Catholic school community prays for Medjugorje pilgrims injured in bus crash

ST. FRANCIS, Wis. (CNS) – Members of the Trinity Academy family began keeping vigil in the school's chapel on the afternoon of June 11 when they received word of a bus accident in Bosnia-Herzegovina involving nine members of their school community.

Trinity Academy is an independent Catholic school located in Pewaukee, 20 miles west of Milwaukee, Wis..

The bus, carrying 34 Americans, 27 of them from the Milwaukee Archdiocese, collided with a truck in Tarcin, a city about 12 miles south of Sarajevo. The bus tumbled about 40 feet down an embankment and ended up in a river.

The crash injured 27 Americans and the Bosnian driver. Frank "Andy" Meier, a member of St. Anthony Parish in Milwaukee, who was traveling with his wife, Elizabeth, and their children, Sammy, Madeline and Frankie, was the most seriously injured, according to Liz Noack, a Trinity Academy parent.

Meier sustained back and head injuries but pulled through an initial surgery. The school community is receiving regular telephone updates from Bosnia from Elizabeth Meier.

The group left Wisconsin June 10 for an 11-day pilgrimage to Medjugorje with a tour group.

Father Rick Wendell, associate pastor of Holy Angels Parish in West Bend, was serving as spiritual adviser for the group, which had planned to go to the site of alleged Marian apparitions visited by thousands of pilgrims annually.

According to Milwaukee archdiocesan spokeswoman Kathleen Hohl, the group was not sponsored by the archdiocese or a local parish.

Father Wendell called Barb Vander Wielen, the parish's secretary, from Bosnia June 12. The priest, who has a broken wrist, explained that the bus swerved to avoid a truck that had jackknifed when it hit the guardrail and went down the hill.

While some members of the group were being treated for injuries, about 16 in the group went on to Medjugorje as planned.

According to Noack, two of the Meier children were hospitalized overnight for observation, but their injuries did not appear serious. Elizabeth Meier suffered cuts, bruises and a black eye.

Even though school is out for the summer at Trinity Academy, Noack said school families gathered at the school almost immediately after receiving news of the accident. By the evening the chapel was filled.

"We initially heard the news about 3:30 p.m. and when I came over here at 5 p.m. I could not believe how many people were here," Noack told the Catholic Herald, archdiocesan newspaper of Milwaukee.

Noack was moved by the strong show of support and said she was grateful for the school and her Catholic faith and "being around the kind of people" who consider it important to immediately gather for prayer in a crisis situation.

Visitors have been flocking to the Bosnian village of Medjugorje for 26 years since six child visionaries claimed to have received visits from Mary. Since 1981, the alleged visionaries together claim to have received more than 30,000 messages. The Vatican continues to monitor events at Medjugorje where the apparitions allegedly continue, but it has not taken a formal position other than to support the Bosnian bishops' ban on official pilgrimages.

Last July, Bosnian Cardinal Vinko Puljic of Sarajevo announced a commission would be formed to review the alleged apparitions.


By Cheri Perkins Mantz and Maryangela Layman Roman
6/14/2007 -

Last Updated ( Sunday, 09 December 2012 )