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Philly Park Apparition

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Mary Most Fair: Philly’s Fairmount Park Apparition

More than 65 years ago, Philadelphia was aflutter with news of a vision.

On a hot afternoon in September 1953, three young girls were walking home from school. Crossing through Fairmount Park, they sat on a bench to talk when they reported that the Blessed Mother suddenly appeared to them. They described her as standing in front of a large bush, and wearing a blue veil and white gown. She didn’t utter a word and vanished as quickly as she appeared.

The next day, the girls returned to the bush with two friends and knelt down to pray. All of them reported feeling a breeze and smelling roses, and the two friends said they saw a face through the branches of the bush.

It didn’t take long for people to hear about the vision. Soon there were claims that the bush had healing properties and that Mary would appear again on October 25. During the following weeks, thousands of people visited the site, praying for healing and help. Frequently, they brought rosaries, prayer cards, medals, statues, and money as offerings. Many left crutches and canes and even more claimed they felt an inexplicable breeze or smelled roses.

The Church investigated the reports and ultimately dismissed them, especially given that the girls had recently watched the new Fatima movie. But people still visited Fairmount Park. By October, park authorities had posted “in” and “out” signs to manage the crowds. By October 25, 50,000 people had visited the spot. Mary didn’t appear that night or any subsequent nights, but others claimed to see her outline in the tree branches.

The park used the donations, which people left, to build a stone gazebo and benches. Today, the bush remains, with a small fence surrounding it. A large wooden cross is affixed in front of the bush, bearing the date of September 18, 1953, and a plastic statue of Our Lady acts as a visual reminder that whether we can see her or not, Mary is always with us.

The Catholic Church carefully investigates claims of the supernatural and any messages that might accompany them. Interestingly enough, from 1900 to 2018, more than 800 Marian apparitions were reported around the world, with 23 of them from the United States. Most have yet to receive diocesan decisions about their authenticity.

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