Guest Columnists

Fatima Statue Brings Peace to Brooklyn

By Angelica Villalta

Not often does the gathering of thousands of people of all ages, professions, ethnicities and walks of life, for the same celebration occur. When it does take place, the event must certainly be of great significance, as was the case with the arrival of the pilgrim statue of Our Lady of Fatima to the parish of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Dyker Heights, May 19, as part of the Fatima Centennial U.S. Tour for Peace.

The statue arrived at noon, carried by the NYPD Holy Name Society and escorted by an NYPD Honor Guard. As Our Lady entered the church, an explosion of emotions, tears and applause filled the air. Msgr. Robert Romano, pastor, led the congregation in prayer, followed by the annual May Crowning, when two First Communicants crowned Our Lady of Fatima as Queen.

“I feel a joy and excitement. I can’t explain it. It’s something like peace and tranquility,” said Juana Luna, a parishioner at Our Lady of Guadalupe.

A continuous flow of devotees – some from miles away, some with pain in their souls or bodies or with any other type of impediment – came to venerate Our Lady of Fatima. While many stayed a few minutes, others sat and prayed for hours.

Sister Ann Martin, O.P., of Our Lady of Guadalupe advised, “Just listen to Honey. That’s what Msgr. Romano calls Mary. Pray the rosary and just sit quiet. ”

At 6 p.m., the rosary began, led by Father Joseph Gancila of St. Mary Mother of Jesus parish, Bensonhurst. It was recited in English, Italian, Spanish and Polish.

Officers from the 62nd Precinct guarded the statue. A sign read: “Do not touch her. She will touch you.”

“That is the beauty of it,” Msgr. Romano said. “Put yourself in front of the Blessed Mother and she touches you. She speaks to you. She comforts you.”

Chris Simone, a 12-year-old Confirmation candidate appeared to be restless as he awaited Mass. Chris, who also used the opportunity to add hours to his community service log, voiced what many others would say afterwards, by stating, “It seems like an exciting event.”

“It seems like a very nice thing to learn about Jesus,” he added.

At 7 p.m., the altar bells began to ring, announcing Mass. The congregation grew silent. The Mass was celebrated for the health of a man in need of Our Blessed Mother’s protection.

Among the concelebrants were Msgr. Kevin Noone, pastor of Our Lady of Angels, Bay Ridge; Msgr. Thomas Caserta, pastor, St. Bernadette, Dyker Heights; Father Gaetano Sbordone, pastor, St. Frances Cabrini, Bath Beach; Father Gancila; Fathers Gabriel Toro-Rivas and Ronald D’Antonio from St. Athanasius, Bensonhurst; Father Martin Restrepo from St. Dominic, Bensonhurst; and Fathers Andrew Soley, C.S.Sp., and Anthony Raso from Our Lady of Guadalupe.

“I’m glad that so many of the priests came and so many of the people came,” remarked Msgr. Romano.

Msgr. Caserta preached the homily in which hope, mercy and motherly love were the central messages. He spoke many times of the need for a mother, for devotion and for the protection from sin.

“The evil one is all around us,” he said. “But he is powerless at the presence of the Mother of God. We need her to protect us from war and violence.

“We need the tenderness of our Mother. We need to have a maternal dimension to our faith. Above all on that day when we take our last breath on Earth and our last breath in the kingdom of God, that day on which there is no sunset and no dawning, and you and I stand before Jesus, and we begin our little speech trying to get ourselves into heaven, we need Mary because at that moment … Jesus will look at us and say, ‘No need to say further. I’ve heard all about you from my Mother.’”

Choir Director Janet Cullen beautifully led the Children’s Choir and the Tone Chime Choir.

Patrick Sabat, a custodian who travels with the statue, spoke of the necessity to continue the pilgrimage in order to promote worldwide peace, and also insisted on the use of prayer as a “weapon of mass conversion.”

“The statue will go. Keep Mary in your family, in your heart,” he urged.

Msgr. Romano also reminded the crowd, “The statue is leaving, but the Blessed Mother is here all the time.”