By: Cimela Kidonakis
This is one of the most exciting posts for us to share! If you’ve seen our latest film Where There is Darkness, then you will understand why.
A few weeks ago, a group of pilgrims from Iowa gathered in Mirjana’s family’s guesthouse (where our groups stay) to watch our new film, Where There is Darkness, while they were on pilgrimage in Medjugorje.
It was beautiful to see their response to the film and, like most viewers, they were especially touched by two particular women in the movie: Bobbie Jean Murray and Crystal Murray.
Marilyn, one of the pilgrim leaders from Iowa, said she felt that the sisters of convicted murderer Steven Murray, who are all in the film, should come to Medjugorje. They shared a tragic childhood that left deep wounds in each of them.
Sean, Jessi and I have always felt the same, and even while working on the movie we began telling them about Medjugorje. They had never heard of it before, but they were very intrigued. We told them that one day we wanted to bring them here.
The decision to invite the sisters happened just a few weeks ago. When we asked Bobbie Jean and Crystal if they wanted to join our anniversary pilgrimage, they immediately said yes! But it wasn’t that easy.
We knew that Crystal had a great fear of flying. She lives in Indiana and her sister, Bobbie Jean, lives in Florida. Whenever they’ve made plans to meet up, Crystal always chooses to drive through a few states instead of flying to meet Bobbie Jean.
When we told her about this trip to Bosnia & Herzegovina, we knew there was a high chance that she might not make it because of the international flights. However, both girls were very intrigued by Medjugorje.
When we first met the Murray sisters, we gave them the film Apparition Hill since they didn’t know too much about us and our work at Stella Mar Films. By seeing this film, they could see our storytelling and learn about a place that has inspired us to our core.
Bobbie Jean watched Apparition Hill a few times and even had some gatherings where she would play the film. After talking to Bobbie Jean, Crystal mustered the courage to say yes to the pilgrimage. With her sister by her side, she could do anything. It’s a testament to the bond they have since they were children.
They also had to apply for passports for the first time! They’ve never left the country. We helped them get expedited passports, but it still led to a delay for their departure. But because of that delay, their pilgrimage will last through July 2nd so they can be present at Mirjana’s upcoming apparition.
Before they got on the plane, Crystal heard serious news from her doctor that her heart wasn’t doing so well after some tests; her heart problems stem from the effects of her abusive childhood.
The doctor advised her not to go. Bobbie Jean and Crystal met with the doctor and said that as soon as she came back from this trip of a lifetime that they would run the other tests. So the doctor gave them some medication to take on the trip.
Then when Bobbie Jean and Crystal were on the way to the airport, Crystal lost part of her front tooth while eating a sandwich. She told us she really wanted to turn back but knew that she could not miss this flight and that anything that tried to stop her would fail! She was called to be in Medjugorje and together her and Bobbie Jean kept going.
Crystal and Bobbie Jean arrived on the 38th Anniversary of Medjugorje! Mirjana had a delicious cake for our group.
Mirjana and Miki were so excited to meet Bobbie Jean and Crystal, and vice-versa. A few months ago we had a premiere in the nearby theater in Mostar and Mirjana, her family, and our friends in the area had come out to see the film. Mirjana was so inspired by these sisters and felt deeply for what they endured as children.
Many locals and pilgrims know Bobbie Jean and Crystal’s story. They know the story of their brother Steven Murray who took the life of Fr. Rene. Steven’s sisters are two of the “lights” in Where There is Darkness. They often ask people to pray for their brother. They speak about forgiveness and they live it.
While we were filming, we found out that Fr. Rene had been to Medjugorje several times. He had souvenirs from his trips and came with pilgrimage groups. His sister told us it was a very special trip for him. The first night Bobbie Jean and Crystal arrived they were hanging by the church and saw a man in a brown robe and sandals and said it reminded them of Fr. Rene. There are many Franciscans in Medjugorje but it’s nice to think his spirit is here with us.
Before the sisters arrived, our pilgrimage group was asking if we could have a movie night of Where There is Darkness as they’d heard so much about the film. We decided to keep it secret about our special guests.
Bobbie Jean and Crystal watched the film with the group and when it was over we introduced them. It was very emotional for everyone who had just seen the film, and Bobbie Jean and Crystal answered their questions.
Father Romeo from Corpus Christi, Texas was present for the movie and he even gave the sisters a special blessing after the film.
They climbed Apparition Hill with Miki!
They say this is the most peaceful place they’ve been too. Although they don’t know all of the prayers as they do not come from a Catholic background, they are enjoying learning more about this place and hearing all of Miki’s stories.
Today they visited Cenacolo Community. By “coincidence” the young man who greeted us spent the last few years in the Cenacolo Community in St. Augustine, Florida.
We love these sisters so much and they often tell us that being a part of this film has had an enormously positive impact on their lives. Crystal sent us this beautiful and sweet reflection a few months ago:
“Just sitting here on my porch this morning drinking coffee listing to the rain fall. And just feeling so thankful and blessed for were I am at today in my life, and were I am going. And with that I think of y’all because without y’all I don’t believe I would be were I am at right now. Y’all have helped me over come my fear of my past, … I cried twenty times on my wedding day I think but I walked that aisle thro the tears and was happy as I ever been. We may struggle some days but have so many more good and blessed ones then bad and on the bad day we pull together and know that and pull through. I actually have goals now we do together I never had that. I never believed in myself enough and knew just how strong I really am! All them years I blamed my past but once I hit adult it wasn’t my past no more it was me keeping myself from being the best me! … Thank y’all because y’all doing this film helped me so much more then you can imagine along with so many others. Y’all are a blessing.”
To share Medjugorje with them was a dream for us, and we know it is what Fr. Rene would have wanted for them. We are so grateful for their courage to share their story and are inspired by the way they live forgiveness and love. They are also such inspiring mothers and have beautiful children back home.
Tomorrow we climb Cross Mountain at 4AM. Good night and love to all of our apostles of love community! We’ll update you soon on the rest of their pilgrimage, and if you haven’t seen Where There Is Darkness yet, please consider bringing it to your area by hosting a screening.