Virgin Mary to appear, visionaries say But Minn. bishop is not a believer

April 07, 1993|By Knight-Ridder Newspapers

KETTLE RIVER, Minn. -- Visionaries in Kettle River are predicting that the Virgin Mary will appear in a field north of town at 3 p.m. on Easter Sunday.

It's the latest in a series of revelations that Stephen Marino has claimed to have received since 1991. Mr. Marino, formerly of Green Bay, Wis., now lives in Kettle River, near his friends Earl and Linda Nett, who have promoted the messages.

Together, they claim that Mary also wants a 10,000-seat chapel and a seven-story housing complex built in Kettle River, which is about 50 miles southwest of Duluth. Nearly 600 acres in the Kettle River area have been bought through Messages From Mary/Mary's Guest House, the non-profit corporation formed to accept donations to fund their plans. Some area buildings and homes have been bought by other followers.

Their efforts are contrary to the wishes of the Catholic Diocese of Duluth, which is urging people to stay away from Kettle River on Easter. Bishop Roger Schwietz has repeatedly refused permission for a religious complex and has asked the Netts and Mr. Marino to stop their activities.

While the Netts and Mr. Marino pledged obedience to the bishop in March 1992 after he determined that the messages weren't supernatural, the diocese contends that the group privately continued with its plans. Donations continue to come in as Mr. Marino travels across the country speaking about the messages.

With crowd estimates ranging from a few hundred to as many as 40,000, traffic congestion is nearly certain and parking will be a nightmare, said Carlton County (Minn.) Sheriff David Seboe.

"There have been no arrangements made for anything," Sheriff Seboe said. "There's no bathroom facilities, there's no water, there's nothing. It's a real mess."

Neither Mr. Marino nor the Netts are employed, the diocese has said. Mr. Nett receives a disability pension because of a back injury received in the military. Mr. Marino has engaged in a number of unsuccessful business ventures, family members and friends have said.

All are Catholic. Mr. Marino has been married three times and has four children. His current wife was his first wife. His second marriage was annulled.

The Netts are married with four children who are schooled at home. Linda Netts is a former Carmelite nun, relatives said. Earl Netts had five sons from a previous marriage that was annulled.

Siblings of Mr. Marino and the Netts have spoken out against what's happening and encouraged people not to donate money.

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