The Virgin Mary at Coogee: A Preliminary Investigation

Carole M Cusack


In the context of modern Roman Catholicism, Marian apparitions are usually traced to that received by Catherine Laboure, a Parisian Sister of Charity, in 1830 (Zimdars-Swartz, 1991: 26). Until the mid twentieth century, these apparitions grew in significance and were the medium for the transmission of increasingly apocalyptic messages. From the 1960s onward the Western world has become substantially secularised, with the influence of Christianity in public life being on the wane; and also re-enchanted by the rise in adherence to Eastern religions and esoteric traditions (Lambert, 1999). Marian apparitions continue to be an important part of Catholic piety, but some (such as Medjugorje, commencing in 1981 and continuing to the present) have attracted the attention of other Christians, pluralists and secularists, largely due to media coverage (Seward, 1993). The apparition of the Virgin Mary at Coogee, a seaside suburb of Sydney, was first revealed to the press in January 2003 by a local resident, Christine Cherry, of the Beach Street Gallery Laundrette.  Throughout January and early February it drew increasing crowds. A crisis point was reached on Sunday 9 February, when it was discovered that during the previous night, the fence that facilitated the appearance of Mary had been demolished by vandals. However, the fence was restored and the phenomenon continues. This paper considers modern Marian apparitions; traces the progress of the Coogee phenomenon; locates it in the context of other apparitions of the Virgin, including documented Australian cases; and makes some suggestions regarding the future of the Coogee apparition, which may be understood as a broadly spiritual phenomenon, open to all rather than confined to Catholics.

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