HALLETTSVILLE - The faithful say miracles happen here.

There's no cross that marks the spot, no grotto or church.

A lone warped metal post stuck in the ground like an unloved child is all that commemorates the actual place where 23 years ago, a farmer had a vision.

"He looked up and he said, 'Now what am I going to do?'" said Viola Jares, 90, who remembered the day her husband, Daniel, saw a glowing apparition of the Virgin Mary in their pasture. "The Blessed Mother appeared to him beautiful and she said, 'Get on your tractor and go home.' And he came home and he couldn't talk. He was like in a trance."

Daniel Jares was out in his fields spreading fertilizer about four miles west of town when he saw the apparition of the saint and returned to his wife "glowing."

The Virgin Mary, dressed in a white flowing gown with a crown on her head, appeared to him when his truck became stuck.

Daniel Jares, who has since died, was known to be a religious man, Viola Jares said. When he was younger, he'd hoped to attend seminary, but became a farmer instead. He often saw visions of the Virgin, including once at the nuclear plant in Bay City where he worked.

"He was set in his beliefs. Very strong in his beliefs," said Doris Janak, who knew Daniel Jares. "You have to give him a lot of credit for speaking up for what he believed in."

After the vision, the saint asked Daniel Jares to build a shrine for travelers to stop and pray a few yards from the road.

The shrine is humble. A small red gazebo shelters an altar in a pecan grove near a creek and a bench where people can pray. Inside, a statue of the Virgin Mary stretches her arms above a semi-circle of religious candles. A cork board littered with pictures, notes and pleas to the Virgin line the side of the wall. A small metal collection box for donations is all the funds that help keep the place maintained.

"There's people that feel like they'll never go into a church," said Neil Liere, who helps maintains the shrine. "Here, nobody will look at you, nobody will judge you."

Jares said travelers from all over the country often stop here, pray or stay late into the night.

David Fritz, a Wisconsin resident, travels down once a year to visit the shrine. He stays sometimes for weeks planting or praying in a house across from the shrine.

"It's a very peaceful place, and I feel very close to the Blessed Mother there," he said. "She has helped so many souls get to heaven using her intercession and guidance to really help bring people to Jesus through Mary."

The Catholic church has no association with that particular apparition, said Cindy Brewer, communications personnel with the Diocese of Victoria.

"The Catholic church does recognize some personal apparitions after much investigation," she said. "However, the Catholic church does not require one to accept even these recognized or approved apparitions."

And there are many in the area who are skeptical.

"Myself, it's hard to believe," said Janak said. "But I'm not discrediting it because this area has been very well blessed."

But, Liere doesn't give much thought to those who don't believe Daniel Jares' story.

"He might be crazy, but guess what he's seen, Mary," Liere said. "You think back in Jesus' time they probably thought he was crazy."

Liere and other faithful believers claim prayers have been answered here, cancer cured and injured limbs healed.

Daniel Jares' son, Frank, who helps maintain the shrine, believes it's all a matter of personal faith.

"The only thing that it takes is for a person to listen and go," Jares said. "If they listen and they follow through they can see miracles with their own eyes."

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