By Ed Wilkinson
By the thousands, the people of Brooklyn and Queens came out last weekend to venerate the well-traveled Pilgrim Statue of Our Lady of Fatima.
Sponsored by the World Apostolate of Fatima (The Blue Army), the statue is on a two-year Centennial Tour for Peace across the United States that celebrates the 100th anniversary of the apparitions of the Blessed Mother in Fatima, Portugal, to three peasant children, Lucia, Jacinto and Francisco.
In 1917 over a five-month period, Mary appeared to the children to promote world peace through daily recitation of the Rosary and to pray for the conversion of Russia, which at the time was experiencing its revolution and transition to a Communist-Socialist state.
While in the diocese, the statue visited Our Lady of Guadalupe Church, Dyker Heights; St. Joseph’s Co-Cathedral, Prospect Heights; and Our Lady of Fatima, East Elmhurst.
At each site, prayers, liturgies and benedictions were held and the public was permitted to get an up-close opportunity to pray before the statue.
The tour, which began in Metuchen, N.J., arrived in the Brooklyn Diocese after stops in the Archdiocese of New York. On Tuesday, May 23, it moved on to the Diocese of Rockville Centre.
The statue came to Brooklyn on Thursday, May 19. A constant flow of admirers lined the main aisle to see it up-close at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church. Men, women and children waited in line for a chance to kneel before the image, pray and take photos.
Two auxiliary police officers stood guard as Marian hymns played in the background.
That evening, an International Rosary was led by Father Joseph Gancila, parochial vicar, and Mass, celebrated by Msgr. Robert Romano, pastor, followed.
After Mass, as the statue was leaving the more than 1,600 people in attendance waved white handkerchiefs in a salute reminiscent of the popular practice at Fatima.
A police escort took the statue from Dyker Heights to St. Joseph’s Co-Cathedral for the following day’s schedule of events.
On Friday, May 20, the statue went on public view at 3 p.m. after being carried in procession to its location in the sanctuary. The Chaplet of Mercy was recited and the Luminous Mysteries of the Rosary were prayed.
At St. Joseph’s, a contingent from the Rosary Society of St. Gregory the Great parish, Crown Heights, had made their way by bus to visit Our Lady.
“I read about it in The Tablet and I felt compelled to come,” said Dolores Sykes, who was accompanied by Audrey Williams and Jane Wright.
“We had to be here. It’s such a good feeling. She is so beautiful.
“This is something we may never get to do again. We were able to pray the Rosary in her presence.”
The three Rosarians told about their practice of every First Saturday of the month gathering in the chapel at St. Gregory the Great and reciting 1,000 Hail Marys between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m.
Louise Manus, a member of Sacred Hearts-St. Stephen parish, Carroll Gardens, was accompanied by her husband, Michael.
“My mother had an affinity to the Blessed Mother and as a family we always prayed to Our Lady of Fatima,” said Louise.
Louise also talked about her cousin, Nancy Marchionne, who died in 1952 of cancer at the age of nine. She had portrayed the Blessed Mother in a school play.
“Everyone in my family spoke about how special Nancy was and how she was calm and serene when playing the part of Our Lady of Fatima,” said Louise.
“Still today everyone remembers what a special child she was. There are many occurrences which lead my family members to believe, even until this day, that Nancy has a very important mission in Heaven.”
Her husband Michael said he was particularly impressed at the physical beauty of the statue.
Louise described the presence of the statue as “breath-taking.”
“I didn’t expect to be so overwhelmed, but I was,” she said.
On Sunday, May 22, the statue moved to Our Lady of Fatima Church in Queens, where the Sunday schedule included a noon bilingual Mass with Colombian Bishop Alfonso Cabezas, C.M.
During the day, there was a procession, crowning of Mary, Mass, Marian concert, scapular enrollment, a dance performance, exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, confessions, consecration of the Blessed Mother, rosary, novena, Divine Mercy chaplet, veneration and benediction.
On Monday, Masses were offered and there also was exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, a school play, rosary and novena, consecration to Our Lady of Fatima and a farewell to Our Lady.
The historic statue was sculpted in 1947 by Jose Thedim. It reflects the description of Sister Lucia, one of the visionaries.
Larry Maginot, a permanent custodian who accompanied the statue to Brooklyn, said that Sister Lucia once said that this image most resembled what she and the other children had seen in 1917.
Patrick Sabat, another custodian, said they each spend about two to three weeks a month touring with the Pilgrim Virgin statue.
On Oct. 13, 1947, more than 150,000 Fatima pilgrims witnessed the blessing of this image of Our Lady. The Bishop of Leiria at Fatima blessed and commissioned it to serve as the Pilgrim Virgin who would carry the blessings of Fatima and Our Lady’s message throughout the world to the many millions who would never have an opportunity to visit Fatima.
The International Pilgrim Virgin Statue has traveled the world many times visiting more than 100 countries, including Russia and Red China.