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Grateful for Mary’s Intercession

Paul & Ellie Towhey

A Legacy of Devotion

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The Basilica Shrine Magazine, The Message

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Ellie Towhey has always been grateful for Mary’s intercession through Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal. Throughout her life, Ellie has enthusiastically embraced her devotion to the Blessed Mother and shared it others.


As a child, the Philadelphia native regularly accompanied her parents to nearby The Basilica Shrine of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal. When she was a teenager, Ellie conveyed this joy to her schoolmates, who often traveled across town with her by bus or car to visit Mary’s altar.

Later as a wife and mother, Ellie has passed her devotion to her husband, Paul Towhey, and to their children. And through the couple’s generous support of the much-anticipated St. Vincent’s Rosary Walk and Our Lady of Knock Shrine on the grounds of The Basilica Shrine, the Towheys will help to ensure others will be able to experience similar comfort and joy in perpetuity.

“I think for every step in life, every situation in life, it’s important to make Mary a part of those things,” Ellie says. “I can’t even imagine how many of my prayers have been answered.”


She often recalls the many blessings her family received when her son, Paul Jr., and daughter, Jessica, were young.

“Raising children, especially when they’re in college, you wake up in the middle of the night and think, ‘What are they doing? Where are they?’ And you pray to Mary; you say the Memorare; you pray the Rosary,” says Ellie. “You ask for Mary’s intercession in whatever they’re doing. You pray they make the right decisions, that they do the right things.”

Ellie also contemplates how Marian devotion has helped both her and Jessica overcome cancer, and believes Mary’s intercession helped her father through his spiritual journey.

“I can’t help to think that Mary was instrumental in bringing my father home to the Catholic Church,” she says. “He was part Jewish, but his family didn’t practice any religion at all.”


Yet, through Mary’s inspiration, Ellie’s father discovered faith and converted to Catholicism. Ellie’s mother guided him throughout the process and became her husband’s godmother.

“You don’t see that very often,” reflects Ellie. “That really says a lot about my father, too.”


With Ellie and Paul now living in Ocean City, New Jersey, and their children in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, physical distance prevents them from visiting The Basilica Shrine as often as they used to. But Mary continues to bestow graces upon them wherever they go. And they are infinitely grateful.

Paul says—only half-jokingly—that they’ve “bought thousands of Mass cards (from the Shrine) for everything you can imagine” over the years. “So, if you get sick, you’re getting a Mass card from the Shrine, even if you’re not Catholic.”


In more recent times, the couple liked the idea of making a larger, more permanent contribution to The Basilica Shrine.

In 2014, they traveled to Ireland with fellow parishioners from St. Helena Church in Blue Bell, Pennsylvania. One of their stops on the Emerald Isle was the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Knock in County Mayo. Despite growing up in an Irish-American family on her mother’s side, Ellie had never learned the story of Knock the Marian apparition, so, admittedly, she still was not fully convinced of the authenticity of the devotional site.


“I was sitting in this beautiful chapel where (the apparition) was to have happened and thought, ‘Mary, give me a sign that this is real, that this is something I should believe in.’”

Her outlook, and Paul’s, suddenly changed when the familiar face of Fr. Mike Kelly walked out onto the altar. The Towheys had previously  known Fr. Kelly when the priest was assigned to Epiphany of Our Lord Parish in Plymouth Meeting, Pennsylvania. It seemed like their reunion with Fr. Kelly at Knock was destined to bring them closer to Mary.

The following year, the Towheys attended a visit by Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, archbishop of New York, to The Basilica Shrine, for its 100th anniversary of the Solemn Novena. At this event, Dolan told congregants the miraculous story of his personal encounter with a nine-year-old girl with Down syndrome. Many years earlier, she claimed to see a vision of Mary sitting in the same chair that Mary used when she appeared to St. Catherine Labouré in 1830. Later that year, the Towheys attended a talk by world-renowned Catholic theologian Scott Hahn at The Basilica Shrine.


Considered collectively, these experiences compelled the couple to act when they learned of the opportunity to support the St. Vincent’s Rosary Walk and Our Lady of Knock Shrine development at the Shrine. After reviewing their many options, they chose to sponsor a bench placed at the statue of Our Lady and the surrounding grotto. The bench will feature a plaque with their names and those of their son, daughter, and daughter-in-law, Amie Downs Towhey.

“I said to Ellie, ‘We should do this as a lasting memory,’” Paul recalls. “We have so many happy memories there.”

Visit https://miraculousmedal.org/news-events/st-vincents-rosary-walk/to learn more about St. Vincent’s Rosary Walk and Our Lady of Knock Shrine or contact Megan Brogan at mbrogan@cammonline.org