Controversy is normally not associated with Virgins, a representation of Mary, Jesus’ mother, but there are exceptions to every rule.
About a half century ago, in 1953, eight year old children Juan Angel Collado and the sisters, Ramonita and Isidra Belén, were students in southwest Puerto Rico, claiming to have seen to the Virgin of the Rosary. The Virgin appeared to them for 33 consecutive days, one for each year of Jesus’ lifespan, between April 23 and May 25, near a well providing water to their school.
The original Virgin of the Rosary appeared in 1571 at the Battle of Lepanto, defeating a Muslim fleet off western Greece. The battle was a decisive victory in keeping Europe largely Catholic. Our Lady of the Rosary is patroness of battles and victory.
Today in the glittering Rosary Chapel at Atotonilco frescos depict the Battle of Lepanto. If you look closely you will see where some of the galleons has wandered off to an adjoining fresco, apparently tired of the battle.
A unique attribute to the Puerto Rican virgin is her crown of seven stars representing the seven sacraments (baptism, first communion, marriage, etc.). The brightest star is on her forehead representing communion, or the consumption of Jesus’ body and blood.
Following the Virgin of the Rosary appearance by the well, earning her moniker, Virgin of the Rosary at the Well, hundreds of thousands of faithful from across Puerto Rico packed a sugar cane field near the well. Several people reported then, and now, miraculous recoveries from serious illnesses and physical handicaps.
The lad, Juan Angel Collado, formed a male branch of priests, Missionaries of Christ the Priest, and female branch of nuns with Missionary Sisters of Restitution that focused on The Virgin of the Rosary at the Well. By 1984 the Virgin started to attract followers internationally across Mexico, the US and South America including here in San Miguel de Allende.
Juan Angel Collado began appearing at conferences in Queretaro. Collado’s approach was similar to a pyramid scheme with each new recruit expected to bring in seven other new members. Also, at each conference members were assigned monetary amounts they were expected to raise through food and memorabilia sales.
Then the organization for devotion to the Virgin took an even darker turn with Collado facing accusations by six former followers of psychological manipulation, torture and sexual abuse in 2007. He’s been in hiding ever since.
The Church has never acknowledged the Puerto Rican Virgin as an official site where Mary appeared. They rarely do though. Only Mary’s appearances in Fatima, Lourdes and Mexican Guadalupe are given official sanction. That means Mary in Medjugorje does not exist by Church standards nor does the ever popular Mexican Virgin of St. John of the Lakes!
In all fairness it was only a few years ago the Church acknowledged the Earth was in fact round, not flat. It takes a lot of patience to wait for Church approval of most anything.
Still, from the conference house in Queretaro named for St. Michael the cult traveled to the town named for St. Michael. For years folks gathered in the leader’s home off Hidalgo to say the rosary. The group splintered apart in 1987.
However, in recent walks through colonias like La Palmita and Valle de Maiz, the Virgin of the Rosary by the Well has made herself known with signs and announcements. Perhaps the questionable cult is making a comeback, or folks have gone back to the original intention. That is an image of Mary promoting the end of battles and coming together of humanity for a greater good.
by Joseph Toone
- TripAdvisor’s top tour guide in San Miguel de Allende with History and Culture Walking Tours and Joseph Toone Tours.
- Amazon’s best selling author of the San Miguel de Allende’s Secrets book series on making your adventures around town unique.
- Creator of the Maria Dolls coloring book helping indigenous doll makers.
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