While the Blessed Mother has appeared several dozen times in Christianity’s history, it is likely no apparition has had the same impact as Our Lady of Fatima.
Therefore, it is not surprising that parishes and dioceses, and even individual apostolates, around the nation are planning events to commemorate the centennial of an event that arguably changed the world.
While some of these are relatively humble, several dioceses are planning major programs to bring the Fatima message home to the faithful.
In the Diocese of Rockville Centre, New York, Bishop John Barres has penned a pastoral letter to rekindle diocesan devotion to Mary in 2017. “She is asking us to repent from sin and follow the path of holiness and eternal life right now, without delay, in the present moment. She wants us to care about and pray for the souls around us and for the salvation of the whole world.”
At the National Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima in Lewiston, New York, the anniversary of the first apparition, May 13, will see a Rosary procession, blessing of a new statue set of the three seers — Lucia dos Santos and cousins Francisco and Jacinta Marto — and a solemn Mass with Bishop Richard Malone of the Buffalo Diocese.
The Diocese of Camden, New Jersey, will commemorate the event with two Masses on first Saturdays at the Franciscan Missionary Sisters of the Infant Jesus provincial headquarters in Cherry Hill. The first was on May 6. The next takes place June 3. The Diocese of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, will also see several events throughout the year at Our Lady of Fatima Mission in Jonestown.
Bishop Edward Scharfenberger of Albany, New York, will celebrate a Mother’s Day Mass as part of the anniversary celebrations on May 13 at the Shrine of Our Lady of Martyrs in Auriesville, which stands where St. Isaac Jogues was martyred.
At the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help in Champion, Wisconsin — the site of the only approved Marian apparition in the United States — Green Bay Bishop David Ricken will celebrate Mass on May 18, inaugurating a daylong program featuring David Carollo, director of the World Apostolate of Fatima, and Father Francisco Pereira, who serves as chaplain at the Fatima Shrine in Portugal.
The Diocese of Bismarck, North Dakota, will host two events, both on May 13, one at the cathedral and the other at Christ the King Church in Mandan.
Each year on the first Sunday of May the Diocese of Palm Beach, Florida, has an annual “Marian Rosary Festival” featuring a different patroness. This year the patroness is Our Lady of Fatima.
In Miami, Archbishop Thomas Wenski and the Servants of the Pierced Hearts of Jesus and Mary are instigating a campaign to pray 13 million Rosaries in the centennial year. In conjunction with this, on the date of each of the six Fatima apparitions, there will be a special event at a different parish.
Additionally, the Trinitarian Fathers in Palmetto Bay is hosting a novena that started May 5 and closes on May 13.
Overall, most commemorations are one-time events, by and large on May 13, although in Fort Worth, Texas, Bishop Michael Olson will celebrate a Mass on Oct. 13, the date marking the final apparition, “The Miracle of the Sun,” where the sun “danced” in the sky and even seemed to people as far as 25 miles away to plummet to the earth. He will also dedicate a special statue at the event carved by craftsmen in Vietnam.
Several dioceses are doing something extraordinary.
In Providence, Rhode Island, Bishop Thomas Tobin inaugurated a “Year With Mary, Our Mother” on Jan. 1. Its purpose for the centennial year is to “provide special opportunities for Catholics in the diocese to increase their devotion to a particular aspect of the Catholic faith.”
In his monthly column, the bishop writes, “The Fatima centenary invites us to hear and heed with renewed attention the message of our Blessed Mother at Fatima.”
Similarly, Archbishop Samuel Aquila of Denver has instituted a “Fatima Pilgrimage Year” and designated a holy door with an attached indulgence at Our Lady of Fatima Church in Lakewood, and there is an affiliated campaign to pray two million Rosaries.
The bishops of the Dioceses of Tyler, Texas, and Santa Rosa, California, will consecrate their dioceses to Mary’s Immaculate Heart. Every diocese and eparchy in Pennsylvania will also be consecrated to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
Each year Tyler holds a Marian conference. Usually in October, this year it will take place May 13 at Bishop Thomas K. Gorman Catholic School’s chapel. During Mass at the event, Bishop Joseph Strickland will consecrate the diocese to help the faithful “grow in holiness … under the … Mother of God.”
Santa Rosa’s consecration renews the one done in 1983 by the late Bishop Mark Hurley. In preparation, each parish will have a “Marian promoter” who will oversee one or more retreats based on Father Michael Gaitley’s book 33 Days to Morning Glory. The diocese will supply materials for this preparation.
“Rather than simply hosting a one-day event,” Bishop Robert Vasa wrote in April, “I ask that every parish participate in a thorough spiritual catechesis and preparation for this personal, parish and diocesan consecration or entrustment.” He has an eloquent explanation of his reasons for doing this.
As for Pennsylvania, the dedication grew out of a meeting of the commonwealth’s bishops on May 1. According to Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput, “What prompted the proposal was the intent for the dioceses and eparchies in the commonwealth to observe the 100th anniversary of the apparition of the Blessed Mother at Fatima.”
According to a news release, the dedication will take place over two separate occasions. “The official dedication will be marked with a special Mass to be celebrated in St. Patrick Cathedral in Harrisburg at noon on Wednesday, Sept. 27, by all bishops in the state. ... The second part of the dedication will be an observance in each diocese and eparchy the weekend of Oct. 14-15.”
In the Archdiocese of New York, the Dominicans will inaugurate a new shrine to Pope St. John Paul II at St. Vincent Ferrer Church in the city. The dedication will take place on May 13 at a 3pm Mass. Central to the shrine is a relic that consists of a blood-stained portion of the sash that St. John Paul II was wearing during the 1981 attempt on his life in St. Peter’s Square. The relic will be ensconced below a smaller version of the statute of Our Lady of Fatima found on the façade of the shrine church in Fatima, Portugal.
Shrine official and Dominican priest Father Thomas More Garrett told the Register, “At Fatima, Our Lady echoed that first message of the Gospel delivered by her Son: ‘Repent, and believe in the Gospel’ (Mark 1:15). The call to repentance, through acts of penance, formed much of the core of Our Lady’s message to the children at Fatima.
“St. John Paul II, throughout his pontificate, urged the world to turn to God’s mercy. Confidence in God’s mercy begins with repentance. Our hope is that this new shrine of St. John Paul will merge the mission of Fatima with that of our saintly pope and turn many toward those first words of Jesus’ own ministry.”
Even if one’s parish or diocese is not doing anything for the centenary, respected German Mariologist Father Manfred Hauke tells the Register the faithful can do their own commemoration that not only keeps Fatima alive this year, but in the years to come.
Of special importance, he noted, are the First Saturday devotions, which includes 15 minutes of meditation on the Rosary’s mysteries, with the intention to expiate offenses against the Sacred and Immaculate Hearts: confession and receiving Communion in reparation for sins. He also commends the daily Rosary, “especially in the family and in the parishes,” which carries with it a plenary indulgence.
It is possible that, for many of the faithful, the best commemoration they can make for this once-in-a-lifetime anniversary — beyond prayer — is to learn more about the apparitions. See NCRegister.com for ongoing Fatima coverage. EWTN also has a website (EWTN.com/Fatima).
Brian O’Neel writes from