The Voices of Faith
Originally published January 08, 2007
By Sarah Fortney
FREDERICK -- Several hundred worshippers watch as Dr. Gianna Talone-Sullivan kneels to receive a message from the Virgin Mary every month.
After several hymns and numerous recitations of the Hail Mary prayer, Dr. Talone-Sullivan dropped to her knees Sunday afternoon. For few moments, she seemed to enter a trance-like state. She then sat back in her chair in front of the crowd and spoke into a microphone.
"May God's face shine upon you," she said. "The time of joy is to be had."
Dr. Talone-Sullivan says she has been receiving such messages since 1993 and she has shared them at the Lynfield Complex since 2005. Before that, she led worship at St. Joseph's Catholic Church in Emmitsburg.
Paul Clarke, of Thurmont, said he has believed in her messages since he first started hearing them in 1993. He said he attended every one of her meetings at St Joseph's.
"My wife and I went religiously," Mr. Clarke said.
In 2000, Dr. Talone-Sullivan was told to leave the church's premises. Mr. Clarke continued to follow her; a few years ago, he attended one of her meetings on a farm in Keymar.
"Her messages concern me," he said, especially the ones in which the Blessed Mother tells Dr. Talone-Sullivan she wishes to be known as the Lady of Emmitsburg.
Mr. Clarke strongly advocates for official recognition of Dr. Talone-Sullivan and her visionary apparitions. He questions why no one has erected an appropriate shrine in her honor.
More importantly, Mr. Clarke said he hopes to break down barriers between the Catholic church and its members.
"Let's get beyond those differences," he said.
Whether or not the Virgin Mary is appearing to Dr. Talone-Sullivan as the Lady of Emmitsburg, Mr. Clarke, who sat in the crowd Sunday, said that after 13 years, it's not likely she is pulling these messages out of thin air.
Rejected by the church
For almost a decade, people traveled across the country to attend services at St. Joseph's to hear Dr. Talone-Sullivan describe her messages.
Worshippers gathered at the Catholic church every Thursday night until the Archdiocese of Baltimore gave an order in Sept. 2000 forbidding her to hold meetings in the church.
Cardinal Keeler, archbishop of Baltimore, established a commission to study the visions of Dr. Talone-Sullivan, said Sean Caine, director of communications for the Archdiocese of Baltimore.
Mr. Caine said church leaders devoted countless hours to the question before concluding in 2003 that her visions were "not supernatural." He said this was determined "as a result of the confusion and division caused by her visions."
Dr. Talone-Sullivan, of Fairfield, Pa., operates the Mission of Mercy health clinic with her husband, Michael Sullivan. She was booted out of the Catholic church in Emmitsburg nearly six years ago, but says she still receives messages from the Blessed Mother.
The Foundation of the Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart of Mary, established in 2005, organizes Dr. Talone-Sullivan's meetings at the Lynfield Complex. She attracts enormous crowds once a month with the help of donations and publicity generated by St. Peter's Books and Gifts Cafe in Emmitsburg.
When Michael Sullivan asked Sunday how many in the congregation were hearing his wife for the first time, only about 15 hands went up. Most had heard her messages before.
Raymond Sanders, of Emmitsburg, has attended Dr. Talone-Sullivan's meetings since late 1993. He said he listens to her messages because they reflect the truth.
"I hope another committee comes in and investigates," Mr. Sanders said.
"It's been a wonderful experience," R_____ C___, of Emmitsburg, said of the meetings.
Mr. C___ said Sunday he was so compelled by Dr. Talone-Sullivan's messages that he moved his entire family to the area.
"It was something that struck me" after first listening to her in Nov. 1998, he said.
He could also sense that others there were true believers.
"You could see and you could hear the joy on their faces."
Ivan Pare was also in the crowd at the Lynfield Complex on Sunday. He said he invested a lot of money traveling from northern New Hampshire to hear Dr. Talone-Sullivan's messages. He finally moved to the area in 2005 to be closer to the visionary.
"It's something we can't see, feel or touch," he said. "But, we have faith."
Dr. Talone-Sullivan said she could not speak to the press, under the direction of her spiritual advisor, Kieran Kavanaugh.
St. Joseph's Catholic Church leaders also did not comment