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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Friday, June 21, 2024

Sacred Heart Church believes to have miracle on hand

Parishioners of Sacred Heart Church in Medford believe that a miracle has occurred: the statue of Mary outside the parish's rectory now appears to have tears running down her cheeks.

"There's so much craziness, and so much doubt nowadays, but I personally believe it's a miracle," Pastor Bob Doherty said. "She's trying to tell us something, and we have to figure out what it is."

Sacred Heart Church is located on the corner of Boston Avenue and Winthrop Street, near campus.

The tears were first observed Feb. 9. "People feel that the face has the appearance of tears coming down from the eyes. It was never that way, the statue has always been just white-washed in the face," Doherty said.

Believers in the tears have different theories about the statue's grief. Many parishioners believe Mary may be weeping because two Boston area parishes, possibly Sacred Heart, may be closed down. The archdiocese will make a final decision on the closings in May.

At a meeting on Sunday night in Medford, it was decided that should these closings be necessary in Medford, the first church to close will be St. James, followed by Sacred Heart.

However, Doherty feels that "it more likely may be because there are priests abusing children that there is a sadness and a weeping in her face."

Parishioner Ginny Del Signori and her daughters painted the statue two and a half years ago with standard outdoor paint from Home Depot. "I know for a fact that those marks were not there until two weeks ago this Monday," Del Signori said. "I do a lot of volunteer work at the church and I always looked at the statue to make sure it didn't need any touching up."

While many are quick to call it a miracle, the face's streaked appearance may be a result of dripping from a steam pipe on the roof two stories above, ice melted in the recent rain, or a defect in the paint.

This discrepancy is "why the church authorities are very careful" to declare any unexplained event a miracle, Doherty said. "Most people here say that it's crying, but the painter two years ago definitely did not paint that."

Del Signori agreed. "My own relatives have said maybe it's just the ice that melted off in the rain, but I think there's no way. Why is it just in those two spots, why would it just have streaked in those two spots? There is no place else on the statue that there are any marks."

A chemist and an FBI agent will soon be investigating the statue, taking a swab from the face to examine the chemistry of the marks. "If it's definitely human tears coming down the face, not paint or tears or a crack in the paint, then it's a little more authentic," Doherty said. "Otherwise we don't want to make a big deal about it."

Should secular authorities determine that the streaks are real tears, the Vatican must decide the procedure for recognition. Doherty referenced the recent investigation of a statue in Italy whose tears were decided to be human. "After the tests, then the [Catholic] church may label it something officially, but for now, it's up to people to decide for themselves," Doherty said.

Many people have come to see the miracle and pay their respects. "The stream of people is constant. People are leaving flowers, coming in here praying," said Paula Cacciola, the church secretary. "There are people who come every day, they look, they pray, they leave. We're not making it a big publicity deal, it's word of mouth. People who believe and believe what they want to believe are coming."

Many are forced to question their own beliefs upon seeing the tears. "A stone statue, crying -- impossible!" Cacciola said of her initial reaction. "The whole thing is odd on both sides. Is it a defect? You have to look at the skeptical side, but to me, there are no other marks on that whole statue. It's like she cried and it just stained her face."

Whether or not the Vatican decides to officially recognize the tears as an apparition, Sacred Heart's wish is that "it brings people some hope," Doherty said. "People should come and see and experience it. You really have to experience it. It's up to us to make a change here."

Del Signori and other parishioners would like to see the area marked by a monument or shrine, but doubt this would actually occur. "I don't think that will happen unless we have positive proof," she said. "I would like to see the area preserved, and have people come, because she's obviously trying to tell us something."

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