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Our Lady of Beauraing, the Virgin with the Golden Heart

By Kayla Harris

On Nov. 29, 1932, five children in the village of Beauraing, Belgium, had a vision of the Blessed Virgin Mary dressed all in white, walking above them on a railway bridge.

Fernande Voisin, 15, and her brother, Albert, 11, had been walking to meet their sister, Gilberte, 13, at the nearby Catholic boarding school where she was a day student. Their two friends, Andree and Gilberte Degeimbre, 14 and 9, joined them along the way. As Albert reached the door of the school to knock, the vision appeared, her knees moving underneath her robes but her feet seemingly obscured by clouds. Frightened, all of the children pounded on the door as hard as they could. When Sister Valeria opened the door, she was confused by the frantic children but dismissed their story as nonsense — though Gilberte Voisin also saw the vision when she arrived at the door after gathering her things.

Over the next five weeks, the children reported 32 more visits from the Blessed Mother, the final one occurring on Jan. 3, 1933. The children described the woman as wearing a long white dress with a white veil, a golden crown of light, and her hands together in prayer in front of her chest. During her appearance on Dec. 29, she opened her arms to display a golden heart.

In 1935, Bishop Thomas-Louis Heylan of the Belgian regional diocese of Namur formed a commission to investigate the apparitions. Eight years later, in 1943, his successor, Bishop André-Marie Charue, authorized public devotion to the title “Our Lady of Beauraing,” and the apparition received recognition as authentic in 1949. Every year on Nov. 29, Mary is celebrated under the title “Our Lady of Beauraing,” also known as the “Virgin with the Golden Heart.” 

The Marian Library has many items in the collections related to this popular Marian title, including circulating material found in the library catalog, as well as noncirculating material, such as statues, pamphlets, and archival collections. 

The Pro Maria Committee 

In 1949 in Lowell, Massachusetts, Father Joseph Debergh, O.M.I., founded the Pro Maria Committee to disseminate the story of Mary’s 33 appearances in Beauraing through pamphlets, tours and other forms of promotion. Debergh worked closely with the Marian Library and, along with Don Sharkey, was awarded the Marian Library Medal for their book Our Lady of Beauraing in 1958. Debergh was also responsible for translating and obtaining permission to publish documents from Bishop Charue in the Marian Library publication Marian Reprints. 

In the 1970s, the Pro Maria Committee donated to the Marian Library three binders of photographs, holy cards and other images that document the history and activities relating to the apparitions. The photographs include a mix of originals taken by committee members during pilgrimages to the shrine in the 1950s and ’60s and reproductions of photos taken around the time of the original apparitions in 1932-33. A selection of the images are digitized and available for download in eCommons, with a complete finding aid available for reference in the University Libraries’ archival database, ArchivesSpace. 

Another related collection, the Pro Maria Committee translations on Beauraing apparitions, includes several manuscripts in both French and English by Aurelien Pierroux, the first secretary of the Pro Maria Committee. These manuscripts include lecture notes from a tour across the United States; information on the “Beauraing” Way of the Cross; and an essay about Beauraing during World War II, among others.  

Sources and Further Reading

Kayla Harris is an assistant professor and librarian/archivist in the Marian Library.

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