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Conyers, Georgia(religion, spiritualism, and occult)
In the 1990s, Conyers, a small town near Atlanta, Georgia, became the site of a series of claimed visitations by the Virgin Mary to a woman named Nancy Fowler. During these apparitions, Mary was generally referred to as Our Loving Mother.
Fowler’s first encounter with Mary occurred in the 1980s when she was living in Atlanta, and included instructions to move to Conyers, where she purchased a farm. For a period of eleven years she experienced frequent visitations that began to attract large crowds. On August 15, 1991, a shrine was dedicated, and beginning on September 13, 1991, monthly gatherings for the regular apparitions of Mary were held. In all, she appeared forty-nine times, monthly for three and a half years and then annually (each October 13) through 1998. The apparitions call to memory the 1917 apparitions at Fatima, which also occurred on the thirteenth day of each month. The last Fatima apparition was on October 13, 1917. In addition to the more formal apparitions to Fowler, a number of the visitors to the site have also claimed to have had personal visitations.
The apparitions generally occurred at a spot behind the Fowler residence that came to be known as Holy Hill. The visible focus for pilgrims is a life-size statue of the Virgin as she appeared at Fatima. There was also a large crucifix and a well from which water, believed to have healing qualities, was drawn. The apparitionsgenerally occurred within the shrine room that Fowler would enter at noon on the appointed day. She would describe what she was seeing and the content of any message she received. One of her assistants would relay the message to the gathered faithful.
The archbishop of Atlanta has assumed a neutral stance toward the apparitions. He has both noted the good that has come from them in strengthening the spiritual life of many, but at the same time he has ordered the priests of the archdiocese not to identify themselves with the farm or say mass there. He has also refused to start any formal investigation, although a large file on the apparitions is being accumulated at the Chancery offices. In 1998 the Ukrainian Catholic Church (an Eastern-rite church in full communion with Rome) established a parish on land adjacent to the Fowler farm. This parish is under a Ukrainian bishop, not the archbishop of Atlanta. It has opened a center on the property and announced plans to build a retreat center nearby.
In 1993 a team led by Dr. Riccardo Castanon, a professor of neuropsychophysiology at the Catholic University of Bolivia, conducted a series of tests on Fowler. He reported that she was entering various altered states of consciousness during the apparitions and did not show any signs of psychopathology. While not verifying the apparitions, Castanon’s work did include criticisms of them.
Also in the early 1990s, a nonprofit corporation, Our Loving Mother’s Children, was formed. It took charge of the program at the apparition site and has tried to ensure all that no individual is experiencing financial gain from the offerings of the many pilgrims. The corporation led the development of a welcoming environment for the tens of thousands who regularly visit. However, in 1999 Fowler had disagreements with the corporation and officially disassociated herself from it. Then in 2000, Our Loving Mother’s Children turned over the management and operational responsibility for the site to the Ukrainian Catholic Church, though it remains active in promoting the site.