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Sullivan maintains visions of Mary

Originally published February 05, 2007

Sarah Fortney
Frederick News-Post Staff

Gianna Talone-Sullivan says the Virgin Mary has appeared and spoken to her every day since 1989. Before hundreds of followers every month, Talone-Sullivan shares what she describes as a message from the Holy Mother.

But she can't say what the Virgin looks like.

"It is not as easy as many people may think. It's a heavy weight," Talone-Sullivan said Friday. "There's a sense of tremendous peace and tranquility. I don't know how to explain it. It's an intense joy. It's truly outer-worldy."

She was terrified at first by the visions, she said.

A month ago, Talone-Sullivan said she had been told by her spiritual advisor not to speak to the press. However, before her monthly service at the Lynfield Complex on Sunday, she agreed to an interview.

Her ability to receive messages from the Virgin Mary causes pressure she wouldn't want to place on anyone else's shoulders, she said. Talone-Sullivan only quotes the Blessed Mother and cannot translate anything she says.

"Lots of times I don't understand (the messages)," she said.

Kieran Kavanaugh, a Carmelite priest in Washington and Talone-Sullivan's spiritual advisor, said Friday he was unable to comment on Talone-Sullivan or her visions.

A spokesperson for Cardinal William Keeler, archbishop of Baltimore, ordered Kavanaugh's Carmelite superior to forbid the priest from attending the prayers meetings and from speaking publicly about the events less than one month ago.

However, Kavanaugh has, in the past, defended Talone-Sullivan's faith and her visions.

In an August 2005 letter to the editor of a local weekly newspaper, Kavanaugh wrote that, is saying Talone-Sullivan's visions were "non supernaturalitate," the church decree was using a narrow definition of the word supernatural. "Here the term would mean supernatural in the way the event has transpired. That is, the phenomena perceptible to the senses cannot be explained by natural causes and is therefore miraculous."

The nature of Talone-Sullivan's visions and messages has been controversial for more than half a decade.

Beginning in 1993, when she moved to Maryland from Arizona, she shared her messages during weekly meetings at St. Joseph's Catholic Church in Emmitsburg. People traveled from across the country to hear her speak.

The prayer meetings at the church ended in 2000 when the Archdiocese of Baltimore asked Talone-Sullivan to share her messages elsewhere.

Facing rejection

After Keeler stopped the meetings, he established a commission to study the visions, said Sean Caine, director of communications for the archdiocese.

Talone-Sullivan took an oath to obey the church, she said, and then waited almost three years for an explanation from church officials.

"By the spring of 2003, no one had heard anything," her husband, Michael Sullivan, said.

The Sullivans sent a letter to the Archdiocese of Baltimore, and copies to 280 bishops around the country, asking why they had been asked to leave the church.

"Within a couple months, we received the decree, which only stated that (the archdiocese) does not believe (her messages) are supernatural," Sullivan said.

The decree, sent in June 2003, stated that -- after the apparitions were carefully examined -- no basis could be found for Talone-Sullivan's messages.

The Rev. Vincent J. O'Malley, pastor of St. Joseph's, said the Archdiocese of Baltimore closely examined accounts of the apparitions.

"The investigation is over. The church has spoken," he stated in a letter recently distributed to his parishioners. "We Catholics are to move forward as best as possible in unity of mind, heart, and soul."

Talone-Sullivan didn't comment about the church or its commission, but she said, "There needs to be open dialogue. People can believe or not believe."

Moving on

Talone-Sullivan said the Virgin Mary continued appearing privately to her after she ended the weekly prayer meetings at St. Joseph's.

"In August 2002, it was our lady's decision for Gianna to distribute a public message on the Internet," Sullivan said.

A group of people invited Talone-Sullivan to hold a monthly meeting at a farm outside of Taneytown in the summer of 2004. Attendance at these meetings grew until they were moved to the Lynfield Complex in 2005.

Talone-Sullivan and her husband still attend services at St. Joseph's and remain on the church's roster of members.

"We love the Catholic church," Sullivan said.

"She's not trying to attract attention to herself."

Peter Blanchard, owner of St. Peter's Books and Gifts Cafe in Emmitsburg, helps sponsor and generate publicity at his store for Talone-Sullivan's prayer meetings. His involvement began as an apostolate duty, he said.

Each meeting costs almost $2,000, including rental of the Lynfield Complex and of video equipment so worshippers in a second room can see and hear Talone-Sullivan, Blanchard said. Donations, collected every month at the meeting, cover these costs.

"We'd like to buy more equipment," he said. He wants to purchase video projectors to accommodate the increasing crowds.

Hardly enough money is collected in the donations baskets each month at the event, he said. Contributions can also be made by visiting the Foundation of the Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart of Mary's website.

Dr. Paul Clarke, of Emmitsburg, has attended the Sunday meeting every month. He suggests a shrine be erected in recognition of her visions.

He hopes for a breakdown of the barriers between the Catholic Church and its members on this issue, or at least some mediation, he said.

"Where are the Catholics hiding out?" he questioned Sunday.

He said the Catholic laity might not be the reason she was run out of the church, but members of the community should stand up in Talone-Sullivan's defense.

"Let's get the issue out on the floor," Clarke said.

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