Presidential candidates will log thousands of miles trying to win votes this year while Our Lady seeks to win souls instead through a special tour to promote her message of prayer, conversion and peace.
Beginning March 20, the 1947 International Pilgrim Virgin Statue of Our Lady of Fatima is scheduled to visit 100 dioceses in 50 states during the World Apostolate of Fatima USA’s Fatima Centennial U.S. Tour for Peace, which will run through Dec. 20, 2017. The tour begins on the 100-year anniversary of an angel’s first apparition to three shepherd children in Fatima, Portugal, in 1916 and culminates during the centenary of the Blessed Mother’s six apparitions to the children in 1917.
Organizers for the historic statue’s tour seek to draw Catholics to prayer and penance for our country and to introduce a new generation to the Fatima message — “the peace plan of heaven” — which is just as relevant today, said Patrick Sabat, WAF USA tour program coordinator and one of two statue escorts who will share the Fatima message wherever the statue goes.
WAF USA (originally known as Our Lady’s Blue Army), based in Asbury, New Jersey, is a designated Public International Association of the Faithful under the Pontifical Council for the Laity that promotes the Fatima message “in communion with the Church and in concert with the New Evangelization,” according to the group’s website.
“We are seeking Catholics who probably haven’t heard about Fatima or lost interest in the Faith, that they may come back. So we thought about creating awareness for Our Lady’s message,” said Sabat, who will travel with the statue in a 33-foot RV wrapped with its image.
Message of Fatima
The tour begins at WAF USA’s Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima in Washington, New Jersey, followed by an estimated 320 parishes, schools, military chapels, and other locations that will offer Masses, confession, talks, Holy Hours and Rosaries.
The national tour, the first since 1948-50, will continue as Pope Francis is expected to visit the Portugal Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima in May 2017. The Tour for Peace also aligns with the Jubilee Year of Mercy, and the Fatima messages are linked to the message of Divine Mercy received by St. Faustina, Sabat said.
Father Andrew Apostoli, co-founder of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal in the Bronx, New York, and author of “Fatima for Today” (Ignatius Press, $17.95), said the statue will heighten awareness of Our Lady’s Fatima message during the Year of Mercy and help call down God’s mercy.
In 1916, an angel appeared three times at Fatima to Lucia dos Santos and her now-beatified cousins, Francisco and Jacinta Marto, telling them to make everything a sacrifice in reparation for sin, which offends God. The following year, Our Lady appeared to the children six times, affirming the existence of hell and that souls are being lost because no one is making reparation for their sins; that war on earth is a consequence of sin; and that salvation of souls and world peace require the conversion of sinners.
With the tour, WAF USA seeks dominion of the Blessed Mother’s Immaculate Heart over America and to bring Fatima’s message and graces to American Catholics, hoping they will seek reconciliation and respond to her call to make reparation for offenses against her Immaculate Heart through the Rosary and Five First Saturdays devotion (see sidebar), Sabat said.
According to Pope St. John Paul II, our Christian culture, rights and dignity are at stake, Father Apostoli said.
“You can see the battle of the Church and anti-church in what is going on and how our culture is being undermined. We need to be reminded of this important message of Our Lady,” he said.
The official pilgrim statue set to tour the United States, sculpted in 1947 by a Portuguese artist who consulted closely with Sister Lucia, is one of two identical statues created to bring the Fatima message to the world. After touring for several years, the other statue is permanently displayed in Fatima.
The 42-inch-tall, 40-pound mahogany statue was blessed by Pope Pius XII and the bishop of Fatima and has visited 100 countries, Sabat said. In 2014, it was placed under the auspices of WAF USA.
Sabat, who has traveled with the statue since 2003, has seen many lives changed.
“It is unbelievable the number of people who, after seeing the statue and hearing the message of Fatima, are moved to go to confession after many years,” he said in a recent magazine article.
Priests, parishioners and even non-Catholics experience conversion, healing and answered prayers, Sabat said, recalling a California priest whose heart was softened after reluctantly allowing the statue into his church.
When the statue arrives at Stella Maris Chapel in Newark, New Jersey, on April 1, Father John Corbett and his parish plan to place it and the Blessed Sacrament on a decorated truck and process through the nearby Newark port. The Newark archdiocese is home to many Catholics of Portuguese descent, he said.
“It can be a tough grind down here [at the port] for a lot of these guys working long hours, and to be in the presence of the statue of Fatima lets people know that God is with them in the midst of all their trials and tribulations during the work day.”
Michelle St. Pierre also anticipates the statue’s visit will be an exciting time in the Archdiocese of Detroit, where the statue will visit multiple parishes and shrines in July.
“It’s an exciting time for the people in the Archdiocese of Detroit, because we really believe that this is God’s will for us right now and that the timing is perfect,” said St. Pierre, a member and trustee of the board of directors for WAF, Detroit Archdiocesan Division, which under the auspices of Detroit Archbishop Allen Vigneron selected sites for the statue’s visit.
“This is a perfect time for us to pray that the leaders that will lead our country into peace and reconciliation are chosen, and we’ll be a strong part of that.”
America needs Our Lady of Fatima and her message, Sabat said.
“As we stand up for the truth, we go back to our knees in prayer,” he said. “Like a domino effect, Americans go back to pray and stop offending God. If we repent and amend our lives, we can lead the world to a time of peace.”
Susan Klemond writes from Minnesota.
A version of this story appears in the March 27, 2016, issue of OSV Newsweekly on page 7.