there are any answers to what's happening," said Paul Andrews of Campbell, a member of St. Lucy Church in Campbell.
Monsignor Robert Siffrin, vicar general of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Youngstown, said he first learned about the glowing statue Thursday morning when a secretary from St. Joseph's called to inform him about the crowds that have been gathering outside the church.
"Obviously, light is being reflected off of the heart of Mary. I've been told that there's gold leaf on that portion," of the statue, Monsignor Siffrin said Thursday evening after seeing the statue in the dark.
"When extra light is flashed against the statue from flash cameras, I see the flicker of lights from the eyes, which, again, could indicate that there's gold leaf there. So, there would seem to be an easy explanation of it right now," he observed.
Monsignor Siffrin, who stood at the back of the crowd, said the pastor of St. Joseph the Provider, the Rev. Michael A. Swierz, who has been away on vacation, was to return to the parish this weekend. Once the pastor returns, the history of the statue and tower will be reviewed in search of an explanation, Monsignor Siffrin said.
"People are claiming that the eyes have the appearance of light in the evening," Monsignor Siffrin added. "There is always a skepticism in the church [that such occurrences are the result of divine intervention] because there may be a scientific explanation."
Will seek explanation
First, he said, the church will determine what the statue is made of and how it was constructed to see if there is a scientific explanation, he said. "It may be something very obvious." He did not know the origin or history of the statue.
Yeropoli said that a statue of St. Joseph on the opposite side also was painted with the same gold leaf at the same time as the statue in question, and he said it doesn't glow. But a faint glow could be seen in St. Joseph's eyes and heart through binoculars Thursday evening.
Although there are several reports each year from throughout the world about statues that glow, cry and bleed, "most claims are not substantiated," Monsignor Siffrin said. In his 15 years at the Youngstown Diocese central office, he said, he doesn't recall any claims such as this.
He added, however: "Anything in the course of our daily life that challenges people to think about their own life, their relationship to God and their faith is a good reminder. Even if it's not miraculous, it's a good reminder to us that faith is an essential part of human life."
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