National Catholic Register


The New Location Will Be a Dream Come True

BY Jim Cosgrove

February 21-27, 1999 Issue | Posted 2/21/97 at 1:00 PM


The Marian Museum which is moving to Fatima will feel right at home.

The museum's move from its current home in New York to Portugal will give its collection of Marian images and statues far greater exposure to pilgrims from around the world.

When the idea of assembling the collection first came to Jim Williamson, he thought of Fatima as a site but dismissed the idea as an impossible dream for a working tradesman from Brooklyn.

During the long search for a new, permanent site, he explored offers of land, buildings, or both, ranging from California to Virginia. Numerous leads fell short for one reason or another.

That is, until Fatima was again proposed in early 1998, this time by John Haffert, a co-founder of the Blue Army. Haffert offered his friend two buildings he owned in the city of Ourem, 10 minutes away from the Fatima shrine.

“Everything fell into place swiftly after that; it was providential,” says Williamson. The deal was done by November, complete with blessings from civil and religious authorities.

The project is on a fast track. The two original buildings are being renovated, two others are slated for construction, and dedication ceremonies are scheduled for next year in May and August. The site includes room for additional building.

In addition to comfortably displaying most of the statues simultaneously, the new spaces will allow for related paintings and other exhibits. Christmas créches from around the world will also be displayed.

“I know that this museum belongs here,” Williamson says, referring to the new site. “It's going to be unique, certainly in Europe, and maybe in the entire world.”

Plans also call for two chapels where 5,000 relics of saints reaching back to the apostles will be displayed for veneration. Recently commissioned portraits depicting the 33 doctors of the Church will be highlighted in one of the chapels.

The Portuguese government has promised to donate adjacent land for further construction, and cable car service is planned between the museum and the Castle of Fatima, a fortress and government center dating back to the time of Christ. (Register Staff)