FREDERICK -- 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
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
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
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
"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
"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."
Talone-Sullivan said the Virgin Mary continued appearing
privately to her after she ended the weekly prayer meetings at
"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
"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.