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I am a seminarian for the Diocese of Camden, NJ, who is acquainted with Fr. Timothy Byerley, the vice-postulator for the Cause for Beatification and Canonization of Maria Esperanza.  Because of this, I had the amazing opportunity to be one of the altar servers at the Mass for the opening of the cause yesterday, celebrated by Bishop Paul Bootkoski and concelebrated by one other bishop and numerous priests.  There was something surreal about the Mass.  As the entrance procession started, I noticed that the entire cathedral seemed to be glowing, and everyone in the cathedral with it.

 Mr. Geo, Maria’s husband, proclaimed the first reading in Spanish, and Mr. Carlos Marrero, Maria’s son-in-law, proclaimed the second reading and translated the homily, given by Fr. Tim Byerley.  Amazingly, even though the readings used were those from the Fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time, they perfectly reflected Maria’s life and message.  The formal canonical rite to open the cause immediately followed the Mass.  The official announcement from Bishop Bootkoski that the cause had been opened was met with not simple applause, but a joyful standing ovation from the crowd.  I don’t think I can explain in words the joy that was on the faces of Maria’s friends and family – those she met during her time on this earth and those who met her after she was called home to Heaven.  As I walked into the sacristy after the closing procession, I could hear many people in the church spontaneously shouting “Viva Jesus!  Viva Maria!” 

 It was such an amazing and humbling experience to have taken part in such a Mass, and I can only thank God for blessing me in such a way.

 God bless you,

Joshua Nevitt

Mary, Mother, Reconciler of all Peoples and Nations:  Pray for us.
Servant of God, Maria Esperanza:  Pray for us.


I attended this afternoon the Holy Mass for the Opening of the Cause for the beatification /canonization of the Servant of God, Maria Esperanza de Bianchini. It was a very beautiful Mass officiated by our Bishop of Metuchen, New Jersey -- the Most Rev. Paul Gregory Bootkoski. The event was graced by the presence of Maria Esperanza's family - her husband Geo, their seven children and twenty grandchildren. The Betania Choir also made the event extraordinary by their awesome performance during and after the Mass. The Cathedral of Saint Francis of Assisi was filled with devotees of Our Lady, Mary Reconciler of All Peoples and Nations/Betania. There were hundreds of people who didn't make it inside the church; the event was also simulcast on a large television screen at the Catholic Youth Center Auditorium. There were several priests who concelebrated at the Mass.

After the Mass, Bishop Bootkoski called one by one: the postulator; the vice-postulator; the theological commission and other panel members for the Cause. They were asked to swear an oath before God and His Church to faithfully perform the duties given to them and to avoid any kind of bribery (accepting of gifts) that may be detrimental to the Cause. They also made a vow of secrecy regarding their findings in the Diocesan Trial on the Life, Virtues and Reputation of Sanctity of the same Servant of God.

It was indeed a very memorable and emotional event for all of us- devotees of Our Lady of Betania and of Maria Esperanza. May she intercede for all of us.

May God bless you and may Our Lady of Betania keep you under Her mantle of love.

 -Rafael M. Villongco, Matawan, New Jersey


I just wanted to say that this Mass was very different from any others.
My mother and I got to the Cathedral at 1 p.m., expecting to be one of the first group to arrive. When we got there, there were people already there for the 3 p.m. Mass. Fearing no place now to sit, we got a seat between a couple and a family.
The prayer cards and mass booklets went very fast. Though we were in the middle, other people would get some booklets and cards and pass them around to the people who didn't have any. What was extraordinary to me perhaps, people were talking to people around them, how Maria influenced their life. How often do you get strangers talking to another stranger from a different country!
The Mass was just incredible. The Betania choir was phenomenal. They added such an intense spiritual feeling into the environment.
The lady who sat next to us was a relation of Maria's. She was telling us years ago she met Maria and Maria predicted that she would have a daughter in eight years. She whisked it off because she was deemed barren. Eight years later she felt something moving in her stomach, went to the doctor, found out she was five months pregnant.
The lady also said that Maria said, that anyone who came to the Mass would be specially blessed as well as their families and special graces given to the person who attended. What was astonishing, she also said that Maria made sure that the people she invited to the Mass, got there.
They had a beautiful portrait of Maria in front of the church. After the Mass, the smile on Maria's face was larger and more radiant then it was in the beginning of the Mass. I noticed it and later on my mother mentioned it to me.
The atmosphere was just breath-taking and you felt Maria's warm and loving embrace around each and every person.
It was just so beautiful. If this is what Heaven is like, I can't wait to get there.
Maria O'Grady
South River, New Jersey


Maria's Mass was simply beautiful. The Church was absolutely packed, and I believe (but am not certain) that there was a second location nearby (perhaps the confraternity center or in the parish school to accommodate additional people. I noticed at least six large coach buses. I had to park blocks away.  
There was a life size portrait of Maria, God rest her soul, on one side of the altar, flanked by an elegant bunch of white roses in a simple vase. There were many concelebrants -- at least a dozen. The Mass began at three and ended approximately 5:30 p.m. The music was staggeringly magnificent, and at the very end, after the exit procession, people did not want to leave, and there was a final, impromptu song. 
To be honest, I was so moved and prayerful, I was just appreciating the beauty of the moments and was not thinking of absorbing the details to report back to you. 
As Divine Providence would have it, Mr. Geo Bianchini happened to pass right near me, and when exiting, I was able to shake his hand and say "God bless you and your family." He seemed so warm and affable, and his smile was sincere and luminescent---he was glowing from the inside. It was the briefest exchange, but I felt he was quite a humble man. As I approached him from behind, I sensed "a calmness" amid the clamor around him. He was obviously being led to a side door, but he remained in the Church, accepting well wishes. After Mass, he and his family were available to greet attendees. I was unable to attend this function, which took place across from the cathedral. I felt honored and blessed to shake his hand.
I obtained an extra program for you. I will gladly mail it to you, a well as some prayer cards. The Mass was said in both English and Spanish. I would imagine that the Diocesan newspaper, The Catholic Spirit, will have extensive coverage of the Mass.  It looked like the Mass was being taped. I noticed professional photographers and a man who looked like a reporter.
It's pretty late at the moment, but I just wanted to send you these limited comments. My sweetest memory is the glance of a precious little girl, perhaps aged 7, in a sweet pink pinafore-type dress, completely bald, obviously a cancer patient, in perhaps her dad's arms. For me, she epitomized what today was all about: Faith, Hope, Healing ,and God's Mercy. I hope and pray Maria will intercede for that child, if it is God's Will, that she will be healed.   
God bless,


The Cathedral of St. Francis of Assisi in the diocese of Metuchen, New Jersey was the scene of the opening of the cause for beatification and canonization of Maria Esperanza de Bianchini during a 3:00 p.m. Mass today, Sunday, Jan. 31, 2010. The Mass was presided over by the Ordinary of the diocese, Bishop Paul Bootkoski.  A bishop from Canada, a friend of Maria's, and over thirty priests concelebrated and ministered to the crowd that numbered approximately 1,000 faithful in the Cathedral about 300 more that overflowed into the CYO hall across the street.  This overflow was accommodated by simulcast and was provided communion by several of the priests. Dr. Ambrosi, the Postulator for the cause, was in attendance as well as Fr. Timothy Byerley, the Vice Postulator. Fr. Byerley is a priest of the Diocese of Camden, New Jersey and had extended an open invitation to the event and delivered the homily during the mass.  The readings and prayers and hymns were conducted in English and Spanish. 


Maria's husband, Geo Bianchini, her family and the Betania choir consisting of 148 members traveled from Venezuela to attend this joyous happening.  The music was provided by the diocesan choir with the Betania choir also performing.  Mr. Bianchini spoke briefly after the mass and thanked everyone for attending the ceremony.


After the Mass, Bishop Bootkoski officiated at the formal opening of the cause for beatification and canonization of Maria Esperanza.


On a personal note, it was gratifying and spiritually uplifting to participate in the mass and the opening of the cause.  Here is a diocese that takes to heart its spiritual as well as its social responsibilities.  We can all participate on our own by learning more about the life and work of Maria Esperanza and adding our fervent prayers in support to her cause.


I was blessed to attend a Mass yesterday at 3:00 p.m., local time, at the Church of the Nativity, Crystal Stream, Diego Martin, Trinidad organized by Tulio Jiminez.  Tulio and his wife Lydia have been organizing pilgrimages to Betania since the early 1990's.  I have been fortunate to go Betania several times with them and have seen Maria Esperanza at mass and experienced many amazing things.

 The Mass was concelebrated by 3 priests, one of whom was Fr. Neil Rodriguez.  Fr. Rodriguez gave a talk about Maria Esperanza's life, her love of God and the Blessed Virgin.  Tulio spoke at length about his experiences with her while on pilgrimage - her gifts of bilocation, reading souls and her holiness.  He asked her intersession for our priests, particularly those who are ill.  He is in contact with Maria's family and promised to let us know how her "beatification" progressed.

 A leaflet was given out at mass detailing her life and you were mentioned along with your book Bridge to Heaven.

 I am left truly amazed at the grace of God in my life.  Here is a visionary whom I have seen several times in Betania, where grace has changed my life, I am emailing you Michael Brown, the author of her book and I went to a mass that celebrated the beginning of her canonization - all in my lifetime.  I am blessed to be part of this miracle.

 May God continue to bless you and your family and protect you on your journey.

 Blessings from Trinidad

[resources: The Bridge to Heaven]

[Betania choir to appear at St. Rose Church, Haddon height, NJ, Feb 2; Our Lady of Peace, Williamstown,. NJ Feb. 3; St. Mary of the Pines, Manahawkin, New Jersey. Feb. 4; St. Paul's Church, Long Island, Feb. 5, all at 7 p.m.]

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