Claim of Virgin visions scuttled in New Jersey Trenton Diocese plays role of doubting Thomas

September 09, 1993|By Knight-Ridder Newspapers

MARLBORO TOWNSHIP, N.J. -- Holding rosary beads, they gathered outside Joe and Veronica Januszkiewicz's rambling beige house with white shutters to honor the Virgin Mary on her birthday.

They gathered, as most of them had done before, in the yard where Joe Januszkiewicz says the mother of Jesus began appearing to him in March 1989. They gathered despite a driving rain, and despite an announcement yesterday by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Trenton, N.J., that a year-long investigation by a four-member commission had found no evidence to support Mr. Januszkiewicz's claim.

"There is no evidence of anything truly miraculous happening on the property of the Januszkiewicz family in Marlboro," said Bishop John C. Reiss in a 1,100-word statement.

The commission conceded that the claimed apparition had been a spiritually enriching experience for visitors, but said that "what visitors observed and heard can occur and has occurred without any miraculous cause when people of faith gather to pray," Bishop Reiss said.

Since last summer, when Mr. Januszkiewicz proclaimed he experienced the visions on the first Sunday of every month, thousands of worshipers have flocked to the meticulously maintained back-yard shrine in this central New Jersey township of apple orchards, horse farms and suburban developments.

About 8,000 people converged on the property Sunday, despite Bishop Reiss' order last summer that Roman Catholics not worship there until the investigation was completed. Township officials have complained that resources have been drained trying to cope with traffic and sanitation problems generated by the crowds.

The bishop has asked Mr. Januszkiewicz to cooperate with authorities and do whatever he could to "alleviate the inconvenience, burden and danger that remain."

Mr. Januszkiewicz remained inside his house yesterday, behind signs that said: "Do not disturb the family to ask questions."

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