When Jill Mazowiecki of Latrobe converted from her Mennonite tradition to Roman Catholicism in 2012, she still had at least one lingering question.
“I never knew what to do with Mary, because growing up she was important but never venerated,” the Latrobe woman recalled. The Catholic devotion to Mary “always made me uncomfortable,” and reports of visions of the Virgin Mary made her even more doubtful.
Ms. Mazowiecki heard a talk at a church women’s group about Medjugorje in Bosnia-Herzegovina, where village natives have reported visions of the Virgin Mary since they were children in 1981. Millions of the faithful have visited the village since then. The Catholic Church has never officially declared the visions to be valid, although it says priests should provide pastoral care for pilgrims there.
Ms. Mazowiecki, 45, a married mother of four, was skeptical of the visions. But she later heard on the radio that a filmmaker was offering to bring a combination of skeptics and believers on pilgrimage to the shrine to take part in a documentary. Participants were selected from those who submitted their reasons for going, and she decided to do so.
Her venture is shown in “Apparition Hill,” directed by Sean Bloomfield, which is scheduled to play at the AMC Loews Waterfront 22 in West Homestead through Wednesday.
Some participants were atheists, others devout believers, including some confronting their own or others’ mortality. Ms. Mazowiecki went as a Catholic believer but doubtful of the visions.
They stayed for two weeks, attending Masses and confessions and hiking up rocky landmarks such as Apparition Hill, witnessing one of the events where the local visionaries say Mary appears to them.
“There were three cameras rolling almost every waking hour,” she recalled. She prayed to Mary that “if you want me to understand you that you intercede with your Son, this would be the way to make it happen.”
Ms. Mazowiecki doesn’t want to spoil the movie’s ending, but she does say that Mary is now “part of my daily prayer life” and that she asks her to “take me to your Son.”
Peter Smith: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1416; Twitter @PG_PeterSmith.