The Great Canyon in the United States was the beautiful scenery for the first mission of Mrs. Maria Esperanza Medrano de Bianchini in 1995. Everything began in Phoenix, Arizona from April 27 to May 8, attending to the invitation of The Friends of Kateri made by Bishop, William Gomes and the Mc Cauley family. The first Holy Mass of the mission was celebrated at the Mount Claret Retreat Center with the participation of the Betania Choir. It was followed by a warm speech addressed by Mrs. Maria Esperanza. The next day, she was very honored when she was invited to give the homily during Holy Mass in the Church of Saint Thomas Apostle, after Monsignor Gomes explained, among other issues, “I know that Saint John of the Cross said that the revelation that Jesus Christ gave us for our salvation is held in the four Gospels, and that we do not need anymore signs, but I believe – and you have said – that in this present world of disbelief, these signs and wonders are happening because of the desire of the Lord, through Our Blessed Mother and other worthy instruments of this grace.” Mrs. Maria Esperanza did a recorded interview for T.V., and she gave a felt message about reconciliation at the Church of Saint Catherine of Siena accompanied by the chants of the Betania Choir and by a group of mariachi. On May 1st, the day of the main event in Arizona, Mrs. Maria Esperanza made her appearance at the Grady Gammage Memorial Auditorium following a beautiful program that begun with the prayer of the holy rosary, and continued with the: dramatization of the life of Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha, flower offering and coronation of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal, celebration of Holy Mass, introduction to Mrs. Maria Esperanza by journalist Michael Brown, participation of the Betania Choir, speech offered by Mrs. Maria Esperanza, another speech addressed by Father Santan Pinto, and blessing with the Blessed Sacrament of the altar. Warmed by the sun of a new day, nature opened its arms with its majestic Great Canyon to the Venezuelan missionaries, who were accompanied by Father Theo Fuentes, Father Alberto Ruiz, and the Mc Cauley family. Finally, the visit to Arizona ended in Mount Claret with the most beautiful concelebrated Mass and with the reflexions of gratitude and farewell pronounced by Mrs. Maria Esperanza.
Auriesville, New York was the second place of meetings in the United States that year. Mrs. Maria Esperanza visited Our Lady’s Martyr’s Shrine where the Blessed Sacrament of the altar was adored and prayers were offered to martyrs Isaac Jogues, Goupil, Lalande and to Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha. Her statue was to be inaugurated on May 7 counting on the assistance of Mrs. Maria Esperanza and hundreds of parishioners. Mrs. Maria Esperanza had a touching meeting with a group of six priests there; afterwards a private Mass was concelebrated with them. During the homily, the main celebrant asserted that saints allow light to run through them, as glass windows do in the Churches, and as it occurred in Mrs. Maria Esperanza; he said that one could see the light and love of God through her. When the awaited day arrived, hundreds of people gathered at Our Lady’s Martyr’s Shrine. All united by the love of God and the hope of a future in brotherhood, prayed the holy rosary, participated in the Holy Mass celebrated by Father John Paret, heard the Betania Choir, the introduction of Mrs. Maria Esperanza by Michael Brown, the speech of Mrs. Maria Esperanza, the testimony of Mr. Casey Hulick, and saw the homage the Bianchinis received with flowers and medals.
In July, South America welcomed Mrs. Maria Esperanza for the first time – in a public mission – in other nations that are brothers to Venezuela. Lima, Peru with the motto A mission of love and reconciliation received her from July 12th to 20th in 1995, invited by the Archbishop Augusto Cardenal Vargas Alzamora, Father Adriano Pacifico Tomasi, and by the Succar and Agios families. In this country, united to Venezuela by their common Liberator Simon Bolivar, the visit Mrs. Maria Esperanza had was characterized by the attendance to splendid Masses, conferences, and the touring to different religious sites of the capital, such as, the Convent of Saint Domingo where Friar Martin de Porres lived and the Church of Saint Rose of Lima. A wonderful sharing with 3.000 parishioners began on Saturday, July 15 at Estadio San Miguel Arcangel of Maranga with the touching words of Father Manuel Rodriguez, the participation of Mr. Geo Bianchini, Dr. Cava, and the Betania Choir. All this was the preface for the first speech of Mrs. Maria Esperanza in Peru.
At noon, lunch was served at Lima Sheraton Hotel & Towers, site where the miracle of bilocation that had occurred to Mrs. Maria Esperanza was disclosed. It had taken place at the airport Jorge Chavez of Lima on the night of 12th of July. That night she had been received at the airport by Mrs. Katheleen de Chebly and by Mrs. Nilda de Agois, and then immediately conducted to her hotel. It is important to know that when Mrs. Maria Esperanza was still in the airport of Venezuela, she wanted to give some religious cards to some young people, but she did not have any left. However, on Friday, July 14, some of her friends, who had just arrived at Lima, began talking at the airport with a police woman with Peruvian features and a kind glance. She asked if they were Venezuelan, and if they were part of the group that arrived on Wednesday with Mrs. Maria Esperanza. After answering affirmatively, they told her more about Mrs. Maria Esperanza and about the apparitions of the Virgin in Betania. The policewoman said she recalled well the “lady in the small hat” because she had spoken with the staff for approximately two hours, she talked about their problems, and when she was ready to leave she gave each one a card of Our Lady of Betania. Knowing that Mrs. Maria Esperanza was not expecting anyone else, because – at the time – her party was complete, she did not hesitate spending all those hours with them. Then, the policewoman concluded by saying, “It was like an act of charity to us. It was beautiful.”
In this supernatural environment, Mrs. Maria Esperanza was interviewed by Channel 7 and by Radio Maria. And she gave moving speeches, accompanied by the Betania Choir, at the auditorium in Colegio Juan XXIII, in Miraflores, and in Iglesia Maria Reina after a beautiful Mass celebrated by Monsignor Rosca.
Mrs. Maria Esperanza and her group immediately traveled to Guayaquil, Ecuador from July 20th to 25th; another country tied to hers by the common bonds in the history of their freedom. This time they were invited by His Eminence, Cardinal Bernardino Echeverria and the Bucaram family. Only hours after landing, in a conference room of Hotel Oro Verde, she was interviewed by Channels 2 and 12 for the T.V. programs: “Complicidades” and “Joao y Priscilla” respectively; and by the journal “El Universo”, and the magazine “El Vistazo”. During the following days, she visited the monument to Sucre and San Martin, she addressed the audience after Masses at the Coliseo del Colegio Javier; she gathered with a large group of seminarians; after Holy Mass celebrated by Monsignor Cuadrado in the Chapel of Colegio San José de la Salle she was invited to the altar to address – for the last time – the Ecuadorian people, who had congregated there wishing to meet and hear her; she answered interesting questions during a meeting with members of “Movimientos marianos del Ecuador”; and said good-bye to Ecuador by visiting the sanctuary of Blessed Narcisa de Jesus.
From November 3rd to 23rd Mrs. Maria Esperanza accompanied by a group of 40 traveled to Holy Land, the land that saw Our Lord Jesus Christ walk its territory, and to the eternal city of Rome, the base of Christianity; due to the initiative of the spiritual movement “As the Spirit Leads” directed by the Mariani family. Mentioning the places they visited, we must name: the Church of Our Father, the Garden of Getsemani, the Church of Saint Ann where her mortal remains are deposited and those of Saint Joaquin, the Western Wall, the Via Dolorosa, and the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. And the environment would turn even more spiritual, with the affectionate words that Mrs. Mari Esperanza would daily address her group in their bus.
On November 7 the group went to Bethlehem. There, in the Church of the Nativity – and in all the other places where they met with the group of North Americans – Holy Mass was celebrated. The other group came with the Mariani family and was accompanied by Fathers: Joe Griffin, Peter Rookey, and Wallace. Each Mass would be adorned with the voices of the Betania Choir. Later, that day Mrs. Maria Esperanza gave her first public speech in the Church of Saint John the Baptist. That night, and most of them, was devoted to meeting in which each one would talk about the importance of the place and trip.
Bethany, that transcendental site to all, welcomed Mrs. Maria Esperanza with a special and wonderful touch. In the Church of Saint Lazarus Holy Mass was celebrated, followed by the visit to the famous House of Lazarus, Martha y Mary, and when they went down to the Tomb of Lazarus, Mrs. Maria Esperanza shared some very important ideas. To complete the day, the journey back was made passing by the Dead Sea. On the next day, in a very big conference room of the Hotel Renaissance, Mrs. Maria Esperanza gave a heartfelt speech to the members of both pilgrimages.
At Mount Zion they visited the Abbey of the Dormition; then, the Cenacle, the place of the memorable Last Supper, where Mrs. Maria Esperanza shared some important meditations. When leaving, they went down to the Tomb of King David that is located beneath the Cenacle. A particular and incredible event took place there: An older man with Hebrew features all of a sudden entered, crossing a gate that separated the tourists from the tomb of King David. He pulled back the mantle from the tomb. Then, he asked Mrs. Maria Esperanza to enter. She knelt beside the wooden grave, laid her head on the ground and kissed the tomb. The tourist guide asserted that she had never witnessed such a thing. Afterwards, another man came and took Mrs. Maria Esperanza to another small room that was close by, and lit a candle that he gave her while praying in Hebrew. To bid Jerusalem goodbye, they went to the Hebrew University where they enjoyed a magnificent last view of the city. From there they crossed Jericho to sight-see the city and the Mount of Temptations, and then they passed by the border with Jordania until they reached the Sea of Galilee.
Saturday, November 11, was one of the most beautiful days of the trip. They went to Lake Tiberiades where they all embarked a regular size ship, commanded by two crew members, to navigate around the lake. Once they were in the middle of the lake, the Captain turned off the engine so everyone could fully appreciate the landscape and peacefully listen to the splendid words Mrs. Maria Esperanza gave inspired by Jesus and Mary. Back at the port, they disembarked and directly went to a special room of Museum Beit Igal Alon to see the famous barge of Jesus, which the group already knew about through a vision and a mystical experience Mrs. Maria Esperanza had recently had in Betania, Venezuela. The barge was immersed in a warm solution of synthetic wax. Then, they went to another room to watch a video where the feat related to the barge was described. After the movie, the group realized several outstanding facts: First, according to the tests that were carried out the ship was built during the period of time when Jesus traveled the world, and Mrs. Maria Esperanza had had a vision in which she had seen a barge that she assured was the ship of Jesus; and, secondly, the barge had been covered with polietileno so it would not crumble, and Mrs. Maria Esperanza had felt the need to spiritually blow at the boat so it would not fall into pieces and everyone could embark on it. At noon, Holy Mass was celebrated at the Mount of Beatitudes with the North Americans in a precious open-chapel that had a wonderful view to the lake. The Betania Choir interpreted some songs and to conclude, Mrs. Maria Esperanza, addressed some beautiful words to those present there. The afternoon was devoted to explore the Church of the Annunciation in Nazaret where they visited the house of the Blessed Mother and the place where the Archangel Gabriel announced her conception. A Franciscan-Spaniard Father appeared to the sound of the music of the Betania Choir, and, delighted with Mrs. Maria Esperanza and her family, he opened the gates to the altar so everyone could enter.
The waters of the Jordan River bathed and renewed everyone once Mrs. Maria Esperanza gave her motherly blessing with such wonderful waters. Mount Tabor offered its beauty to celebrate Holy Mass at the Basilica of the Transfiguration and all were able to hear a message full of love from Mrs. Maria Esperanza. Capernaum showed the synagogue the Centurion ordered to build so Jesus could preach there, and it also let everyone see the Church that was built over the house of Peter the Apostle. To end the day, Tabgha multiplied hope in the Church of the Multiplication of the Bread, when kissing the stone upon which the miracle of the multiplication of the bread and fish took place.
In Haifa they visited the Monastery “Stella Maris”. And in Tel Aviv they went to the Church of Saint Peter where, to close the pilgrimage, Holy Mass was celebrated, Mrs. Maria Esperanza addressed heartfelt farewell words, and shared with each person individually, while the Betania Choir bid goodbye with their music.
Rome, with its magnificence, welcomed their eternal feeling of Christian commitment – that had developed even more in Holy Land. Commemorating this, on Thursday, November 16 Holy Mass was celebrated by Father Higgins in a conference room of the Hotel Michelangelo with the group of Sister Margaret Sims. On this occasion, she was not able to make the pilgrimage, thus Carol Cohoon and Rose Finnegan were responsible for the organization. The Choir sang and at the end of Holy Mass, Mrs. Maria Esperanza offered some words to the people, and filled them with nice gifts she had brought from Israel. During their stay in Rome, they visited the Basilica of Saint Peter; the site where the Bianchini couple met; the Church of Saint Ann; Lake di Bracciano; Instituto Rabasco; the Church and headquarters of the Opus Dei where they visited the tomb of Blessed Father Jose Maria Escriva de Balaguer and participated in a Holy Mass in the Chapel; and, they also had the honor of accompanying the Pope, John Paul II, to pray the Angelus, and of receiving his fatherly blessing.
This year of arduous public work for Mrs. Maria Esperanza ended with the celebration of her birthday. It was so appropriate because her work was always to give life, to revive faith in the life of man, to share the good news of “loving one another” of the Lord and his Mother, and, to celebrate the joy of being part of the great family of God.