The morning of August 16, 2003 had us packing to return home. With all the packing and cleaning that had to be done, our founder decided to wait until we returned home for the apparition today. We wanted to find a Saturday night Mass in one of the towns we would be passing through on the way home. With so many people coming home together, the drive was slow. We were in Montgomery, Alabama, around 5:00 P.M. and started looking for a Catholic Church. We came across Holy Spirit Catholic Church in time to attend the Mass there. The celebrant was a young priest, who began his homily by saying, Praised be Jesus and Mary, which is a common greeting in the Croatian culture and is heard often when one is in Medjugorje. We wondered if this was a Medjugorje priest. It was a beautiful Mass and the priest gave an excellent teaching on the Eucharist.
After Mass, our founder began to question him about Medjugorje, and yes, he had gone there, over ten years ago. He recognized our founder and told him that he had gone with Caritas to Medjugorje when he was in High School and that he (our founder) and one of our community members had led the group. The priest was amazed to meet him here at his church, but much more so, was literally shocked when he was told that Marija had just attended his Mass. He jumped at the chance to meet Her. We all gathered at the van, surrounding Paolo and Marija, our founder, his wife and the priest to hear the story. It was really quite a coincidence.
As the meeting was after Mass, we were surprised again when we learned that Our Lady had suddenly decided to appear to Marija after Holy Communion had been distributed, so this priest had an apparition in his church during Communion. Despite our disappointment in not having the awareness that Our Lady was appearing, we were very moved in our hearts to know She had come at the time when Her Son was present in our hearts in Holy Communion. We do not doubt that Our Lady had come for this priest, but for us, this apparition was also an acknowledgement to us that Our Lady was saying vacation was over. There was a little bit of sadness in our hearts of understanding these beautiful days were coming to an end, even though we still had Our Lady with us in the apparitions for several more days. We imagined that the apostles felt this same way sometimes with Jesus. There were times when they left together to go to secluded places, away from the crowds to be refreshed and strengthened in prayer with Jesus. When those moments ended, there was always a little regret in their hearts, wishing that they could stay with Jesus like this forever. But, of course, Jesus had to fulfill His destiny as did all of the apostles. But these occasions were memories that sweetened their lives, just as our time at Dune Haven with Our Lady had sweetened ours.
It was also beautiful to see of all the possible churches we could have attended on our ride home, that Our Lady would lead us to a church where a priest lived who not only believed in Medjugorje, but received his calling on a Caritas pilgrimage that our founder had led 10 years ago. It seemed very probable that Our Lady wanted to bless this priest of Her Heart and led us to his church. We know for certain that he was very touched by this surprise encounter with our founder, Marija and Our Lady.