Pilgrim has holy encounter

Mary Stowers found kindness and hospitality on a recent trip to Medjugorje. PHOTO COURTESY OF MARY STOWERS

by Moira Cullings
moira.cullings@theleaven.org

MEDJUGORJE — Mary Stowers found herself lost, hungry and a little afraid.

“I was wandering around for an hour or an hour-and-a-half,” she said.

What happened next was something she never expected.

Stowers was on a trip with a group of over 40 visiting Medjugorje, the site of alleged Marian apparitions in the Herzegovina region of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The group had already visited the city of Banja Luka and would end their journey in Fatima, Portugal.

But this journey wasn’t planned for Stowers. In fact, it was an opportunity she never saw coming.

Stowers is the daughter of Don and Maureen Stowers. Don is the web manager for the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas. A couple at St. Therese Parish in Kansas City, Missouri, where the Stowers are parishioners, mentioned to the young singer that they were looking for a good cantor to take on a European pilgrimage.

Stowers fit the bill.

“They offered to pay my way if I would come with them,” she said.

At first, she didn’t think they were serious.

“But they said, ‘That wasn’t a theoretical statement — that was an offer,’” she continued.

It was an offer she couldn’t refuse.

“In the end, I figured there’s only so many times in life I’m going to get an experience or opportunity like that,” she said.

So there Stowers was, walking back from the site in Medjugorje — where Mary is said to have appeared to a group of visionaries — when she realized how lost she was.

Stowers had been walking back from the site with a small group, but they were all staying with Mirjana Dragicevic-Soldo, one of the alleged visionaries, and she was staying with a brother of one of the alleged visionaries.

The group offered to walk her to her boarding house, but she confidently declined, thinking she could find her way there on her own.

“I got really lost and really frustrated because I kept passing things I knew were a minute’s walk from my boarding house,” she said.

“But I didn’t know where the turn was,” she added. “So I was walking in circles.”

Eventually, Stowers asked a stranger where Mirjana lived, thinking Mirjana was more well-known than the relative she was staying with. The person pointed her in the right direction.

When she arrived, said Stowers, “I walked [into the house] and the tour guide was giving a talk to all the people [staying there] and I didn’t know what to do, so I sat down at a table.”

Suddenly, Stowers, who hadn’t had any food or water for hours and was disheveled from walking all day broke down and began to cry.

“And then Mirjana came in,” said Stowers. “She came up and gave me a hug and said, ‘You have nothing to be frightened of here. This is your home.’

“She told me that I was safe here, that any time I was lost or needed help, I could come to her house and I would be taken care of.”

After the consoling words, Mirjana kissed Stowers on the forehead.

“On the way home I was walking with friends and one said it was a blessing that very, very few people have,” she said. “He said it’s like a kiss from Our Lady.”

Needless to say, the experience made up for the stress of getting lost, said Stowers.

The encounter had resounding effects, inspiring Stowers to pray the rosary more and be more intentional in her faith.

“He said it’s like a kiss from Our Lady.” she said.

“From that day, I don’t think anything really shook me,” she added.

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