While cutting down trees at the Holy Mary Parish Church in Rathkeale, Co Limerick, on Monday, 6 July 2009, the workmen discovered an image in one of the stumps. Noel White, chairman of the Rathkeale Community Council Graveyard Committee described the discovery:
“One of the lads said look, our Blessed Lady in the tree. One of the other lads looked over and actually knelt down and blessed himself, he got such a shock. It was the perfect shape of the figure of Our Lady holding the baby.”
Church representatives were not particularly impressed with the image in the stump, though. “I have seen the tree … it’s only a tree,” said Father Willie Russell, a local parish priest.
And diocesan spokesman, Father Paul Finnery said: “The Church’s response to phenomena of this type is one of great skepticism. While we do not wish in any way to detract from devotion to Our Lady, we would also wish to avoid anything which might lead to superstition.”
Regardless of the Church’s position, people from all over the country were coming to see the stump, and a petition to keep the stump at the church had received thousands of signatures.
BBC News Online, 9 July 2009