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 | By Matt Riedl

'The Kids are Seeing Jesus'

In a small chapel in a Catholic grade school in Jackson, a little over a decade ago, a small crowd of schoolchildren and teachers bore witness to what’s been described as a eucharistic miracle.

There, during an ordinary Friday adoration session, an image of our Lord manifested on the host displayed in the monstrance, say those who were present.

And though the image was no longer visible by the following morning, it’s an image that will be forever ingrained in the mind of Kathy Tarnacki.

“I’ve wondered so many times, ‘Lord, what was that?’” she says. “It’s not for me to know who it was for. I think we were all touched in different ways.”

The Image Appears

Beth Thorrez and Kathy Kryst have been leading schoolchildren in adoration on first Fridays at St. John since 2008.

Each class individually comes to the small eucharistic chapel at their assigned time to be with the Lord — and each week has a “theme” with singing, lessons and other activities for the children.

The aim is “for (the children) to establish, at a young age, that close relationship with Jesus,” Kryst says.

The morning of Feb. 5, 2011, started out no differently than any other Friday.

Father Robert Pienta exposed the host for adoration around 10:30 a.m., and classes began their usual routine of shuffling in and out of the chapel throughout the day.

A class of fifth graders was first with the monstrance that day, Kryst recalls.

Midway through their time in the chapel, the students in the front row began whispering to each other and pointing up at the host.

Something was happening, though no one was quite sure what.

At the end of their time in the chapel, the students gathered around the monstrance to examine what appeared like a “sketch” of the face of Jesus on the host.

At that point, no one was quite sure if the lighting in the room was merely playing tricks on their eyes, or if they were truly seeing what they thought they were seeing, Thorrez said.

News of this was brought to the principal, Tarnacki. She was told, “The kids are seeing Jesus.”

Not realizing that was meant literally, she responded that that it was very sweet.

It wasn’t until she stepped into the adoration chapel herself that she realized what was happening.“I didn’t know what to do, didn’t know what to make of it,” Tarnacki says. “I just had this feeling like I don’t want to leave this chapel.”

As the day progressed, the image started to change.

It grew more detailed — the shoulders began to fill out, and the chest area near the bottom of the luna began glowing “pinkish orange,” Thorrez says.

“At the time, I immediately felt the Lord was so pleased with these children and their love, their natural giving of themselves over to him,” Thorrez says. “It was a gift of faith for everyone who witnessed it.”

By mid-afternoon, word had spread throughout the school of the strange happenings in the adoration chapel. Soon students, parents and even other members of the Jackson Catholic community were coming by to glimpse the monstrance. A line formed through the school hallways, flowing out into the gym. An estimated 500 people came throughout the day to see, Kryst remembers.

Word came from the diocese to keep adoration open at the school until 8 p.m. that night, ending with benediction and the repose of the Eucharist back to the church tabernacle.

When the priests of the parish — Father Pienta, Father James Shaver and Father Cecilio Reyna — came to pick up the monstrance in the chapel, they all saw the image the schoolchildren had reported.

But once the monstrance was taken out of the school and into the parish, the image was no longer visible, Tarnacki said.

“The direction came down from the bishop the next morning — they asked that that same host be brought and put in the monstrance here, and that some people come and pray for about 20 minutes and see if that appeared again,” Kryst said. “And if not, we were to consume it.”

The image did not appear again.


In the years since, the chapel at St. John School has under-gone significant renovation, but nothing quite like the events of Feb. 5, 2011, has ever happened again.

Shortly after students came back to school the following week, they were asked to draw what they had seen.

“It was pretty amazing to me the accuracy of what they drew, how they drew his face,” Tarnacki says. “One girl drew a pretty accurate depiction in kindergarten of what she saw, but she had tears on the face of Jesus. ... She said, ‘Oh, Mrs. Tarnacki, those aren’t sad tears. Those are tears of joy because he was happy to see us.’”

What transpired that day in Jackson has not been officially deemed a eucharistic miracle, but those present say it was a life-transforming experience nonetheless.

“You’re taught that the presence is there” in the Eucharist, Kryst says, but seeing that image in that moment helped “it get from the brain down into the heart, that what they said is not just a brain fact.”