Alleged Site Of Apparitions In Ohio Now Under Investigation By Cleveland Bishop
By Michael H. Brown
For your discernment:
An alleged site of apparitions in Ohio is under investigation by the Cleveland Diocese, with both the bishop and those who run the site having made the startling declaration that the site is not Catholic, according to Sister Rita Mary Harwood, a secretary to the bishop and lead investigator.
The site, known as Maranatha Spring, near Elyria -- about 20 miles from downtown Cleveland -- is run by an organization which reportedly has told the bishop that because the site is not formally Catholic but rather ecumenical, it may not be under the jurisdiction of the diocese.
Maranatha is a place where many have claimed miracles -- from healings to miraculous signs in the sky -- and is associated with a seer named Maureen Sweeney-Kyle, a middle-aged mother of four whose "visions" began in 1985. Sweeney asserts that she first saw Jesus and then the Blessed Mother. "Many people have seen miraculous images in the sky or evidence of miracles through camera pictures," notes a website devoted to the site. "These heavenly images, as Our Lady has explained, are significant to each person who captures him or her on film. In addition, they validate the prayer site and the messages." In December of 1995, Our Lady purportedly directed the visionary to the location of where to dig for a spring. "Filling empty bottles with spring water, it has been a source of grace that pilgrims take home with them and to share with others. The water has been a source of grace for spiritual and physical healings."
Prominent Mariologists such as Renee Laurentin and other priests have visited the site and in some instances have offered what appear to be at least tacit and in some cases ringing endorsements. But the diocese has expressed deep concern, especially about articles such as a special rosary sold at the site, and is preparing a more formal inquiry.
"It is not a Catholic ministry," says Sister Harwood. "It's ecumenical." Diocesan officials at the request of the bishop had asked to meet with Maureen Sweeney and her public relations people in 1999. At that time, although they use all Catholic devotions, and it certainly looks very Catholic, they brought a canon lawyer with them who indicated that they are an ecumenical ministry and therefore are not subject to the authority of the Church. The bishop has issued a statement, as well as a statement from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
In 1999 the diocese formally cautioned "anyone considering support of such a venture to realize that this organization has no approval or support from the Catholic Diocese of Cleveland. Recent publicity regarding apparitions and messages makes it necessary to urge extreme caution in giving credence to such claims."
Among those claims is that various saints and the Virgin Mary appear to Maureen on a daily basis, sometimes in the middle of the night or in the early morning hours. "Until recently she has remained anonymous," says a book about her messages. "Due to the extreme urgency of the times, Our Lady has requested Maureen to step out in faith and speak publicly."
Most recently, asserts the seer, Mary has been appearing on the twelfth of each month in commemoration of Our Lady of Guadalupe, whose feast day is December 12.
Echoing the Cleveland diocese, the National Conference of Bishops has issued a statement saying that it "has been advised by the Diocese of Cleveland of its concerns regarding a group known as 'Holy Love Ministries' (also known as 'Missionary Servants of Holy Love,' 'Our Lady Protectress of the Faith Movement,' 'Project Mercy,' and 'Mary's House of Prayer'). This group in its various guises is said to be soliciting money said to be needed for building projects. This group claims to receive revelations through a purported visionary who is its leader, and engages in what appear to be Catholic practices while describing itself as 'an ecumenical lay apostolate.' This group is not subject to the authority of any Catholic entity, and should be dealt with cautiously."
Sister Harwood said there is not yet a formal ruling that could be characterized as a rejection or condemnation. In recent years similar cases have met with condemnation or rejection in New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Wisconsin, Nebraska, and Colorado. Bishops have remained neutral in other cases reported in Arizona, Massachusetts, Georgia, elsewhere in Ohio, and other states.
"We're looking into this more deeply now, because there really is deep concern," said Sister Harwood, who is outspokenly opposed the site. "People are coming from all over. They have these tour buses that are coming. It just seems very sad. They are coming with the understanding that it is Catholic and has the approval of the bishop, and it doesn't. Why would you say you're having apparitions and that the Blessed Virgin is telling you whatever she is telling you and then refuse to have that looked at by the Church? The bottom line is that the bishop would greatly discourage anyone from participating in that ministry with the belief that it is a Catholic ministry."
We take no stand on such apparitions. Our policy is always to obtain the view of the diocese when we are asked about an alleged site, and when there are official statements, to report them, whatever our own inclination. When there is not yet a judgment, we leave it up to the reader's discernment, as in this case. Maranatha Spring is located in Lorain County, Ohio, on over 80 acres that was once farmland.
Alleged Apparition In Ohio; Readers Had Reactions That Were Both Pro And Con
From the Mailbag
A while ago we had the account of apparitions alleged to take place at a place called Maranatha Spring near Elria in Ohio, about twenty minutes from Cleveland. We carried the story because of word that it is under investigation by the Cleveland Diocese, with both the bishop and those who run the site having made the startling declaration that the site is not Catholic, according to Sister Rita Mary Harwood, a secretary to the bishop and lead investigator.
As we explained, the site is run by an organization which reportedly has told the bishop that because the site is not formally Catholic but rather ecumenical, it may not be under the jurisdiction of the diocese. Maranatha is a place where many have claimed miracles -- from healings to miraculous signs in the sky -- and is associated with a seer named Maureen Sweeney-Kyle, a middle-aged mother of four whose "visions" began in 1985. Sweeney asserts that she first saw Jesus and then the Blessed Mother.
"It is not a Catholic ministry," said Sister Harwood. "It's ecumenical. Diocesan officials at the request of the bishop had asked to meet with Maureen Sweeney and her public relations people in 1999. At that time, although they use all Catholic devotions, and it certainly looks very Catholic, they brought a canon lawyer with them who indicated that they are an ecumenical ministry and therefore are not subject to the authority of the Church. The bishop has issued a statement, as well as a statement from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops."
In 1999 the American Bishops formally cautioned "anyone considering support of such a venture to realize that this organization has no approval or support from the Catholic Diocese of Cleveland. Recent publicity regarding apparitions and messages makes it necessary to urge extreme caution in giving credence to such claims."
We received a number of letters pro and con about the situation, most from those who have supported the site. We offer them for your discernment only, with the admonishment that the bishop's decisions should be closely obeyed:
Dear Spirit Daily,
Just a quick note about your story on Holy Love Ministries. I have been there many many times in the last five years and I can personally attest to the fact that it is a site of pilgrimage similar to Medjugorge which I have also visited many times. And just like in Medjugorge miraculous things happen there in order to build the faith of the people that come. There have also been many conversions and healings. Some who come to the site have experienced illuminations of their consciences which is one of the graces of the site. There is much more to this shrine which can only be experienced by visiting it in person. I would say that people such as Sister Harwood need to find out more about things before they speak out against them. The web site itself shows pictures of the property and all of the activities at the shrine. Also, the messages and teachings from Our Lord and Our Lady are very beautiful and thought provoking. Consider the following message given shortly after Sept 11, 2001:
September 15, 2001
Midnight Service at the Sorrowful Mother Shrine/Lake of Tears
Feasts of The Exaltation of the Cross and Our Lady of Sorrows
Blessed Mother is here as Our Lady of Sorrows. She says: "Praise be to
"Dear children, during this hour of grief, understand that your Heavenly
Mother stands at the foot of the Cross with you. I sorrow with you for this
senseless loss of life. Place your sorrow deep within the wounds of My
"My message to you as a nation is this: GOD ALONE IS THE GIVER AND TAKER OF
LIFE. Whenever man presumes to take upon himself the role of God, the world
is changed forever."
"A stark parallel emerges from this national tragedy. Within minutes the
false sense of security this nation enjoyed was stripped away. Lives were
destroyed. Violent death was incurred upon the innocent. So too, in the womb
the security of the innocent baby is destroyed within minutes. Life is
destroyed by the evil plans of another. It is called 'abortion', but it
varies little from the national disaster your nation now mourns. Yet, who
mourns with Me at the foot of the Cross for the senseless loss of these
innocent lives? As a nation I invite you-I plead with you-to do so. Do not
mourn one national tragedy and ignore the other.
"Just as the planes became instruments of death by penetrating those
buildings with a destructive force, so too, the instruments of the
abortionists invade the privacy of the womb-wielding death. In each case the
terrorists and the participants in abortion feel justified through
"But My Son, the Just Judge, does not reason this way. He reasons with a
righteous Heart. In His Infinite Mercy He stands ready to forgive the
contrite heart-even the heart guilty of such heinous acts as these. My Jesus
does not forgive the unrepentant."
"My dear children, I have come to you so that you may be reconciled with
God. The path of reconciliation is Holy Love. The path of judgment is
arrogance, hatred and vengeance. God's judgment falls upon those people and
nations who do not live in love. Therefore, I have come to call all people
and every nation under the seal of Holy Love."
"If you live in Holy Love-that is, your heart is loving-you will have love
in your world around you. If you have evil in your heart, that too, will
spread to the world around you. Evil begets evil. Love begets love."
"My dear, dear little children, tonight more than ever, I need you to
abandon yourselves to my Immaculate Heart which is Holy Love. When you begin
to live these messages and hold them in your heart, you come under the seal
of Holy Love. This is a special sign of your predestination, your salvation,
and it is a sign to Satan that you belong to me. You do not have to travel
many miles over land and sea to receive this special seal. For this seal is
yours when you begin to live these messages."
"Tonight my dear, dear children, my sympathy rests upon you. My prayers are
with you, and I am carrying your petitions to Heaven. Do not fear-I am
holding you in my arms, and tonight I am blessing you with My Blessing of
Dear Spirit Daily,
I emailed you earlier about this... here is a message you can use. Thanks for your website. It is great! I am responding to the articles on the Ohio apparitions. I have not visited this location, but I find the reports of apparitions to be unusual, and not very convincing. I truly believe in the authenticity of Medjugorje and Betania, but these messages just don't ring true, to me, anyway. The volume of words in the messages is not consistent with the usual shorter, more direct messages from Mary. In other messages, there is an economy with words.
Also, the variety and number of reported messages, from various saints, also just seems hard to believe. They seem to borrow bits and pieces from other apparition's messages. Other parts seem to be someone's imagination. Perhaps many go there in hopes that it is authentic. I hope that the truth comes out.
Dear Spirit Daily,
If it wasn't so distressing, I would almost find Bishop Pilla and Sr. Mary Hardwood's response to Maranatha Springs funny! They are upset that the folks at Maranatha springs don't want to label it Catholic! Perhaps they would be happier if there was yoga and reiki going on at the springs. They allow that in the diocese and with their blessings! I personally don't know the people at the springs but I have been there and did not find anything contrary to the Catholic Faith. I found a most beautiful selection of very orthodox and Catholic books and sacramentals. Please pray for us in the Cleveland Diocese because we are struggling.
With you in the hearts of Jesus and Mary,
God Bless You All!
Here is my two cents worth as a Mariologist for many years and a masters in religious ed : I believe 100 percent that Our Lady and Our Lord are appearing to Maureen Sweeney-Kyle. The Messages are magnificent, theologically sound. Miracles abound there, I could give you a long list of ones I have seen or know about. I have personally witnessed visions, amazing signs, healings, inner locutions, solar phenomenon, "Signs in the sky" which Our Lady foretold many months in advance that would happen on that particular day, and always a deepening of virtues and peace from visiting the site.
The messages are, as I said, theologically sound -- no Catholic would have any problem with them. The nun who is investigating it should not be put off by the word ecumenical -- Our Lady said it is for All People, not just Catholics. So is Medjugorje -- Our Lady also said numerous such things there as well, but I imagine this same nun is against Medjugorje as well.
It is "sad" that she is quoted as saying "it is sad" that people come from all over -- thank God they come and too bad more don't!! The messages are magnificent and bring us into humility and holy and divine love, growing ever deeper into the Immaculate Heart of Mary and the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the True Refuge for These Times, the United Hearts of Jesus and Mary, Refuge of Holy Love.
One time when i was there on St. Bernadette's Feastday, i went to Holy Mass at a nearby church, and afterward stayed to talk to the priest, who had given a lovely homily about St. Bernadette. I said to him, naively: "Father, do you know that there is a woman not too far from here, who also has visions similar to St. Bernadette?" He took a step backward from me and his face became stern and suspicious. I told him the name of the shrine, Maranatha Spring/Holy Love, and he replied, "Oh, we know about that woman...we've known her for years...." giving the impression like, "oh, that housewife??" as in "Isn't that Joseph the Carpenter's son? What good can come out of Nazereth?"
Well, the miracles are abundant and as amazing as in Medjugorje, and the Messages are superb -- Maureen is humble as can be, seeks to stay out of the spot light, and they are not money driven as the nun portrays - they do build buildings which are needed - where should the people gather, out in the field??? No one is forced to give money. The tiny, itty-bitty gift shop has low prices on things.
And as far as the Rosary of the Unborn goes -- it is also magnificent and obviously sent from Above -- it truly brings into full focus the Tiny Human Life which is so vulnerable to the blind hands of the culture of death and abortionists. The Rosary is spreading like wildfire among pro-life groups in Michigan, in fact many people call it "the Pro-Life Rosary."
If the priests, nuns and bishop would have been reading the Messages and going out to pray on the property which Our Lady chose, they would have no doubts about it being an authentic Apparition Site.
Sorry for being so lengthy.
God Bless You, and may St. Michael Protect and Defend you in these Days of Battle!
In the United Hearts,
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