Around 4000 pilgrims will stay in Medjugorje from February 22 to 25, 2013. These are the pilgrims that will stay in Medjugorje for free - parishioners will provide accommodation and full board service for each one of them. This is one of the many actions that parishioners undertook in association with the Parish Office as a part of the new evangelisation and their own response to Holy Father’s invitation. This was the opportunity for pilgrims from East European countries such as: Hungary, Romania, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland, Ukraine, Latvia, Lithuania, Russia, Albania, Serbia, Monte Negro, Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina to come to Medjugorje for pilgrimage. All those pilgrims due to their low incomes and numerous families were never able to come to this place in the past. Medjugorje parishioners have once again shown that they have great hearts and have confirmed once again why Our Lady had chosen this parish in the special way.
On Monday, February 18, the meeting of Definitories of Franciscan Provinces of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia and Slovenia began in Medjugorje. This is the second meeting organised by the Conference of Provincials of the Franciscan Order, according to the decisions made with General Minister and his Definitory held in Split in 2011. This meeting will last until Wednesday, February 20, 2013. Fr. Ivan Sesar is the host as well as the President of the Conference. Besides the working part of this meeting, the participants will be able to take part in the liturgical life of this place of prayer.
68th Anniversary of Martyrdom of Herzegovinian Franciscans was commemorated in Siroki Brijeg from February 4 to February 7, 2013. At the same time it was opportunity for the 3rd Days of Franciscan Martyrs to be held. February 7 was commemorated for the first time as the “Day of Remembering Franciscan Martyrs and People.” On Sunday, February 10, we are commemorating Feast of Blessed Cardinal Stepinac and parish of Medjugorje will be remembering murdered Franciscans from Medjugorje parish. Holy Mass is going to be celebrated at 6 p.m. for all murdered Franciscans and victims of the First and Second World War, as well as victims from the recent Homeland war from Medjugorje parish. After Holy Mass there will be a lecture in the Hall of the Bl. John Paul II, and lecturers are Dr. Fr. Robert Jolic and Fr. Miljenko Mica Stojic. Themes of the lecture are going to be about history of those murdered in the parish of Medjugorje as well as about procedure of martyrdom that was initiated.
On Sunday, February 3, 2013, around 100 young members of the Franciscan Youth from Medjugorje gave their promises and vows to the Franciscan Youth, while some new members were accepted. This ceremony was held as a part of the evening Holy Mass that was celebrated by Fr. Josip Vlasic, the regional spiritual assistant, with 11 other priests concelebrating in the church of St. James. Fr. Slaven Brekalo conducted this ceremony, while Franciscan Youth from Humac sang and made this celebration even more beautiful and solemn. At the end of the Holy Mass, Fr. Marinko Sakota, the parish priest from Medjugorje, gave a little speech and congratulated to these young members. The Franciscan Youth has been active in Medjugorje since 1995. They contribute to the fruitful spiritual atmosphere in this parish with many activities as well as with their prayer and music.
Number of Holy Communions: 47 500
Number of priests that concelebrated at Holy Masses: 995 (32 per day)
“I felt great desire to come to Medjugorje during the quiet period, when there are not too many pilgrims around. I wanted that for a long time. This is my first vacation in the last five years that I took for myself, so I could thank Our Lady for what She has given me and for all of my prayers”, said Mirko Hrkać, Director of Foundation from Zagreb “I hear, I believe, I see”. Mirko came to Medjugorje in January and he said: “Medjugorje is something special for me; I live with Medjugorje, especially with Our Lady’s messages. I made a promise ten years ago that I will forward each of the messages that she gives to the parish and to the world. That is what I am doing still; I always forward those messages to my friends, to 300 addresses.
On January 21, 2013, we will commemorate the 11th death anniversary of former Medjugorje parish priest, Fr. Leonard Orec. He was born in Posuski Gradac in 1928, and died in Zagreb in 2002.
Fr. Leonard attended the elementary school in Posuski Gradac, Grammar School in Siroki Brijeg (1940 – 1945), as well as in Varazdin and Sarajevo. He spent his years as seminarian in Sarajevo. He received his Franciscan habit in 1946, and he was ordained as a priest in 1951. He worked as educator in Split and Kraljeva Sutjeska. He received his post – graduate title of doctor of science at the University of Theology in Ljubljana in 1956, with the thesis of “Relation of Mary and Christ in devotion of people in Bosnia and Herzegovina ferom 1463 to 1878”.
The unusual pilgrim from Germany, Elijah Maria Thomas Joachim Uhlig, who travelled on his personal pilgrimage called “Pilgrimage from Berlin Wall to walls in Holy Land and Jerusalem”, came to Medjugorje for New Year’s Eve. He began his pilgrimage in 2009, from Potsdam in Germany to Jerusalem where he plans to come this Easter. He decided to take his journey moved by the great suffering of people in Auschwitz and he wanted to ask for forgiveness and reconciliation. He lived close to Berlin Wall and as 14-years old boy who experienced peaceful revolution in 1989-1990 he still remembers people who were protesting peacefully with candles in their hands. Those images of burning candles woke up within him a desire for peace and justice in the world, for goodness that exists in human hearts. During his pilgrimage that lasted for several years, he visited places of the greatest suffering in 24 concentration camps around Europe, including towns and places that experienced great destruction in former Yugoslavia, and he also visited numerous European shrines where people pray to God. After his first year of pilgrimage, he was baptized by Capuchins in Germany and he continued travelling to Jerusalem. He prayed for peace in himself and in the whole world. He usually travels on his feet, sleeps in homes of good people that he meets who usually provide him a meal and a shelter. In that way, he is collecting experiences with people and places that he visits, but he relies on God as the “best organiser” of his pilgrimage.
On Sunday, January 13, 2013, thirty people, mostly young married couples became members of the Third Franciscan Order in the parish of Medjugorje. Fr. Danko Perutina, parish vicar, worked with them and he was preparing them for more than one year for this solemn act. Marija Brekalo, Region Minister of the Third Franciscan Order conducted this ceremony, received their promises to the Order, while Fr. Josip Vlasic, the spiritual assistant of the Region Order, confirmed their vows on behalf of the Church and Franciscan family. Fr. Josip was the main celebrant and in his homily he encouraged new members of the Third Franciscan Order to seek for their strength in Holy Mass and in Holy Communion, to find their rest and relief in the sacrament of confession, their light and inspiration in the Gospel, and their joy and help in brotherly communion. Fr. Marinko Sakota, parish priest in Medjugorje, congratulated all new members of the Third Franciscan Order, and he expressed his joy because of this solemn act. Mila Culjak, Region Leader of Formation, will continue to lead new Tertiaries and she will prepare them in this period of the Novitiate for solemn vows that will take place in one year time.
Our journalists had chance to speak to various pilgrims in the first days of the New Year, and here, we would like to bring some of their testimonies. Tacita Ludivine comes from French Guyana and this is her first time in Medjugorje. “I wanted to come to Medjugorje because I was far from Jesus and this was the way to find God again”, said Tacita who came with a group of thirty pilgrims.
Coming to Medjugorje for many is a chance to search for a miracle, apparitions or some special message. Even theologians question about religious curiosity and wonder whether something special indeed happens there. Theologians, perhaps, even more than the others, always have a certain personal struggle since they have heritage of personal knowledge, discipline, obedience to hierarchy and their personal life with God, who even when He is silent, speaks a lot. Many have asked me how I feel about apparitions in Medjugorje? But, I do not think that it is up to me to decide whether those apparitions are for real and where do they come from. Actually, my faith is not bigger because of the apparitions nor it is smaller. I am waiting for the opinion of the Holy Father who will give the final judgment when the time for that comes. Here, I would like to give the answer on how I feel about witnessing for Christ who is present in Medjugorje, as well as in all Holy Masses throughout the world, really present, so strongly that without saying a word, He moves both soul and our thoughts. Medjugorje has attracted me as a place, in a country dear to me - Bosnia and Herzegovina, as a reality that is completely different than everyday routine in Zagreb, where I live. Sometimes, it is necessary to go somewhere else, to step away from our everyday life, so our thoughts could calm down a little bit and our soul could find a little rest.
Thousands of pilgrims from all over the world have arrived to Medjugorje for celebration of New Year's Eve. According to the Information Office register, there were larger groups from Germany, Italy, Poland, Korea, China, England, Slovakia, Czech Republic, the United States, France, Spain, Romania, Slovenia and Hungary. Along with them, there were smaller groups from other countries as well as well as youth from Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. Fr. Miljenko Steko was the main celebrant of Holy Mass of Thanksgiving on Monday, December 31, along with 49 priests who have concelebrated.
Number of Holy Communions: 78 900
Number of priests that concelebrated at Holy Masses: 1292 (41 per day)
In the previous 2012 there have been 1 814 900 Holy Communions given in the church, and total of 42 009 priests that concelebrated at Holy Masses.
Several thousands of young people from all over the world have arrived this year to Medjugorje for celebration of New Year. The prayer programme will begin at 5 p.m. with prayer of rosary. The evening Holy Mass of Thanksgiving will be at 6 p.m. and after that community Cenacolo will have live nativity scene performance in front of the church. Prayer vigil will begin at 10 p.m. with Adoration oft he Blessed Sacrament and then, Holy Mass will begin. The whole programme will be broadcasted in the Hall of the Blessed John Paul II behind the church, as well as on the screen at the back oft he church. Radio Medjugorje will broadcast the whole programme as well.
The traditional annual meeting of scholars of “Fra Slavko Barbaric” Association was held in Medjugorje on Saturday, December 29th. Meeting started at 3 p.m. and hosted 229 students from various universities who were greeted by the President of the Association Dr. Fr. Miljenko Steko, who thanked all members for cooperation and to all benefactors for their generosity. Vice-president of the Association and Director of Mother’s Village, Fr. Svetozar Kraljevic, spoke about the Culture of Good Deeds.