September 4, 2017
Annual Festa draws thousands for faith and fun
Story and photos by Carolee McGrath
LUDLOW – With pouring rain for much of the day, the attendance started to dip at the 70th annual Festa held at Our Lady of Fatima Parish in Ludlow, Sunday, Sept. 3. But just before 6:30 p.m., the skies cleared, and people from up and down the East Coast filled the lawn in front of the church chapel as Springfield Bishop Mitchell T. Rozanski celebrated Mass.
“This is our version of what it’s like to go to Fatima,” said Patty Supczak, the cantor and lector at the outdoor Mass. The annual Festa, a fundraiser for the parish, kicked off Friday, Sept. 1 and runs through Monday, Sept. 4. Busloads of people come in for the carnival, food, and live entertainment celebrating Portuguese culture. Supczak said central to the culture is faith. Each year, a Mass is held on the Sunday evening of the festival, followed by a rosary procession through the neighborhoods surrounding the church on Winsor Street in Ludlow.
“We are mostly dedicating our songs to Mary to thank her and Jesus and God for everything. They have sacrificed so much,” the mother of two boys, added.
Supczak’s son, 9-year-old Tyler, sang with her in the choir. He said it’s important to keep close to Jesus.
“He (Jesus) sacrificed things for us. He loves us,” he said.
The choir sang in both English and Portuguese. This year, the Mass and procession took on special meaning because of the 100th anniversary of the apparitions in Fatima, Portugal. From May to October 1917, the Blessed Mother appeared to three shepherd children: Lucia dos Santos, 10, and her two cousins, Jacinta, 7, and Francisco Marto, 9. The Blessed Mother told the children to pray the rosary daily for peace and to offer up their suffering for the conversion of souls.
“In Portugal, there are people who come from all over the world especially for this 100th anniversary. So, here in Ludlow where we have Our Lady of Fatima Parish, it’s important for those who cannot go to Portugal to be here and remember the importance of the apparitions of Our Lady of Fatima,” said Bishop Rozanski, who led a pilgrimage to Portugal and Spain in July.
“Mary’s message at Fatima was that we needed repentance. We needed conversion of heart to her son, Jesus. That’s the central message at Fatima. That’s what Mary continues to call us to do in our lives, to find that conversion of heart to her son, the Lord Jesus,” the bishop continued.
Following Mass, people lit candles that they carried during the procession. People also lit candles placed in the shape of a huge cross in front of the Our Lady of Fatima Shrine, just down the hill from the chapel.
“I’ve been coming here since I was little. Our Lady of Fatima is a huge statue and remembrance in Portugal, so this is a big thing,” said Vanessa Gomes, who came in from Long Island with her family. To Gomes the Festa was more than just a tradition, but a pilgrimage. The 32-year-old was recently diagnosed with leukemia.
“This is a big year for us because she recently got sick,” said Tiffany Correia, Gomes’ friend from New York.
“We’re coming here tonight to light a candle and say prayers for her.”
As people processed, Father Vitor Oliveira, the pastor of Our Lady of Fatima, led the crowd in the rosary, speaking in Portuguese.
“Everything is about Our Lady of Fatima. They are Portuguese people, the sons and daughters of immigrants. They grew up with this spirituality,” said Father Oliveira.
“There is nothing as close to Fatima as what we did tonight,” he added.
Watch for a video version of this story on this Saturday’s edition of “Real to Reel,” the Diocese of Springfield’s weekly TV news magazine that airs Saturday evenings at 7 on WWLP-22News.