On 100th anniversary, local Catholics express devotion to Our Lady of Fatima

by Joan Kurkowski-Gillen

North Texas Catholic

October 20, 2017

The United Nations Pilgrim Statue of Fatima made a stop at St. Patrick Cathedral in celebration of the 100th anniversary of the final Fatima apparition on Oct. 13. Hundreds of local Catholics honored the Blessed Mother with a procession through downtown Fort Worth. (NTC photo/Ben Torres) Photo Gallery

FORT WORTH — Facing danger and hardship, thousands of Vietnamese fled their homeland after the Fall of Saigon in 1975 to escape life under Communism. Arriving in the United States, they brought with them their only and most valuable possession — faith.

“You’ve been brought here, across a great ocean, under the guidance of Our Lady of Fatima who never breaks her promises,” Bishop Michael Olson told members of a Vietnamese parish named in honor of the Marian apparition. “She has been with you through suffering and helped you to be present here.”

Hundreds of families gathered in front of Our Lady of Fatima Church in east Fort Worth on Oct. 15 to watch the bishop bless a new statue of the parish’s patron saint, made by craftsmen from a solid block of stone in Vietnam. Dedication of the sculpture, which rests on a sloping cement platform in front of the church, capped a weekend of activities in the Diocese of Fort Worth commemorating the centennial anniversary of the final apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Fatima.

On May 13, 1917, the Mother of God appeared to a trio of young peasant children, Jacinta, Francisco, and Lucia, at Cova da Iria near the Portuguese village of Fatima. The apparitions continued on the 13th day of every month through October with Our Lady giving the visionaries messages of penance, prayer, and peace for the world.

Declaring herself Our Lady of the Rosary during her last visit on Oct. 13, the radiant apparition in white proved her messages were from heaven with the “dance of the sun” — a miracle that stunned both believers and skeptics. According to many in the crowd of 70,000 spectators, the sun twirled in the heavens and seemed to plummet toward earth before returning to its normal place in the sky.

“Today is the fruit of the Miracle of the Sun,” Bishop Olson said during a Mass concelebrated in both English and Vietnamese with Father John Tinh Tran, CRM, pastor of Our Lady of Fatima. “You are living proof of the promise of Fatima that communism, godlessness, atheism, and materialism will not have the last word.”

Before hundreds of families, Bishop Michael Olson dedicated a new statue of Our Lady of Fatima at her namesake parish in Fort Worth on Oct. 15. (NTC photo/Ben Torres) Photo Gallery

The Fatima apparitions occurred during a dark time in world history. World War I was raging across Europe, and Portugal was in the throes of Freemasonry, a movement that tried to de-Christianize the country. Bolsheviks came to power in Russia and spread their revolution — a precursor to communism and atheism — to surrounding nations.

“One hundred years ago, things like the Bolshevik revolution brought us fear,” the bishop pointed out during his homily. “But when we are afraid, Our Lady comes to us, shows us Jesus, and that miracle of Fatima is what sustains us.”

The power of Mary’s Fatima message was evident earlier in the week when parishioners from across the diocese stood in long lines to venerate the United Nations Pilgrim Statue of Fatima and the first class relics of the Church’s youngest non-martyred saints, Francisco and Jacinta. Organized locally by Suzette Chaires, the three-foot statue and relics were on view at Blessed Sacrament Church in Arlington Oct. 12 and St. Patrick Cathedral in Fort Worth Oct. 13.

Carved in the late 1940s guided by instructions from the surviving Fatima visionary, Lucia dos Santos, the replica statue was brought to the meditation room at the United Nations in 1952 by the late Msgr. Harold Colgan, founder of the World Apostolate of Fatima (WAF) who led a recitation of the Rosary for world peace. Since then it has traveled with a custodian across the globe as an ambassador of hope and returned to the United Nations for one day, May 13, 2017, to mark the anniversary of the first Fatima apparition.

According to Joan Alix, WAF event coordinator, the relics — which include a piece of the holm-oak tree on which the Blessed Mother appeared — “are used for healing and hope especially for youth or anyone in need of healing.”

The centennial celebration of the last apparition in Fatima also was observed in the diocese with a global Rosary for peace at the cathedral and an evening Marian procession through adjacent downtown streets.

 “It’s a time of grace. It’s a historic time,” said Chaires who coordinated the event with help from Marlon De La Torre, diocesan director of catechesis. “The pope is offering a Fatima indulgence for anyone who honors Our Lady in a public way. It’s a beautiful thing that so many people have come together.”

Judy Studer, custodian of the United Nations Pilgrim Statue of Our Lady of Fatima, places a reliquary on top of a child's head at Most Blessed Sacrament Parish, Oct. 12. The reliquary contained relics from St. Jacinta and St. Francisco, two of the three Fatima visionaries. (NTC photo/Jayme Shedenhelm)

“The celebration of the 100th anniversary of Fatima is a powerful thing. We’re remembering what happened in 1917 to Jacinta, Francisco, and Lucy,” said Celestina Icholu, a global Rosary participant dressed in the native garb of her birthplace, Nigeria. “We’re happy today to wear green for Africa and honor Mary in a special way.”

Kathryn Weitz attended the Canonization Mass for Jacinta and Francisco last May in Fatima. The St. Elizabeth Ann Seton parishioner wasn’t surprised by the overwhelming turnout at the cathedral to pray before the statue.

“She’s our mother. Mary loves us so much she gives us messages of hope,” Weitz said. “She wants us to pray, fast, and repent because she wants everybody in heaven. I love that about her.”

At Most Blessed Sacrament parish, the line of visitors who came to venerate the Our Lady of Fatima statue and relics was continuous. Therese O’Flaherty traveled from Flower Mound to the Arlington church with her nine children.

“We’ve always had a special devotion to Our Lady of Fatima. I wanted the children to experience this and receive blessings from the little saints they love,” explained the Roman Catholic who belongs to Our Lady of Lebanon Maronite Church in Lewisville. “They know the story. We home school so they have studied it for a whole year now.”

Bishop Olson said welcoming the Fatima statue to the diocese on the 100th anniversary was a “beautiful reminder of how much God loves us and how much Our Lady loves us.”

Never take faith for granted, he cautioned Our Lady of Fatima parishioners.

“Be strong in the face of temptation and resolute in the face of persecution and mockery,” the bishop advised. “For Our Lady shows us Jesus. Her message of Fatima remains while [Bolshevik-Communist] Stalin is gone.”

FORT WORTH — Facing danger and hardship, thousands of Vietnamese fled their homeland after the Fall of Saigon in 1975 to escape life under Communism. Arriving in the United States, they brought with them their only and most valuable possession — faith.

Published (until 12/27/2035)