Theresa Skosana, who works at The Star, travelled to Benoni this week to see Francesca Zackey, 17, who claims she was visited by the Virgin Mary at the beginning of May.
“When she touched me,” said Skosana, a devout Catholic, "I felt as though I had no bones in my body. I fell down and went somewhere else.
“When I returned to myself, I felt very calm, very at peace. And, though I am not going to divulge what it was, I received a special blessing the next day.”
Jennifer Johnson, the newsroom secretary at The Sunday Independent, who calls herself “a believer, though perhaps not as devout as I should be”, also visited Zackey.
“She is a very strong young woman,” said Johnson, "so when she made the sign of the cross on my forehead with holy water, and pressed against my head, I lay down. I did not faint or have an out-of-body experience.
“But, as I lay there and prayed, and she blessed me in tongues, I did feel a great deal of calm and peace.”
I also stepped forward to be “spiritually healed” and found myself shoving against Zackey’s hand as she, having made the sign of the cross on my forehead with water, pressed hard against my head.
“Let go, relax, you must have faith,” she said to me.
Not seeing much point in continuing with my imitation of Os du Randt, the Springbok prop forward, I complied and lay down on the floor where Zackey’s father, Frank, supplied me with a pillow.
Francesca continued ministering to my forehead and praying “in tongues”, while Frank, apparently realising his daughter was dealing with a perhaps more recalcitrant case than usual, joined in.
While Francesca knelt at my side, Frank paced around the Zackey living room - which was filled with numerous pictures of Jesus and his mother, as well as a statue of the Virgin Mary - praying for me at the same time as his daughter was.
Unfortunately, however, the aching facet joint at the base of my spine that had been troubling me for a week did not get better - and later that day grew even more painful.
“Well, you do have to have faith,” said Johnson, “like all those people who are clamouring to see Francesca have.”
There is indeed a seemingly endless stream of people entering the gated suburb, ringing the doorbell at the face-brick Zackey home in Tassenberg Road, and asking to be blessed by Francesca.
“Everyone is looking for comfort. It’s reached a stage where unfortunately I have to turn people away for a few hours,” Frank said.
“Francesca must rest sometimes or she’s going to have a nervous breakdown.”
Frank’s grandfather came from Lebanon and the Zackey family are Maronite Christians - one of the eastern Roman Catholic churches founded in the 7th century by St. Maroun.
Today it is one of the main religious groups in Lebanon.
Frank, a self-employed scrap metal dealer, and the father of four daughters, took Francesca out of school in standard eight.
This happened soon after she had been confirmed at the age of 15 and she discovered that she had a gift. Francesca could speak in tongues and had experienced certain visions.
“Then, on May 7, just as the family was eating dinner, I smelt the scent of roses,” Francesca said.
She went into her room and there, seated on her bed, was “Our Lady”.
Francesca said that Jesus’ mother was very fair-skinned, with brown hair and “ice-blue eyes”.
She was wearing a royal-blue veil and light was coming from her hands, the teenager said.
The Virgin Mary appeared to Francesca throughout the night, both inside the house and outside in the yard.
Francesca has placed flowers and candles at each spot where the Virgin Mary appeared. She said that “Our Lady” had told her to “pray the rosary, and to get others to pray it, as though it were the last day on earth” and that she had also said: “I love all my children.”
The Virgin Mary had also told her to work as much as possible with young people and to complete a book that is to be called Doorlight to Heaven.