Grateful Limerick grandfather Des Fitzgerald, 82, will today unveil a shrine of the religious icon in his back garden, which he plans to open to the public.
He recently purchased a statue of Our Lady, standing 4ft3in tall, to mark the centenary of the first apparitions in Fatima, Portugal.
Des sourced the blessed bust from a store in Limerick city for €400 but he admitted he never expected to receive a “miracle” — after his physical health dramatically improved within ten minutes of touching the monument.
Having alternated between using a wheelchair and a walking aid for a decade since an accident, the widower — a father of four — said his prayers have now been answered.
And his wheelchair has been left in the back seat of his car for nearly a week now.
Delighted Des, of Greystones in Limerick city, explained: “I asked a builder to keep an eye out for a statue of Our Lady for me.
“He brought it to me last week and dropped it off in the porch.
“I asked him to give me a few minutes to say a Hail Mary after I had placed the rosary beads from Medjugorje around her neck.
“I said the Hail Mary and placed my left hand on top of her head and asked her to look after me and give me my health back.
“I have had a wheelchair for ten years and was only able to walk ten yards before having to sit down.
“I hadn’t the statue ten minutes when I was able to walk fully — it was a miracle straight away.
“To prove it to myself, I walked out of the house, down to the gate and back up again.
“Before I was barely able to stand up for a minute on my own.”
Des, who has been overcome with emotion given the change in his circumstances, said he is nearly afraid to wake up each morning in case he suddenly finds his mobility has been impaired again.
He’ll unveil the statue this evening in a purpose-built shrine at the rear of his garden — where he hopes others may receive miracles too. Former butcher and bookmaker Des explained: “The excitement of the whole thing this past week has been absolutely unbelievable.”
The shrine will be blessed by a number of priests, while a decade of the Rosary will also be said at the site, to which his many neighbours have been invited.
There will be no charge to see the statue or say a prayer at the shrine.
Des has spent a considerable sum constructing the shrine — and he may yet also knock part of the rear boundary wall for public access.
He quipped “It’s cost a few bob, alright. (But) I find that when you give to the Church, you get it back on the double.
When I was a butcher I’d give a leg of lamb to the Franciscans every third or fourth week of the month, and every time I’d give it I usually had a great weekend that weekend, so I should have given more legs.”
A number of priests — including Fr Joe Young, chaplain with the Brothers of Charity in Bawnmore — are expected to attend this evening’s ceremony in Greystones.
Fr Young, formerly parish priest in Southill, said that while some people might be sceptical of ‘miracles’, he’d urge folk to keep an open mind.
He added: “I do believe that a childlike faith, certainly to me, has a greater openness to the possibility of miracles and cures taking place in people’s lives.
I like to keep an open mind on everything, because when we close ourselves to the infinite possibilities that exist, we close down on a lot of areas of our lives that could do with rethinking.
“The unreflected life is a life not worth living.”
Donaghmore parish priest Fr Tom Mangan, who’s also expected to attend, added: “Any area of devotion or faith which is of help to people is worthy and very encouraging.
“We do hear that miracles happen, and they happen in different forms and in different ways. I’m delighted for him really and he’s a lovely man. He’s a man of great faith and he prays for us all. He has a great devotion to Our Lady.”