May 14, 2017

Local parishes celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Marian apparitions at Fatima

Story and photos by Kathleen Harrington


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Children at Our Lady of Fatima Parish in Ludlow portray the three young shepherd children who were visited by the Blessed Mother in Fatima, Portugal in 1917.

HAMPDEN — As Francisco and Jacinta Marto were elevated to sainthood thousands of miles away in Portugal, parishioners at two churches in the Diocese of Springfield were asking Our Lady of Fatima for her intercession.

At St. Mary Church in Hampden, parishioners took part in a prayer service before and after the Saturday 4 p.m. Mass. At Our Lady of Fatima Church in Ludlow, the celebration included an evening Mass celebrated by Springfield Bishop Mitchell T. Rozanski.

In Hampden, the rain forced the planned procession inside our Our Lady of Fatima Shrine, which is located on the church property. Harold Anderson, a parishioner at St. Mary’s coordinated the recitation of the rosary before Mass. Following Mass, he read the first message from the Virgin Mary as revealed to the shepherd children at Fatima. A group of parishioners prayed the Fatima prayers and venerated the statue of Mary.

Inside the shrine, most of the tall candles were glowing. In addition to celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Marian apparitions, many people stopped by to light candles in memory of their mothers. The shrine is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The parish is also sponsoring a campaign to sell T-shirts for the jubilee year. The proceeds will support a health clinic in Uganda.

In Ludlow, the celebration began after a nine-day novena. On Friday night, May 12, the novena ended with a candlelight procession and 7 p.m. Mass. Parishioners kept vigil in the church during adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. Praying through the night, adoration concluded with the recitation of the rosary on Saturday evening, May 13, followed by the anointing of the sick at 5:30 p.m.

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Our Lady of Fatima Church in Ludlow also featured a Portuguese choir. The choir performed the official hymn of the centennial of the apparitions of Our Lady of Fatima “Mestra do Anuncio, Profecia do Amor” (“Master of the Announcement, Prophecy of Love.”) Just as in Hampden, the weather forced the cancellation of the planned candlelight procession Saturday evening. But the pews filled as more than 250 celebrated the centennial with Springfield Bishop Mitchell T. Rozanski presiding at the 7 p.m. Mass Saturday evening.

On hand to welcome the bishop were members of the Knights of Columbus, Archbishop Williams Assembly fourth degree honor guard. Additionally, the committee responsible for planning the weekend’s activities recruited three children in the parish to represent the shepherd children of Fatima. Dressed in the clothes of 1917 Portugal, 13-year-old Lizzy Pereira was Lucia. She was joined by 10-year-old Lucas Costa who played Francisco. His 7-year-old sister Oliva was Jacinta.

The Mass was bilingual. The readings and music were in English and Portuguese. In his homily, Bishop Rozanski set the scene for the Blessed Mother’s appearance to the children. With the backdrop of war raging in Europe, “The world was a very scary place,” said Bishop Rozanski. “The people needed a message of encouragement.”

“If the world doesn’t repent, things will only get worse,” he said of Mary’s message. Bishop Rozanski said Mary was a prophet telling the world to turn their hearts to God and calling on them to say the rosary every day. The messages of Fatima proved true with the horrors of World War I being replaced with even more atrocities during World War II. Russia fell behind the Iron Curtain and prayers are still needed for the conversion of the country. Bishop Rozanski said Mary’s Fatima message is still relevant today. He encouraged all to pray the rosary every day.

Louise Pereira serves on the Centennial Committee. “The planning began in January,” Pereira said. On the 13th day of each month, the church will celebrate the 100th anniversary of Mary’s apparitions in Fatima.

“Since our diocese is so diverse, we have reached out to the Italian community and invited Mt. Carmel (Parish), the Chicopee Deanery, the Vietnamese community, and the Latino community to join us.” Masses will be offered in the shrine at Our Lady of Fatima Parish on each of those days.

A video version of this story will air on an upcoming edition of “Real to Reel” which airs Saturday evenings at 7 p.m. on WWLP TV22.