SUNOL — Along Fremont’s city limit, on 100 acres of rolling hills just off Interstate 680 and Sheridan Road, a group of Catholic lay parishioners plans to build a $20 million shrine and home for pregnant women, elderly and homeless people.
But its founder, Union City resident Thelma Orias, is keeping mum about the specifics. After numerous requests, she declined to comment, saying only that the project is "inspired by God."
The group, known as the Divine Mercy Eucharistic Society, was formed in 1990 and traces its roots to Saint Faustina Kowalska, an uneducated Polish nun. Kowalska saw a vision of Jesus with rays of light and received a series of revelations to spread throughout the world, according to her adorers.
In 1998, the organization opened a chapel sofollowers could pray and worship 24 hours a day, seven days a week next to St. John the Baptist Church in El Cerrito.
In August 2002, the organization opened Mary’s House across from St. Paul’s Catholic Church in San Pablo to provide a halfway house for pregnant battered women, so that they would not resort to abortion.
The house also offers skills training and rsum writing, and provides the women with information on government assistance programs, according to its pamphlet.
Earlier this month, the organization took out an advertisement in San Francisco Faith, a Catholic publication, requesting contributions for a Sunol "Divine Mercy Shrine" that would stand as a beacon of hope and a place of renewal when it is completed by 2010, according to the advertisement.