Marian feast draws shrine crowds

09/09/2010 - EUGENE Millan, 29, was among thousands who visited the Marian shrine in Simala, Sibonga town yesterday.

He goes there every year to celebrate the birthday of the Blessed Virgin Mary and every 13th day of the month, as his devotion to Our Lady of Fatima.

But his visit yesterday was special, as he was there with his wife, Buena Ybay-Millan, 28, who is pregnant with their first child.

The safe pregnancy of his wife and the health of their unborn child were among the petitions he carried with him.

Cebu Archbishop Ricardo Cardinal, who led the Pontifical Mass yesterday morning, told reporters he did not notice whether the number of devotees dropped this year.

The caretakers of the shrine, Marian Monks of the Eucharistic Adoration, were involved in a controversy last year when a former member accused his colleagues of misconduct and corruption, among other issues.

“That’s the history of the church. We cannot expect to be always high. There are times when we are a little bit down,” the cardinal said.

He also preached there is no need for the devotees to search for miracles.

“We do not need miracles. What we should do is open our eyes to faith and open our hands to mercy so we can help, as much as we can, the poor,” he said in his sermon.

In an interview, he said, “There is no need for miracles. Sometimes we are here for miracles; we would like to witness miracles, but these are not necessary for our faith.”

“Miracles are used by God as instruments, to strengthen us,” he added.

A few months after a libel case filed against him and other church leaders, in relation to the controversy, was dismissed, Cardinal Vidal said he was back at the shrine to “express gratefulness to the Lord.”

“I have to go on to tell the people (that) with faith, we have to go on with joy and courage,” he told reporters.

“On the occasion of expressing our joy and the occasion of her birthday, we are here.

At the same time, we would like the people to pray the rosary, according to the message of Our Lady of Fatima,” he added.

For devotees like Millan, the controversy wasn’t even in the picture.

“I visit the shrine to pray here, not for any other reason,” said Millan.

Vendor May Semilla, who sells bottled oil at the entrance to the shrine, admitted sales slowed down when the controversy started.

“But we recovered after a few months,” she said.

Semilla has been selling oil for the past 10 years at the same site. She also observed that there was no difference in the number of devotees who went to the site yesterday.

“The lines are more orderly this year; there are more policemen who helped,” she said. (Sun Star)

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