A Providential Marian Year in Rhode Island

RI Bishop’s Plans for Increasing Devotion Among His Flock

HONORING MARY. Our Lady of Fatima graces the Cathedral of Sts. Peter and Paul in Providence, Rhode Island.
HONORING MARY. Our Lady of Fatima graces the Cathedral of Sts. Peter and Paul in Providence, Rhode Island. (photo: Laura Kilgus, Rhode Island Catholic)

The celebration of the 100th anniversary of Fatima this year inspired an added celebration for the Diocese of Providence, Rhode Island.

With the Fatima centennial promising to be a beautiful occasion for the Church, Bishop Thomas Tobin thought, “Why not devote the whole year to our Blessed Mother in general?”

So, before the new year began, Bishop Tobin announced that 2017 was to be celebrated as a Marian year in the diocese (DioceseofProvidence.org). The official opening of the special year took place at Mass at the Cathedral of Sts. Peter and Paul Jan. 1, the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God.

His goal for the Marian year is “fairly straightforward,” he told the Register. “It’s really for the faithful of the Diocese of Providence to increase and renew our devotion to our Blessed Mother, because it’s such a beautiful and important part of our faith.”

Mary is the “best example of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus,” Bishop Tobin said.

“We individuals and the Church as our family need Mary’s intercession, help and protection,” he added.

At the same time, this Marian year will also be helping to fulfill the requests Mary made at Fatima.

“At Fatima, our Blessed Mother certainly encouraged the themes of conversion and repentance, particularly the prayers for peace and the Rosary,” Bishop Tobin explained. “If we can encourage those themes during our Marian year, it’s going to go very nicely with the message of Fatima.”


Honoring Mary Many Ways

Bishop Tobin offers several ways everyone can honor Mary and learn to imitate her, starting with her virtues: faith, trust, sanctity, purity, charity and compassion — all in an effort to emphasize the centrality of Christ, as she did.

In his website writings, he explains each simply for the faithful.

He noted “the ultimate goal of this ‘Year With Mary, Our Mother’ — to grow closer to Christ.”

Bishop Tobin also offers several suggestions on how families can honor Mary, including visiting a church or a shrine dedicated to Our Lady.

The bishop points out “simple things families can do to increase their awareness of Mary, things like saying a Hail Mary and another prayer after their evening meals,” he told the Register. In his writings, he also suggests “the Angelus, the Memorare, and, of course, the holy Rosary.”

People can also “buy a picture or statue — something to remind themselves of Mary in their domestic church. And have the parents and grandparents explain how they were introduced to Mary,” he said to the Register.

Explained Bishop Tobin, “These are simple things people and families can do to increase devotion to Mary.”


Bishop’s Example

Bishop Tobin became familiar with Marian devotion at a young age. Looking back, he recalled for the Register how he “grew up as most Catholic children in most Catholic families in the 1950s. In my case, I certainly remember as a child having a little Marian altar in my room, a little grotto to our Blessed Mother. And every spring I would get some dandelions and put them in water.”

In second grade, he received a prayer book and a rosary. He went to a Catholic elementary school where the Benedictine sisters were very faithful in encouraging regular devotion to Mary, as well.

At home, both his mother and father “had strong devotion to the Rosary,” he said. “As far as I remember, they said it every day.”

“My experience was very typical and an important part of our Catholic faith,” he added. “Many churches and the families did that.”  He hopes the Marian year will inspire today’s families in a similar way.


Celebrating Marian Feasts

Bishop Tobin also highlights the observance of major Marian feasts of the Church during the course of the year, from the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, and the Annunciation through several others, until the Immaculate Conception and Our Lady of Guadalupe in December. Mary also has a major role in the Advent-Christmas and Lent-Easter seasons.

“Each of the Marian feast days speaks to a different dimension and a different example that Mary gives us,” he explained to the Register. “Taken all together, they give us a total portrait of Mary — like a mosaic. If one piece is missing, the picture is incomplete. But put them all together, and you have a beautiful and compete portrait of our Blessed Mother.”


Parish Response

The bishop also encourages parishes to increase Marian devotion, including the “schools where young people become more aware of the importance of Mary.”

Throughout January, the missionary image of Our Lady of Guadalupe from Dan Lynch Apostolates traveled to several churches in the diocese. At St. Joseph Church in Central Falls, parishioner Alicia Grasfeder found that “it was a reminder of Mary in the presence in our life, the critical role she played in Jesus’ life and the critical role a woman plays in families.”

Grasfeder specifically intends to look to Mary’s role as she focuses on her family, her husband and their two young sons.

“Somehow when we see those powerful images and hear about the [Fatima] vision, it’s a reminder of the presence Mary has and the emphasis of submitting to God’s will, no matter how hard it may be,” she said. During this Marian year, she also plans to “every day remind myself it’s important to surrender to God’s will” and “enhance my prayers to Mary.”

The parish of Our Lady of the Rosary Church in Providence is very happy about this Marian year.

A parish group will celebrate in Fatima this September as part of their pilgrimage to Europe, according to the pastor, Father Joseph Escobar. Bishop Tobin himself will travel to Fatima in August with pilgrims from the diocese.

One of the special ways Our Lady of the Rosary parish will be celebrating the Marian year is through the Five First Saturdays devotion. The parish began in January and plans to finish in May, the month of the 100th anniversary of the first Fatima apparition. Father Escobar reminds parishioners that this devotion is something our Blessed Mother gave to Fatima seer Sister Lucia in 1925.

Many parishioners are already on the right track, continuing the parish tradition of praying the Rosary before daily Mass and on Sundays, too.

For his part, Victorino Andrade has observed the Five First Saturdays before, but he is making them again with the parish.

Andrade thinks this Marian year will help all in the diocese “to be faithfully involved with the Blessed Mother.” It should “be a great help strengthening their spirituality and focused on praying the Rosary and becoming familiar with the apparitions at Fatima,” he added. He also sees the Marian year as a call to continue praying the Rosary for peace and praying that secular society will see the light of God. “You always have to go back to the well and get refreshed and strengthened by the grace of God available to you,” Andrade said.

In addition, Andrade plans to read more about our Blessed Mother. The Marian year will also play into his CCD confirmation class. “I always bring Mary into the picture,” he said. 

“We need all the help we can get. And the help we get from Mother Mary is the best.”

Father Escobar said that parishioners are bringing images of our Blessed Mother to church to have them blessed. And Portuguese parishes in the diocese will host a Mass on the 13th of each month from May to October. “The last one will be here, and there will be a candlelight procession after the Mass, as they do in Fatima,” the pastor said.


More Hopes

Bishop Tobin also plans to address Marian devotion in his ongoing writing and speaking.

And he has monthly prayer intentions, focused on such concerns as the unborn, families, peace, religious freedom and vocations.

This year helps to answer “why we need Mary now as much as ever. Our nation, our Church, married couples and certainly in our families — we need Mary,” the bishop told Register. “We need her example, her virtues and her help. Devotion to Mary in many ways is the foundation to our spiritual lives. Mary is not the final destination. Mary is the signpost” pointing to her Son.

In addition, Father Escobar said this Marian year “reminds us of her importance in the life of a priest,” he said, “to be faithful to the Rosary and to the virtues Mary showed in her life [being] faithful to her Son, and follow her advice at the wedding at Cana — ‘Do whatever he tells you.’”

As Bishop Tobin told the Register, “I also need to renew and refresh my devotion to Mary. I’m part of this journey also — and looking forward to that personally.”

Joseph Pronechen is a

Register staff writer.