By Nora Garganera
Sometime in October 1989, I received a letter from Fr. Ken Metz, administrator of the Vatican’s International Catholic Charismatic Renewal Office. I was being invited to represent the local Charismatic community in my province of Iloilo to an international Charismatic Congress.
It seemed like a truly impressive event! But I had to write to Fr. Ken about the financial problem of going to Rome and he wrote back suggesting I “beg” from the people I represent. The province of Iloilo, including the city itself, had 84 active prayer groups and after approaching less than 20 of them, my round-trip airfare, other expenses, and even pocket money were already provided for. (First little miracle: When I purchased my Philippine Airline (PAL) ticket, P7000 was deducted from the total fare and returned to me. Someone in the office had put in a good word for me, but I never found out who my angel was.)
I made it to the congress in Rome. While there, I had a strong desire to go to Medjugorje, which unfortunately was out of the question because of my limited finances. Then one afternoon, a tall European lady sat beside me. I noticed that she did not have the same ID which I and other delegates were strongly admonished to always wear. Then the tall European lady started a conversation with me and to my surprise, she said she was going to give me a sketch and directions to Medjugorje. Tongue-tied, I received the sketch and directions, which the lady was hurrying to give because she had to leave soon. I was about to ask her name when she stood up and said she had to go. She ended by saying, “I am a communist.” I was very puzzled by her parting words.
As the congress went on, people started to talk about going to Medjugorje and inside me, I was crying. Two days after, I was called to the secretariat office. They handed me some envelopes. One envelope was from a Filipino couple (acquaintances of mine); it contained two rolls of film and 23,000 lira. The other envelope was from a Chinese person who asked the office if there was a delegate named “Noro Garganero”.
According to the Indian couple manning the office, the Chinese said that while he was praying, God gave him my name and instructed him to give me more than 30,000 lira! A second miracle! The following morning, at breakfast, I was approached by a Canadian, an Australian, and an American and they said that in their prayer time, the Lord pointed me out to them and that they should invite me to Medjugorje. I was so elated but remembered my financial status.
They said to leave it to God, so leave it to God I did! Then they started to talk about how to get to Medjugorje and I remembered the instructions and sketch the “communist lady” gave me. The following day, we had to check out of our hotel. Since our PAL flight was still two weeks away, we worried about where to stay. Would I be blessed with a third miracle? My third miracle came in the form of a Filipina nun from the Ritparratrici de Sacré Cœur who was looking for delegates from her province of Iloilo.
Learning of our plight, she called their convent at Fiumicino and arranged for our lodging there. After our stay in the convent, we went back to Ergife Hotel to meet with the group that invited me to Medjugorje. The Mother Superior, Mother Mercelina, drove us back there. She spoke no English and I did not understand her Italian, but somehow the Holy Spirit took care of that! Taking the taxi, I was not allowed to pay; at the train in Ancona to Split, I was also not allowed to pay. Taking the ship to cross to Split, I insisted on paying and it cost 23,000 lira – the exact amount in one of the envelopes I was given.
The ship I boarded had cabins but the fare I paid was good only for seats. People were looking for a place to stretch and I did the same. I found a sofa with a mohair cloth cover which kept me so warm, I fell asleep. I slept soundly until a big European male greeted me with a “Buon giorno” close to my face. He looked like a Viking and I discovered he was the captain of the ship and it was his sofa I was using. Was my face red!
Early the next day, our group prayed at the starboard part of the ship. A young Franciscan priest joined us and we had our photo taken. He did not speak English and I do not speak Italian but again the Holy Spirit took care of that. When the ship docked, we wondered how we would get to Medjugorje which is high up on a mountain. Lo and behold, a part of the ship opened and out came a big tourist bus. The conductor allowed us to ride as long as we would stay in the house that he recommended while in Medjugorje.
We were not made to pay for our fare to Medjugorje and the fare back to Rome! We were eight in the group, and there were exactly eight vacant seats left in the bus! We spent five days in Medjugorje and the owner of the house charged us $22 a day, including meals. Since she was all alone, I helped her wash dishes and set the table. Another miracle – the owner did not make me pay for my board-and-lodging because we ended up becoming as close as sisters.
We spent time in the church, going up Apparition Mountain (Mt. Podbrdo), and up to the big cross at Mt. Krizevac. We also went to the house of Vichka, one of the visionaries. We also joined other pilgrims in the open spaces around the church where confessions were being done in different languages.
We also witnessed the dancing sun! It moved from side-to-side but around it were multicolored rings of green, orange, yellow and brown. It was very visible and someone even shouted that it was coming towards us (just like the dancing sun in Fatima, Portugal).
I was shaking, crying, and jumping; my friend Mila shouted “Ang adlaw ga ibok-ibok!” (Ilonggo for “The sun is pulsating!”) During the night, the big cross on Mt. Krizevac seemed to be on fire. But we learned the next day that this could not have happened because the cross is made of cement; there was no trace of soot too. It was incredible!
Going back to Rome, there were people who approached us at the back of the bus for counseling, pray-overs, and ministering. Some confessed to our priest-companion. My companion and I sang in our local dialect as requested by the passengers. It was such a fulfilling trip, thanks to Our Lady.
On our second trip back to Medjugorje, we went up to Mt. Krizevac. With a friend, Flor Bello, I saw thick black clouds moving fast until they formed the shape of Mary Help of Christians – Mary holding the baby Jesus on one hand, a scepter on the other, with the fold of her gown in front. Flor was able to capture the image on video but many were not able to see the formation.
Going down the mountain, I saw one of the locals seated on a rock, painting a picture of Our Lady. I offered him $20 for his artwork, which he accepted. That painting now occupies a very prominent place in my bedroom. My two trips to Medjugorje were truly full of miracles, proof further of God’s unconditional love.
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