“And they took offense at him. But Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own town and in his own home.”
— Matthew 13:57
CHICAGO (JGL) — Ever since the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to a 45-year-old repairer of electrical connections in Quezon City in the Philippines 23 years ago, his life had never been the same again.
Now known as Brother Carmelo Cortez, the electrical repairer has been given audience by Pope & St. John Paul II seven times, Pope Benedict three times and the current Pope Francis, whom he will be meeting for the third time when Francis visits the Philippines between Jan. 15-19, 2015.
Last Wednesday, Dec. 10, at 6:30 p.m., Brother Carmelo was in St. Constance Church, a Chicago, Illinois northwest Jefferson neighborhood parish church predominantly attended by Polish American Catholics with sprinkling of Filipino parishioners, including this reporter.
According to the announcement by St. Constance’s parish Pastor, Rev. Thaddeus “Ted” Dzieszko, Brother Carmelo was coming to his church with special permission of Malolos, Bulacan, Philippine Bishop Jose F. Oliveros “to pray for the sick. Carmelo prepares for each meeting and prayer for the sick with a day of prayer and strict fasting. Extraordinary signs occur during the prayer for the sick: mineral water turns into rose oil, images of Jesus and the saints appear on rose petals, rose petals transform into the hosts and rose oil flow out of the cross. The healing of the sick is a unique gift from Jesus for a given person dependent on their faith and openness to God’s work.”
As advertised, the event teemed with hundreds of Catholic faithful not only from the parish but also from outside it when this reporter arrived at 6:30. St. Constance is normally half-filled during Sunday masses.
Father Ted during his introduction of Brother Carmelo said, Jesus does not “cure all the sick” but what is more important it “to have faith.” Father Ted met Brother Carmelo in Holy Land some years ago and they have been in touch since.
NOT THE FIRST TIME FOR HIM IN CHICAGOLAND
It was not Brother Carmelo’s first foray in Chicagoland area. He was at St. Genevieve Church in Cicero and at St. Alexander Church in Palos Heights both in Illinois last October this year. But he has been an annual visitor every September 8, the birthday of Virgin Mary, since before 1998 of a prayer group in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Carmelo came to Chicago when a Chicago prayer group, Mother of Eucharist and Grace group, invited him. The group was organized at the instance of Dr. Amada Lim, whose husband, Dr. Diosdado Lim, is also a leader of another prayer group, according to Mother of Eucharist and Grace Prayer Group’s members, Nick Gaceta and Ben Juaneza.
Gaceta, a native of La Union province in the Philippines, has since stuck with the group as “it fortified our faith in church and we came to know more about the Virgin Mary and God.” His group holds a novena every other Sunday in one of the group members’ homes. Dec. 28, 2014 will be the last novena of the group this year.
From St. Constance Church, Brother Carmelo proceeded to St. Scholastica Church in Woodridge, Illinois last Dec. 11; and at St. Denise Church of Lockport, Illinois last Dec. 13.
During an exclusive interview with the Journal GlobaLinks, Brother Carmelo said the first manifestation of the Blessed Virgin Mary to him happened in June 12, 1991. But the actual apparition appeared August 15, 1991. He said the Virgin Mary was wearing a white flowing dress with her heart exposed surrounded by golden stars. She was holding a rosary in her right hand and a scapular on her left hand.
He was in a retreat at a convent in Naguilian, La Union in the Philippines at a consolatrix near Baguio city led by spiritual director Fr. Virgilio Bartolome, SVD, at about 3 a.m. when the Virgin Mary appeared to him, saying, “’I am the Mother of Eucharist and Grace,’ tell the people and those lukewarm faithful to return to the Roman Catholic Church, receive the Eucharist (during communion), confess and reconcile their sins and do penance, pray the rosary, the scapular and pray for the priests to stay in the church and do fasting.”
101 RECORDED APPARITION THE LAST 23 YEARS
Brother Carmelo said there have been 101 recorded apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary since 1991 up to the present.
The first sign following her Marian vision was when Malolos Bishop Cerilo Almario allowed him to spread his devotion to the Mother of the Eucharist and Grace when Bishop Almario recovered from his heart ailment and discontinued his planned heart bypass operation after Brother Carmelo prayed over Bishop Almario in 1992.
Since then, he continued to pray for the sick and raised funds to encourage young people to go with him to Holy Land so they will be inspired to join the priesthood.
Brother Carmelo was also able to raise funds to put up a church, the Diocesan Shrine of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist and Grace, which has a capacity of 1,500 located at San Vicente, Santa Maria Bulacan under the Diocese of Malolos. It is the first church in Asia that has features that one finds in Holy Land.
He said it is comforting for him to say that for the unbelievers of his vision, his vision of the Virgin Mary is not a wrong thing to say nor it is a mortal sin.
When asked why the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to him, Brother Carmelo said, “That’s also my question. I still don’t know why. But she can appear before anybody, like you. Lagi ko lang tinitingnan ang puso ng tao. Lahat naman tayo makikita natin ang Diyos (I always look at the heart of a person. Everyone of us can see God) if we receive the Eucharist and we serve the people like Mother Theresa.”
Rose Buhay-Lim, a Filipino American parishioner from suburban Glenview, Illinois, told this reporter she also intends to form a prayer group for the Mother of Eucharist and Grace in her neighborhood.
At St. Constance, after appealing to the faithful to come back to the church, Brother Carmelo urged them to practice the sacraments of reconciliation and Eucharist, pray for the priest, pray for church and pray the rosary, fast and build the house of prayer. “She told me, ‘I am the Mother of Eucharist and Grace’ and you should form prayer groups and promote the importance of Eucharist and reconciliation.”
He added, “first, if there is no priest, there is no one to (officiate the) sacraments to receive; and also we are sending to the biblical Holy Land people every year in ten years so they can also heal the sick in hospice and hospitals and others.”
Afterwards, Carmelo urged them to sing God Bless America, the Polish and U.S. national anthems before he and other priests broke the rose petals, cut them in half and poured mineral water that turned it into rose oil, and the petals given to the faithful had images of Jesus and the saints and had also turned the hosts that one receives during communion and the rose oil flowed out of the cross.”