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Hundreds of devout Catholics and curious onlookers have gathered to pray, weep and chant outside a Catholic hospital window in Springfield, Mass., where an image that some say looks like the Virgin Mary has appeared.
Kevin Leeman, a maintenance worker at the nearby Sacred Heart Catholic church, was moved to say a Hail Mary when he saw the apparition yesterday at Mercy Medical Center.
“I was amazed that she was there, but she was,” said Leeman, 53, of Springfield. “I have never seen anything like it. It was a spiritual experience.”
Leeman said he believes the image is still there this morning.
Sacred Heart church secretary Marie Lapolice was also skeptical when she went to the hospital yesterday.
“I saw it. I couldn’t believe it,” she said. “I had to get at the right angle and as soon as I saw it, it was very clear. I couldn’t believe it. When I looked at it, I said, ‘It’s very clearly the picture of the Virgin.”‘
Leeman and Lapolice said that when they viewed the image there were about 40 people staring up at the window, some praying and chanting the rosary. About 100 people gathered outside the hospital this morning.
The image appeared late yesterday morning in a vacant, second-floor window at Mercy Medical Center, said hospital spokesman Mark Fulco.
“Some people believe it does look like the Virgin Mary,” he said. “A lot of the faithful are coming out and observing it.”
Fulco said the hospital has added extra security to accommodate the crowds that have formed since the discovery.
“We have taken measures to ensure the safety of patients, visitors and staff,” he said.
Mark Dupont, spokesman for the Springfield Diocese, said that when he saw the image yesterday it was a “clearly, well-defined outline.”
“The way the colors cascade would give the outline of a very common artistic impression of the Blessed Virgin,” he said. “It’s understandable how people would see an image in it.”
He said about 100 people had gathered this morning to see the image — and that is what has moved him.
“You may debate the image, but you can’t debate the faces of the people who are gathered there,” he said. “That’s what is inspiring right now.”
He said the bishop is monitoring the situation and the church could decide to investigate further. But, he added: “The church is very, very cautious and careful in situations like this.”

Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News – October 1, 2008
jfargen@bostonherald.com

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