Our Lady of Fatima parish, East Elmhurst, hosted two bishops and several hundred parishioners and visitors during celebrations marking the centennial of the Blessed Mother’s appearance to three shepherd children in Fatima.
“This is a beautiful occasion for our parish: the 100th anniversary of the apparitions of Our Lady of Fatima,” said Father Darrell Da Costa, pastor. “She wants us to pray, to pray the rosary, and to grow closer to her Son.”
Heavy rains and strong winds did not prevent crowds from flocking to the Queens church May 13, for a full day of activities, which culminated with Mass, and the blessing of a new processional statue of Our Lady of Fatima.
Fourth-degree Knights of Columbus from the Commodore John Barry Assembly No. 712 provided an honor guard, and the chorus from the parish school opened the liturgy singing “Fatima Hymn” to the tune of “Immaculate Mary.”
Auxiliary Bishop Paul Sanchez, the main celebrant of the bilingual Mass in English and Spanish, blessed the statue with holy water and then bowed his head before the icon in silent prayer.
“We celebrate today the great love of God for us,” the bishop said, noting that the Lord shows His love for His people in many and varied ways, but especially by “sending the great blessing of His mother into our lives.”
Appearing in Fatima 100 years ago, she came as a concerned mother, seeking to correct her earthly children and encourage them to get on the right path.
The Voice of Mary
“Today, we celebrate the voice of Mary,” the bishop said, “the voice that calls us constantly to Christ.”
Parishioner Ann Ryan heard that voice once in her life, and it changed her.
“I was out of the church a long time, and then one night, I had a dream of Our Lady of Fatima. She said, ‘I will be your mother,’” Ryan said. “I took it as a sign that it was time to come back.”
That was 30 years ago and though it took time, she renewed her relationship with Jesus and His church, first through the rosary, then Mass and eventually the sacraments. Now she helps lead novena prayers to Our Lady of Fatima at church.
“She saved me,” Ryan said. “I thank God for giving me His mother every day.”
Leading up to the anniversary, Ryan and other Fatima devotees met in church for a nightly novena and Holy Hour, conducted in Spanish and English, starting May 5.
“You can’t believe how many people came night after night,” Ryan said. “This has been the most wonderful week here.”
Festivities continued when Auxiliary Bishop Witold Mroziewski joined the parish May 12 for a reenactment of the apparitions, performed by students from Our Lady of Fatima School. Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament and the recitation of the rosary followed.
“Every year we do something special for Our Lady of Fatima,” said teacher Angela Gentilella, who coordinated the reenactment.
Every student from first to eighth grade had a role to play, and Gentilella hopes that being part of the experience gave students a better understanding of the events at Fatima, and inspired a deeper love for Mary.
“She’s our mother, someone you can turn to when you need help,” she said.
Prior to Mass last Saturday, parishioners gathered for exposition with the Blessed Sacrament and an outdoor procession with the parish’s new statue.
Imported from Fatima, the figure weighs around 50 pounds and measures about 50 inches from the top of the golden crown to the base.
Parish Deacon Marco Lopez was one of four men who bore the statue on their shoulders, walking in the rain through the neighborhood streets.
In Love with Our Lady
“The rain didn’t stop us because we are in love with Our Lady of Fatima,” he said. “Everyone took an umbrella. People were happy. People came out of their houses and were taking pictures.”
The deacon said it was a “good moment” for the parish and for him. He strives to follow the example of the Blessed Mother in his life and ministry.
“I depend on her and listen to her, how she guides us to Jesus and especially when she tells us, ‘Do whatever He says.’ She didn’t say a lot, but she was always serving, always helping Him. She inspires me.”
Returning to church, the faithful had opportunities for adoration, investiture into the Brown Scapular, recitation of the Divine Mercy Chaplet and confession before Mass.
Marie Fils-Aime traveled from Manhattan between shifts at work to take part in the devotional practices. It was her first visit to the church, and she was only sorry she couldn’t stay longer.
“Even though it is wet outside, I don’t mind. I don’t mind the weather,” she said. “That’s my mom, and I’m crazy for her.”
Events are being planned at Our Lady of Fatima Church to commemorate the Fatima apparitions around the 13th day of every month through October “to help the parish meditate on the appearance and Our Lady of Fatima’s message to us,” Father Da Costa said.
“Continue to celebrate the great gift of Mary,” Bishop Sanchez told the faithful.