Virgin Mary Appears on Press Pad
Ian P. Murphy, Editor, American Drycleaner
Published 06/08/2009 - 10:00 a.m. CT
HARLINGEN, Texas — Over the last several years, likenesses of the Virgin Mary have been sighted in a highway underpass, on a tortilla and even on a grilled-cheese sandwich. But two weeks ago, the Blessed Virgin made her first appearance at a drycleaning plant.
Janie Guerra, a pants presser at Comet Cleaners in Harlingen, Texas, had just finished her lunchtime prayers when she returned to the press. Soon after lifting the press head and hangering another pair of pants, she noticed a distinctive silhouette on the pad.
“I pick up the pants, and I see the Virgin Mary,” Guerra says. “I wasn’t sure, so I asked Emma [Martinez, puff operator] if she saw the Virgin, too, and she said yes. I felt like I wanted to cry and felt a cold sweat. It was a surprise to everyone.”
Martinez quickly snapped a picture with her cell phone camera and called operator Buddy Fischer, who was attending a funeral service at the time. “I’m not a skeptic — I believe,” he says. Having survived a brain aneurysm, prostate cancer and the murder of one son, he says, “I have no doubts about who was riding shotgun.
“When I saw the picture, I said, ‘you have got to be kidding me,’” he says of the apparition, which most closely resembles a Virgin Mary of Guadelupe. “When you see this, you see it. It leaves nothing to the imagination — it’s that clear.”
Soon, a local television crew showed up to tape a report. “As the owner of a new business, I’ll take divine intervention,” he told them. “If the Virgin Mary chooses my store to bless, who am I to complain?”
Instead of allowing would-be pilgrims to tramp across the production floor, however, Fischer made copies of the cell-phone picture and handed them out. “This place is truly blessed,” a local priest told him.
While a grilled-cheese sandwich featuring the likeness of the Virgin sold on eBay for $24,000 in 2004, Fischer felt it would be wrong to profit from the apparition. In fact, he kept using the press, and the image soon faded. “I had to,” he says. “I had 700 pairs of pants to press.