Some Claim Religious Visions As Thousands Visit Tiny La. Town
TICKFAW, La. (AP) _ Devout Roman Catholics, inspired by the visions of a pipefitter from suburban New Orleans, and the curious gathered in a vegetable field near this tiny southeastern Louisiana town Sunday, hoping to see the Virgin Mary.
Some of the estimated 3,000 people present said they did indeed see what they came to see.
″I believe that I saw her, Jesus, Joseph and the angels and the saints,″ said Shelly Ann Theresa, 28, from the New Orleans suburb of Covington. ″I’m kind of nervous and overwhelmed.″
Some took pictures of the sun with instant cameras and pointed to the splotchy, multicolored images as evidence that holy apparitions had appeared.
″See, here’s the Blessed Mother,″ said Diane Deroche of Luling as she pointed to a photograph she had taken.
Theresa Thibodeaux of Hammond also held photos, taken earlier in the day, of what she said were the gates of heaven.
″I’m expecting a miracle. I’m blind in this eye and I have glaucoma in the other. My nephew is crippled and my uncle has cancer,″ she said, beginning to sob. ″It may not be for me, but I believe in my heart. You have to believe for a miracle.″
Alfredo Raimondo, 52, is the man whose tales of miraculous visions sparked the huge turnout at Tickfaw. A few weeks ago, the Tunisian native, now a pipefitter from Chalmette, said the Virgin Mary had appeared to him recently and told him to go to Tickfaw to honor St. Joseph.
Raimondo stayed sequestered in a mobile home on the edge of the vegetable field early Sunday, but later emerged and began wandering among the faithful, many of whom reached out to touch him as he ambled through the crowd.
″I’m very happy,″ he said ″We’re letting Joseph show us the way. There are a lot of people here.″
Not everyone was sure a miracle would happen.
″We wanted to see what was going to happen. We’re going to Mass here and anything else is extra,″ said George Rand.
Outside Raimondo’s trailer, families with lawn chairs and coolers ate picnic lunches in the 80 degree sunshine, while someone led Hail Mary prayers over a loudspeaker.
Women knelt in muddy ruts among the cabbages and onions saying prayers. Some had floral crosses by their sides.
Others knelt before a St. Joseph’s altar heaped with food, flowers and a picture of the Last Supper.
A large wooden cross had been erected in the field by Raimondo.
A spokesman for the Archdiocese of New Orleans did not immediately return a telephone call Sunday seeking comment on the vision reports.
Last summer, about 12,000 people gathered for a Mass on the grounds of a charismatic church in Lubbock, Texas, where three parishioners claimed to receive messages from the Virgin Mary.
The three parishioners said they began receiving messages from the Virgin Mary arlier in the summer, shortly after they returned from a pilgrimage to Medugorje, Yugoslavia, where six youths claim they have seen apparitions of Mary since 1981.