At about the same time Saturday, May 13, as Pope Francis canonized two children to whom the Blessed Mother appeared in Fatima, another child who witnessed a Marian apparition was being memorialized and buried in a place of honor in lower Manhattan.
John Curry was the youngest of 15 people who witnessed an apparition of the Blessed Mother, St. Joseph, St. John the Evangelist, a lamb and cross on an altar at the gable wall of the parish church in the village of Knock in County Mayo, Ireland, August, 1879. Five-year-old Curry sat on his cousin’s shoulders as the group recited the rosary as they watched the “beautiful things” for two hours in the pouring rain.
Rain was falling again on Saturday at the Basilica of St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral as Curry’s remains, which had been in an unmarked grave on Long Island for decades, were re-interred in the church yard there to give him the “prominence and esteem he deserves,” according to Cardinal Timothy Dolan, who presided at Mass concelebrated with Rockville Centre Bishops John Barres and Robert Brennan before the burial.
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Photos by Ed Casey
Among the many honored guests at the Mass at Old St. Patrick’s were some of Curry’s relatives, representatives from Irish-American Catholic societies, dignitaries, and a delegation of pilgrims from Ireland led by Father Richard Gibbons, rector of the Shrine of Our Lady of Knock.
When Cardinal Dolan visited the Knock shrine in 2015, Father Gibbons told him that the youngest seer’s remains rested in obscurity in New York. Cardinal Dolan called that the “spark” which resulted in moving the remains to the more-prominent location in the parish cemetery and erecting a black marble monument declaring Curry “witness to the apparition at Knock.”
In search of work, Curry first came to New York in 1897 at the age of 25. He lived in London from 1900 until 1911, then returned to the U.S. He worked as a railroad laborer near Milwaukee, before settling in New York in the 1920s, where remained for the rest of his life. In 1932, poor and in declining health, Curry moved into a home run by the Little Sisters of the Poor on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. There, he assisted at daily Mass and cleaned the dining room. He died in 1943 and the Sisters buried him in a donated plot.
Cardinal Dolan called Curry “an immigrant who really only distinguished himself by his simplicity, his humility, his kindness and his piety.” According to Father Gibbons, Curry lived a life of humility and devotion to the Blessed Mother and only spoke about his experiences that night in Knock when asked about it.
When the Church launched an official inquiry a few months after the occurrence, then-five-year-old Curry could simply describe his experience as seeing “beautiful things.” In 1936 to 1937 the Church conducted a second inquiry interviewing the three surviving witnesses and Curry was able to explain in much greater detail. He said he “recalled it as if it were last night,” according to Father Gibbons. “It appeared to me that they were alive, but they didn’t speak. One of the women there, Bridget Trench, kissed the Blessed Virgin’s feet and tried to put her arms around the feet but there was nothing there but the picture. I saw her do that. The figures were life-size and I will remember them till I go to my grave,” he testified.
At Saturday’s Mass at the Basilica of St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral, Father Gibbons presented Msgr. Donald Sakano, pastor, with an original piece of clay from the gable wall at Knock Shrine, which was immediately put on display at the church. “We are here, I think, as a moment of solidarity… but also recognizing how humility can reach so many hearts,” Gibbons said. “How humility is the great witness.”
Following Mass, Curry’s casket was carried by members of the Ancient Order of Hibernians to its new resting place where final respects were paid and closing prayers were said.