Monday 29th of October in 1945, a young boy of 9 years of age claimed to have seen a woman on a vacant lot just behind his home on Villa Avenue (Blue house on 3194 Villa Ave). He was not the first to see her. His friends, two Caucasian females and one African American female were the first. They told him about the lady. He did not see her at first until the girls told him to pray. After he prayed and Our Father, Hail Mary and Glory be, the lady appeared to him and called him by named to approach her. The apparitions were daily at 7 PM until November 14, according to the boy named Joseph Vitolo.
Vitolo was an Italian born to Italian immigrants. He claimed that this woman was about 5 feet tall and was dressed in a similar manner as Our Lady of Lourdes or Fatima. He described her as wearing all white, standing on a crescent moon holding blue Rosary beads with a Golden Magen David (Star of David) on her chest and wearing a 12-star crown. On other occasions, she wore all blue (light blue) and pink and black. The lady came to be known as Our Lady of the Universe or Our Lady of the Concourse.
As news spread, many thousands flocked to the spot in hopes of witnessing or experiencing something supernatural. In fact, as many as 30,000 packed the Grand Concourse praying the Rosary and hoping for a sign or miracle. Some claimed to have experienced healing or other miracles. Vitolo would pray while touching their heads and the people with illnesses would be cured.
The apparitions did not contain any secrets or major supernatural messages other than a request to pray the Rosary for peace. There was no promise of a warning, sign, miracle or anything supernatural. The request was simple and prayerful. On one occasion, Our Lady asked Vitolo if he knew who Bernadette was. He replied that he did not. She told him to do as she did. On another occasion, Vitolo claimed that Our Lady had beads that broke. She bent to pick them up and told him that one is missing. No one seems to understand the meaning of this incident or if it were Rosary beads that broke either on purpose or by accident. The incident remains a mystery. Our lady even told Vitolo that if he studies hard, goes to church, prays that he will be cleansed of his sins and can become a priest. She also said that the people should build a church on the spot of her appearance.
Vitolo stated that he would pray the Our Father, Hail Mary and Glory be and then Our Lady would make her appearance before him at around 7:00 PM. She would appear to him for about 5 to 10 minutes; however, observers around him claimed that he was there for almost an hour in ecstasy and without motion in a stance of prayer. During the apparition, those present claimed that all the votive candles on the spot turned off except for the one in the center. There was one moment on Halloween October 31, 1945, where some in the crowd voiced their disbelief at the child and then the votive candles would turn off without interference from anyone or anything visible. This would silence the skeptics in the crowd. On the last night of the apparitions, some claimed to have witnessed the “sky opening” and what looked like an angel descending. Others did not see the alleged angel, only the sky opening while some claimed to have seen the Virgin Mary ascending into the opening.
The apparitions were never officially approved, but the nearby St. Philip Neri church holds special Masses at the shrine on the anniversaries of the first and last reported visitations.
1945 Bronx, New York, United States