Mons. José Domingo Ulloa Mendieta, O.S.A., auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Panama, was in Medjugorje in September 2005. He came on a private pilgrimage with 17 pilgrims. Dragan Soldo spoke with him for Radio “Mir” Medjugorje.
Dragan Soldo: Can you tell us why you came to Medjugorje, and what are your experiences?
Mons. José Domingo Ulloa: A priest with whom I was in the Seminary, Fr. Francisco Verar, spoke to me about Medjugorje long ago. Now, the time has come for me to see for myself. What I have experienced here goes far beyond my expectations. The encounter with so many pilgrims is an excellent experience. I can see their desire to convert and to change. For me, it is also important to notice the social activity practised here in Medjugorje. It articulates what Mary is doing, namely to be always ready to help others. My pilgrims were prepared for this pilgrimage. Medjugorje amazes them, and they will remain under the influence of seeing so many people coming here to pray.
Dragan Soldo: Is Medjugorje known in Panama?
Mons. José Domingo Ulloa: The spirituality inspired by Medjugorje is very developed in my country. We especially want to involve children. The Parish church consecrated to “Mary, Queen of Peace”, founded by Fr. Francisco Verar, was built according to the model of St. James’ church in Medjugorje. In Panama, there are many prayer groups based on Our Lady’s messages.
Dragan Soldo: Can you say something about Our Lady’s messages?
Mons. José Domingo Ulloa: The simplicity of these messages is enticing. The Medjugorje messages are an evangelic call to conversion and to peace; there is nothing apocalyptic in them. Without prayer, without fasting and without the Eucharist – and these are the foundations of Christianity – we cannot answer the call to holiness addressed to us by Mary. Those who come to Medjugorje want to answer the evangelical call that is coming from the Lord, especially by means of the Eucharist and the sacrament of Confession. I have heard from many people that they experience the need to change, and to change within the Church and through the sacraments. One cannot leave Medjugorje without this burning desire to change and to start anew. Many groups are coming accompanied by their priests who help them, and this generates the beginning of a new life for them.
Dragan Soldo: Much is spoken about miracles in Medjugorje. Can you say something about this?
Mons. José Domingo Ulloa: Initially people feel the need to experience something. Human curiosity is natural, but the atmosphere created within the group day after day, during the pilgrimage, is helpful; the initial desire diminishes and another desire awakens: the need to know oneself and to achieve an inner transformation. The greatest miracle is the spiritual healing that people experience here.
Dragan Soldo: You went on pilgrimage to many other great Marian shrines. Can you say something about the specificity of Medjugorje?
Mons. José Domingo Ulloa: The specificity of Medjugorje is the gift of peace received here. This is what humanity is longing for today, and this gift is received in Medjugorje through our Mother Mary. It is not only about inner peace, but also about discovering that we are all brothers, and that conflicts and violence are not a solution. This peace should be shared with others.
Dragan Soldo: Most of the visionaries throughout history embraced a religious life, which is not the case with the visionaries of Medjugorje. How do you see this?
Mons. José Domingo Ulloa: All of the visionaries of Medjugorje are married, they have families, and I am very glad about this, because this means, that the call to holiness is for all. The family path is a way of holiness; holiness is not only for priests and for religious. God is calling all men. Christians are invited to give witness, to live in the world without belonging to the world. We are called to be witnesses of joy.
Dragan Soldo: When you return to your diocese, what are you going to say about your pilgrimage?
Mons. José Domingo Ulloa: We cannot keep silent about what we have seen and we cannot ignore what Our Lady is asking. In Medjugorje, pilgrims find peace, they encounter Jesus, and their lives change. Towards all those who are like the lost sheep, we have to be like Jesus, so that people can come back to Him and receive from Him all the good that He is giving. Let us be like Mary, let us see what people need, what their sufferings are, and let us help them. Let us be witnesses of the great gift of living our faith within our Holy Mother Church.