WSVN — This is the first mass at St. Marys in Pahokee. A poor farming town thats sits on the edge of Lake Okeechobee. The last place you would expect to be able to build a brand new church in a bad economy, but they did.
Patrick Fraser: "This church was built in Pahokee thru enormous generosity and incredible determination, that is indisputable, but the parishioners here will tell you something else is indisputable that it was created thru a miracle by an icon of the Virgin Mary."
Father John Mericantante: "It's got many many jewels around it. It's got south sea pearls and emeralds, and diamonds and rubies."
The icon was created by a monk in the 16th century. Was once owned by the last Czar of Russia and was later sold to a Palm Beach jeweler .
Father John Mericantante: "In the name of the Father and Son and Goly ghost, Amen."
The jeweler heard about a humble parish priest in Pahokee, struggling to help the poor migrant workers. And the jeweler decided the icon would fit in perfectly in this little Catholic church.
Father John Mericantante: "So that's a long journey from Prussia or Russia to Pahokee."
Then an incredible thing started happening. As parishioners prayed to the Virgin Mary, miracles started happening.
Women who couldn't get pregnant started having babies. Children who were sick and couldn't be cured suddenly got better after praying to the icon.
Woman: "It was absolutely a miracle that the Virgin Mary gave to me."
We first went to St. Marys six years ago. Heard about dozens of miracles then as we were about to leave, Father John told us he was asking for a miracle the Virgin Mary to give his poor parish a new church.
Father John Mericantante: "I said if the blessed mother wants us to have it. We will have it.
After our story aired, $250,000 poured in and Father John called me telling me to be at Sunday mass to watch.
By then, so many people were coming to pray to the icon he had to hold services in the rec center. And their prayers were being answered as a man drove into Pahokee in his Rolls Royce and gave Father John $700,000.
Father John Mericantante: "That's the biggest check I have ever held in my life. And certainly that's the miracle."
Now, move forward to this incredible day. Father John rode in a horse drawn carriage, a tradition in Chile that he wanted to re-create arriving with the bishop, to see people lined up outside their new church to greet him.
Father John Mericantante: "Magnificent. Oh, it's like being inside the heart of Jesus and seeing so much love for the people."
St. Marys was packed, so many people had come from Pahokee, from Miami-Dade, from Broward that people had to stand outside to watch the dedication mass by the bishop.
Bishop Gerald Barbarito: "Everybody came together built for this parish for Pahokee St. Marys a wonderful wonderful temple to God."
Father John was able to sit and watch the mass. He led a happy birthday song to the Virgin Mary on the feast of the Virgin Mary.
And he watched as his church was blessed. The candles lit. The lights turned on for the first time. His building was officially a Catholic church.
Father John Mericantante: "It cost 3 million dollars all totaled and its paid for. We are the first church in the Palm Beach Diocease to pay for their church totally the day that it's blessed."
Afterwards, people lined up to talk to Father John. People like the Roques who came from Miami, Harvey was suffering from Leukemia. Then he heard about the icon and started driving to Pahokee. How often? I think we need to explain better that he came to Pahokee to pray. His cancer disappeared..
Harvy Mayorga: "Oh Great. Thanks to the Virgin Mary feeling good alive and healthy."
Jacqueline Roque: "He is a living miracle and what else can I say."
Many people told us they prayed to the icon and a miracle happened. Some people will Scoff and say just a bunch of coincidences, not these people.
Yvette Rene: "And I am so pleased. That's why I am here to thank her again for what she did for us."
But none of this would have happened without this man, his sister remembers the first time she came to this poor town to visit her brother.
An incredibly humble determined priest deeply admired and loved by his parishioners.
His prayers to the icon of the virgin may for a new church have been answered.
Father John Mericantante: "It's the reason this church was built that and four rosaries a day."
As we were leaving, Father John told me it may be time for him to move on to retire and let another priest take over. Be careful Father John, your parishioners will go to the Virgin Mary to ask for another miracle, that you never leave them.