KANSAS CITY, Mo. — It was in childhood that Bishop James Johnston Jr. first formed his devotion to Mary. Family Rosaries and the special devotion of his mother early on showed him the importance of Mary for the life of the Church.
He cemented that relationship May 13, when, as the bishop of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, Missouri, he consecrated his diocese to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
“We are uniting ourselves to her who opens up the way for God to enter, and we are uniting our hearts to her Immaculate Heart, the one heart that is perfectly united to the Sacred Heart of Jesus,” he told the Register.
Bishop Johnston’s action, followed by others in San Francisco, Providence, Rhode Island, and Santa Rosa, California, as well as in Philadelphia, is part of a rising tide of public devotion to Mary during the centennial anniversary of the 1917 Fatima Marian apparitions. More than two dozen dioceses will have consecrated themselves to Mary by the end of the year, renewing an interest in the message of Fatima and Marian devotions.
And on Oct. 13, the 100th anniversary of the last apparition of Our Lady of Fatima, Cardinal Donald Wuerl will consecrate the U.S. to Our Lady of Fatima’s Immaculate Heart, in Washington. The consecration will take place at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception and be broadcast by the Eternal Word Television Network, the Register’s parent company. (See “TV Picks.”)
Bishop Robert Vasa of Santa Rosa will perform the year’s last U.S. diocesan consecration to Mary. The diocese and its parishes will entrust themselves to her between the Marian feasts of the Immaculate Conception (Dec. 8) and Our Lady of Guadalupe (Dec. 12).
In his letter to the diocese, Bishop Vasa wrote, “We trust that, having given over everything we have and are to her protection and even her dominion, we then rely on her to distribute merits and graces where they are most needed.”
The bishop is also encouraging personal consecrations be made at the same time. Parishioners of the diocese will have online access to the 33 Days to Morning Glory Marian consecration preparation program, so they can join the diocese in entrusting themselves “to the special patronage of the Blessed Virgin Mary.”
Deacon Gary Moore, who serves on the planning committee for the consecration, told the Register that the bishop’s goal was to give every person in the diocese “an opportunity to experience the trust and the love that God has for us.”
Through Mary, he hopes that the people of the diocese see the beauty of their faith and take on the work that they are called to do as Catholics, which, he said, there is “certainly a lot of.”
Sister Mary Rose, a Marian Sister of Santa Rosa and the associate superintendent of Catholic schools in the diocese, told the Register that the decision to consecrate the diocese to Mary was inspired by the Fatima anniversary, but also by the bishop recognizing the importance of “continual renewal” in faith.
She said some of the laity were unfamiliar with the message of Fatima, but there was broad interest in learning and being catechized on the subject. Sister Mary Rose praised consecration as an excellent way to “entrust everything” to Mary, especially during the anxieties of the contemporary world.
“It’s important,” she said, “to focus on the triumph of the Immaculate Heart. So with great hope, we can live in the midst of the chaos, because we know the end of the story.”
The centennial anniversary of Fatima has been an opportunity for the whole Church to rediscover Mary and grow closer to her. The diocesan consecrations, in some cases, have been driven by the laity.
Father Charles Puthota, pastoral ministry director in the Archdiocese of San Francisco, told the Register that the laity requested the consecration of the archdiocese to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, inspired in part by similar consecrations in other dioceses.
San Francisco’s consecration to the Immaculate Heart will take place Oct. 7, the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary, after morning Mass and the procession of the Blessed Sacrament and a statue of Our Lady of Fatima around the cathedral.
The larger aim of the archdiocese, Father Puthota said, is to make this “an occasion of renewal of faith, for individuals, for families and for the whole archdiocese.”
Patrick Sabat of the World Apostolate of Fatima, who has been traveling with the International Pilgrim Virgin Statue of Fatima since 2003, told the Register that in the 14 years he has been traveling with the pilgrim statue, “There’s nothing like this year.”
The World Apostolate has sponsored a 50-state “Fatima Tour for Peace” for the centennial of the apparitions. Sabat said that the response had been overwhelming, with Catholic media coverage of Fatima playing an important role in bringing people to see the statue.
Catholics are not required to believe in the Fatima apparitions, and Mary’s requests to pray and stop offending God can sometimes sound “generic and universal,” Sabat said, but added that the Fatima message is actually a “very intimate” invitation.
While it is important to take Marian consecration seriously, he said, letting fear or anxiety discourage consecration would be a mistake, as well. In a simple sense, Sabat said, in Marian consecration, “You’re just talking to your Mother.” More importantly, he said, consecration is part of the work of sanctifying one’s own life and the life of the diocese.
Bishop Johnston told the Register that Kansas City-St. Joseph is the second diocese he has consecrated to Mary, after Springfield-Cape Girardeau, Missouri, in 2009. He said that Mary had made a “great difference” in the lives of the faithful there, especially through an increase in religious and priestly vocations and a “stronger communion” among the diocesan faithful.
Bishop Johnston connected Marian consecration to the Incarnation, in which the Son was entrusted to Mary.
“If we are members of the Body of Christ through the sacraments of initiation, we, too, have been entrusted to Mary. Looking at it the other way, Mary is given to us as a gift,” the bishop said. “This can be a beautiful way to enrich contemporary spirituality.”
In the Diocese of Providence, Bishop Thomas Tobin declared 2017 a “Year With Mary, Our Mother,” to mark the 100th anniversary of Mary’s appearances at Fatima. As part of the celebrations, the diocese consecrated itself to Mary May 13.
Father Jeremy Rodrigues, the Divine Worship Office director in the diocese, told the Register diocesan pastors had initially proposed the consecration, which Bishop Tobin “wholeheartedly supported.”
Father Rodrigues said the consecration to the Immaculate Heart was a “beautiful occasion” for the diocese, as the faithful gathered together to honor the Blessed Virgin. The Fatima message, he said, reminded the Church of the importance of Mary’s intercession on behalf of the world, and the centenary of the Fatima apparitions has allowed the Church to return to the “wellspring” of Marian devotion:
“In a world that is changing quickly, the Blessed Virgin Mary still remains a consistent, strong and reassuring presence for us.”
Marian Father Michael Gaitley, author of the Marian consecration preparation program 33 Days to Morning Glory, told the Register that so many dioceses and Catholics have been led to renewed Marian devotion because “the Lord is allowing his mother to work in the hearts of many of her children, to bring them closer to love the heart of her Son.”
Although consecration to Mary has a long history in the Church, Fatima gave a contemporary emphasis on the importance for Catholics of Marian consecration. At its heart, he said, Marian consecration is an acceptance of the heavenly motherhood of Mary as a means of coming closer to Christ.
“It’s remarkable,” he said, “how God is working with Mary right now, and it’s beautiful to see so many reactions to entrusting themselves to her.”
For those uncertain of consecrating themselves to Mary, Father Gaitley added, “I’d encourage them to do it. Mary really does want to set our hearts on fire with love for her Son.”
Nicholas Wolfram Smith writes from Oakland, California.
Around the Country and the World
The 100th anniversary of Fatima this year is a major reminder that, at Fatima, Mary shared the importance of consecration to her Immaculate Heart. This Fatima centennial has prompted several dioceses across the country and world to consecrate or re-consecrate themselves to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
Among the October U.S. events:
- On the 100th anniversary of the great miracle of Our Lady of Fatima, on Oct. 13, Cardinal Donald Wuerl will consecrate the U.S. to Our Lady of Fatima’s Immaculate Heart at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. The event will be broadcast by EWTN.
- On Oct. 13, the Archdiocese of Denver, Colorado, and all who live in it will be entrusted to Mary’s Immaculate Heart by Archbishop Samuel Aquila.
- On Oct. 13, Bishop Thomas Olmsted will consecrate the Diocese of Phoenix, Arizona, to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
- On Oct. 13, Archbishop Bernard Hebda will re-consecrate the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, Minnesota, to the Immaculate Heart of Mary at the Cathedral of St. Paul as part of the annual archdiocesan Rosary procession. The archdiocese has been consecrated to the Immaculate Heart annually at the October Rosary procession.
- On Oct. 15, the Diocese of Colorado Springs, Colorado, will be consecrated to the Immaculate Heart of Mary by Bishop Michael Sheridan during a Rosary Rally at Holy Apostles parish.
- On Oct. 15, Archbishop Charles Chaput will consecrate the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.
- On Oct. 14-15, all of Pennsylvania’s eight dioceses and two Eastern-rite eparchies will be consecrated to the Blessed Virgin Mary. This is the second part of a two-part consecration during this year to observe Mary’s apparitions at Fatima. On Sept. 27, the state’s bishops also made an official dedication together at Mass at St. Patrick Cathedral in Harrisburg.
Several dioceses planned consecrations earlier, and some are planning consecrations after Oct. 13. Among them:
- On Jan. 14, Bishop Robert Baker consecrated the Diocese of Birmingham, Alabama, to the Immaculate Heart of Mary before the International Pilgrim Virgin Statue of Our Lady of Fatima at the Cathedral of St. Paul in Birmingham during the Fatima Centennial U.S. visitation.
- On May 13, the 100th anniversary of the first apparition at Fatima, Bishop James Johnston Jr. consecrated the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph Diocese to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
- On May 13, Bishop Thomas Tobin consecrated the Diocese of Providence, Rhode Island, to the Immaculate Heart of Mary as part of the “Year With Mary, Our Mother.”
- On May 13-14, Bishop John Folda and priests joining him consecrated the Diocese of Fargo, North Dakota, to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
- On May 13, Archbishop Allen Vigneron of Detroit, Michigan, entrusted and consecrated the city and the Archdiocese of Detroit to Our Lady of Fatima.
- On May 13, Bishop Joseph Strickland entrusted the Diocese of Tyler, Texas, to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
- On May 13-14, Bishop Arthur Serratelli asked priests to lead people at their parishes in a consecration of the Diocese of Paterson, New Jersey, to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
- On May 16, Bishop Peter Libasci of the Diocese of Manchester, New Hampshire, consecrated the entire Catholic school system to the Blessed Mother, with more than 6,000 K-12 students, faculty and staff from 27 Catholic schools in attendance.
- On May 20, Archbishop Leonard Blair of the Archdiocese of Hartford, Connecticut, consecrated the archdiocese to the Blessed Mother, as he does yearly on the day of ordination of priests.
- On June 3, Bishop Robert McManus of Worcester, Massachusetts, consecrated the diocese to the Immaculate Heart of Mary,
- On June 24, the feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, Bishop Jeffrey Monforton re-consecrated the Diocese of Steubenville, Ohio, to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
- On the Aug. 13 anniversary of the Fatima apparitions, Bishop Earl Boyea asked every parish in the Diocese of Lansing, Michigan, to consecrate and entrust themselves to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
- On Sept. 8, the feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Bishop John Quinn renewed the consecration of the Diocese of Winona, Minnesota, to the Immaculate Heart of Mary at the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart.
- On Oct. 7, the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary, Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone will consecrate the Archdiocese of San Francisco to the Immaculate Heart of Mary at the annual Rosary rally.
- On Oct. 8, Bishop Joseph Kopacz will consecrate the Diocese of Jackson, Mississippi, to the Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart of Mary.
- On Oct. 22, Bishop Terry LaValley will consecrate the Diocese of Ogdensburg, New York, to the Immaculate Heart of Mary at St. Mary’s Cathedral.
- On Dec. 8, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, the Diocese of Albany, New York, will be re-consecrated to Mary.
- For Dec. 9, 10, or even 8th (pastor’s choice), Bishop Robert Vasa of the Diocese of Santa Rosa, California, wants every parish and mission of the diocese to be consecrated or dedicated to Mary.
Countries’ have also done consecrations. Among them:
- On Feb. 18, Cardinal Vincent Nichols, archbishop of Westminster, consecrated England and Wales to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, during the visit of a pilgrim Our Lady of Fatima statue, and crowned a statue of Our Lady of Fatima in the Catholic cathedral of London.
- On May 13, Dutch bishops consecrated their Netherland dioceses to the Immaculate Heart of Mary in the Basilica of the Assumption of Our Lady in Maastricht.
- On June 6, the bishops of Poland consecrated the Church to the Immaculate Heart of Mary in the presence of Poland’s president and prime minister. Archbishop Stanisław Gądecki, president of the Polish Bishops’ Conference, celebrated the Mass at the Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima in Poland. The country’s president, prime minister and many government members were present. On Sept. 8, the Nativity of Mary, each individual diocese and parish in Poland also made the consecration.
- On June 25, during a pilgrimage to Fatima, Cardinal Bechara Boutros Rai, head of the Maronite Church, consecrated Lebanon and the entire Middle East to the Immaculate Heart of Mary during a Eucharistic liturgy he concelebrated with Syriac Catholic Patriarch Ignace Joseph III Younan and several bishops and priests. He has been consecrating Lebanon and all the Middle East to Our Lady since 2013.
- For July 1, all bishops of Canada’s 61 dioceses and eparchies were invited to consecrate their individual dioceses to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, as part of the celebration to mark Canada’s anniversary of confederation. During Sept. 25-29, the bishops of Canada were to jointly consecrate Canada to the Blessed Mother.
- On Sept. 3, Scotland was consecrated to the Immaculate Heart of Mary by Archbishop Philip Tartaglia of Glasgow.
— Joseph Pronechen, Register staff writer
The sidebar was updated at 10:49am Oct. 3 and Oct. 10 at 2:29pm.