NEW YORK — May 12-13 proved to be triumphant days for Our Lady of Fatima. On the first day, her Pilgrim Virgin Statue entered the United Nations for an event that proved tremendously successful.
The following day, May 13, on the 100th anniversary of her first apparition at in Fatima, Portugal, the statue went to St. Patrick’s Cathedral, an event that was met by throngs of people.
“We packed one of the biggest conference rooms at the United Nations for the May 12 commemorative event on the ‘Centenary of Fatima and the Enduring Relevance of Its Message of Peace,’” Father Roger Landry told the Register. He serves in the Holy See’s Permanent Observer Mission at the U.N.
He described how, both before and after the event, “there was a huge demand to venerate the Pilgrim Statue. It was particularly touching to see how many of those around the United Nations, from ambassadors and diplomats from various countries to senior people in the secretariat, to United Nations event staff and security, eagerly got in line to be able to pay homage to Our Lady of Fatima, to touch and have their picture taken at the statue.”
In his remarks, Archbishop Bernardito Auza, the apostolic nuncio leading the Holy See’s Permanent Observer Mission to the United Nations, said, “While we cannot be there in the Cova da Iria, a part of Fatima has come here to the headquarters of the United Nations.”
He told the crowd that this particular Pilgrim Virgin statue was blessed by Pope Pius XII in the Vatican 70 years ago on May 13, 1947, on the 30th anniversary of the beginning of the Fatima apparitions.
On Oct. 13, 1952, the 35th anniversary of the last of the Fatima apparitions, this statue was blessed by the bishop of Fatima, after which the statue traveled to the United States. And, on Dec. 8, 1952, Msgr. Harold Colgan, who had co-founded the Blue Army — which came to be known as the World Apostolate of Fatima — brought this statue to the U.N., where he and a friend prayed the Rosary for peace in the world and for the end of the Korean War.
“We hope,” Archbishop Auza added, “that the prayers for peace that have been made before this statue in the intervening six and a half decades, by literally millions of people throughout the United States, Canada and various other countries, might be heard in a particular way for peace in the world today, where violence is raging.”
Archbishop Auza said, “We pray with her help in particular” for wars to end in each of the countries he went on to name, and prayed as well for “an end of terrorism, religious, ethnic and racial persecution, totalitarian crackdowns, murderous drug cartels and organized crime, trafficking in persons and other forms of modern slavery, and various national insurgencies that have stained the world with blood and hatred.”
Ambassador Alvaro Mendonca e Moura, the permanent representative of Portugal to the U.N., said during this event, “The image of Our Lady of Fatima here present has not been conceived as an image that simply waits for the devotion of a few. … The whole purpose of this Pilgrim Virgin is to also accompany our whole voyage in life. It does not just indicate the way: It walks with us, turning a physical walk into a spiritual walk. It is a message of Fatima understood as a metaphor of a message of peace.”
Veneration for Our Lady
Every moment of the U.N. event, through the time the statue had to leave St. Patrick’s Cathedral late Saturday afternoon, was, for Joan Alix, “probably one of the most memorable events that could ever happen in our lifetime,” she said.
Alix and her husband, Patrick, are the longtime volunteer caretakers of the statue (TheFatimaStatue.org) and travel with the official custodian, Judith Studer, president of the WAF Rhode Island Division.
“It was a historic moment,” Joan Alix said. Everyone was in awe. The conference hall, which holds 600 people, was filled.
At both events, Alix said she witnessed pilgrims who seek to grow closer to the Blessed Mother.
“We could see it in the eyes of people,” she said, “in their love and devotion — 600 people at the U.N. who wanted to hear about Mary, the Mother of God, in such a loving, dignified way.”
Alix said the talks, which are linked to on TheFatimaStatue.org, “were appealing to the countries of the world. Those talks were magnificent.”
First-class relics of the new Sts. Jacinta and Francisco were also present for veneration, as was a part of the tree where Mary appeared to the children in Fatima.
St. Patrick’s Welcome
Before the Pilgrim Statue was brought to St. Patrick’s, it was displayed in the convent of St. Teresa of Calcutta’s Missionaries of Charity in the city.
Alix said more than 40 of the sisters greeted them.
Father Kenneth Malley, pastor of St. Timothy Catholic Church in Lutz, Florida,
celebrated Mass. The sisters continued praying for the visitation ministry, families and peace in the world.
The next morning, St. Patrick’s Cathedral quickly filled. Lines of people stretched outside. The Rosary was prayed in five languages.
Father Kazimierz Chwalek, provincial superior of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of Mercy Province at the Shrine of Divine Mercy in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, led a special Eucharistic adoration and procession and gave an extended reflection for the occasion.
Alix said the cathedral was continuously packed and security had to hold up the lines at times because of all the people. Many asked for prayers, like the mother who brought her 5-year-old daughter who has brain cancer.
“At one point, we started praying with people with the relics,” Alix said.
The Holy Hour and Mass were planned by Claudine Holt and Denise Gosselin of the junior board of Catholic Charities of New York, which funded the event.
A Convert Comes Home
Nikki Kingsley attended both events. She said that to see an image of “Our Lady, Queen of Peace at the U.N. was a sign of hope for me.”
What’s more, Kingsley explained, “The speakers spoke from their hearts. They were touching the hearts of the people, instead of just their minds. There were tears even in the audience. It all became about the heart, more than it was about the mind. It was Our Lady penetrating the hearts of our people. That’s where change comes from — the heart, not the mind. I think she pierced the hearts of the people.”
At St. Patrick’s, Kingsley was amazed at the silence, despite the huge throngs. She believes it was the reverence for Our Lady that left people speechless.
There, Kingsley had the honor of leading the Third Joyful Mystery of the Rosary. “That was the biggest gift, the biggest confirmation, I could receive,” she said of her newfound faith.
Born in Pakistan and having grown up in Africa, where her father worked for the U.N., Kingsley said that for 40 years she was a staunch Muslim, even making sure that was the only religion practiced in the home when she married her husband, then a fallen-away Catholic. She always sought a deeper religious experience, however.
Years ago, on a vacation to see the sites in New York, her husband insisted they take in St. Patrick’s Cathedral, even though she didn’t want to go into another religion’s place of worship. But she relented.
“We were about to walk out when I heard a whisper clearly in my ear,” Kingsley explained. “Mary was talking to me. She said to come back. I knew who was speaking to me. I didn’t understand. I had loved her as Miriam from the Quran. I knew who was talking to me. I tried to ignore it. But it was a consistent call. I knew exactly where she wanted me to come — to her chapel in the back.”
Kingsley went there. “That was the beginning of my journey to Jesus,” she said. “It was the Mother who called me.” Then, in vivid dreams of Mary and Jesus, “they were speaking to my soul path. I just couldn’t turn back. I was asking for the truth and was given it, but it was hard because it was against everything I believed. … I was searching for Allah, and here was Jesus showing up every time.” She became a Catholic several years ago.
In St. Patrick’s this May 13, Kingsley reflected on Our Lady of Fatima, a bridge between her new and old faith: “The fact she appeared in that town named after a Muslim princess is also a confirmation to me that I am a gift of that conversion she promised for Muslims. Mary is that common thread between Islam and Christianity. … I love Our Lady. I believe in today’s world she is that sign of hope, that sign of peace.”
Kinglsey asserted, “This trip was a confirmation, to me, from Our Lady.”
Johnnette Benkovic, EWTN host and founder of Women of Grace, found it an amazing honor and blessing to address the U.N. and its guests for the commemoration. She said that in light of Our Lady’s messages to the shepherd children in Fatima, as well as her plan for peace, it seemed fitting to be gathered in that place.
She told the Register that God has entrusted women with a sacred trust — to protect, nurture and “aid humanity in not falling, and to save the peace of the world” — quoting from the Second Vatican Council’s “To Women.”
“And our Blessed Mother, the Quintessential Woman, shows how this can be done,” observed Benkovic. “Like her, women are called to live out the reality of who she is and infuse the world with her feminine genius, thus making the One who is the Way, the Peace and the Life present to them.”
Benkovic believes the U.N. event “at least opened the door for a renewed understanding of woman, her grace and genius, and the influence and effect she can have for the betterment of mankind and the cause of peace.”
“People gathered there were brought together, it would seem, under Our Lady’s mantle,” she added. “There was an intimacy and unity in that room that encouraged and strengthened a new hope that, through the grace of God, the difficulties and trials we face as a world community can be reconciled.”
Alix believes that the real story is just beginning. She said people have to ask, as did Fatima seer Lucia dos Santos during the first apparition, “What do you want of me?” That’s the question — “What does she want of me? What does God want me to do? Our work is just beginning. We can’t lose hope. We have to have faith. There is so much love and power in prayer. This weekend was testimony of that. I think that’s going to be the story.”
Joseph Pronechen is a Register staff writer.