Medjugorje, a small Croatian farming village nestled in the hills of Herzegovina (its name translates to “between the mountains”), was first mentioned historically in 1599. The current parish of Medjugorje was founded in 1892, pastored by Croatian Franciscan friars and dedicated to the apostle St James the Greater, patron saint of pilgrims. The currentchurch building replaced the original church in 1969 to accommodate parishioners from the five local villages, which make up the parish of Medjugorje.
One of these villages, Bijakovici, is situated along the base of a rocky hillside that borders the fertile valley. This tiny hamlet of stone houses is home to the six children who, in the summer of 1981, experienced something that would change their lives and their parish forever. Around 6 pm on June 24, 1981, the Feast of St. John the Baptist, two teenage girls named Ivanka and Mirjana were walking near the outskirts of their village when they noticed a beautiful young woman holding an infant in her arms standing among the rocks and bramble on the hillside. She did not speak, but gestured for them to come closer. Some other children alerted by the girls also saw the vision. The children ran home, surprised and frightened, although they immediately thought the woman to be the Blessed Virgin Mary.
On the following evening, June 25th, six of the children returned to the spot. They were Ivanka Ivankovic, Mirjana Dragicevic, Vicka Inabkovic, Ivan Dragicevic, Marija Pavlovic and Jakov Colo, ages 10 – 16. Their families and others who had heard of the experience followed them. Upon reaching the place, they saw a flash of light. Looking up the hillside, they saw Our Lady, this time without the child. She was smiling, joyful and indescribably beautiful. She gestured with her hands for them to come closer.When they came before her, the children immediately knelt and began to pray with Our Lady. She spoke with the children, told them not to be afraid, and introduced herself as the Queen of Peace. On the evening of June 26th, the children sprinkled holy water onto the vision saying “If you are the Blessed Mother please stay, but if you are not go away from us.” At this, Our Lady smiled and stayed. Many have come to the village since then, both believers and skeptics. The children and priests underwent many trials and tests, especially from the communist government. Our Lady remained, however, to bring hope and peace to the world through the six village children who were the first to respond to her call.