Parishes, prayer groups preparing to celebrate Fatima centennial

By Kenneth J. Souza
Anchor Staff

NEW BEDFORD, Mass. — Those devoted to the Blessed Mother and, in particular, Our Lady of Fatima, are preparing to celebrate the 100th anniversary of her apparitions to three shepherd children in the field known as Cova da Iria in Fatima, Portugal in 1917.

While millions are expected to flock to Portugal to visit the Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima between May and October of next year, there are several events and devotions already in the works in the Fall River Diocese to celebrate the centennial of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary.

St. Anthony of Padua Parish in New Bedford is hosting a Fatima Holy Hour every Saturday from 2:30 to 3:45 p.m. consisting of Eucharistic Adoration, praying the Rosary, the Sacrament of Confession, and the consecration to Jesus through Mary following the plan of St. Louis de Montfort, followed by the celebration of Holy Mass. 

Instead of observing the usual 33 days of consecration, Father Octavio Cortez, I.V.E., pastor of St. Anthony of Padua, has opted to spread it out over 33 weeks, culminating with the May 2017 anniversary of the first apparition.

“Father Cortez is having a Fatima Holy Hour every Saturday as a means to fulfill the Blessed Mother’s request for the first five Saturdays,” explained Edwin Aldarondo, a parishioner at St. Anthony of Padua and a Marian devotee. “Even though Our Lady asked for the first Saturday of the month, at St. Anthony’s we will have it every Saturday throughout 2016 and 2017.”

Like many Catholics who have a deep devotion to the Blessed Mother, Aldarondo views Our Lady’s monthly appearances in Fatima in 1917 as one of the most important visitations in Church history.

“The apparitions that took place from May to October 1917 seem to be perceived by many as a one big event that occurred 100 years ago in which Our Lady appeared, left us a visual sign (the Miracle of the Sun), and some requests to follow to prevent worse things from happening,” Aldarondo said. “In reality the apparition of Our Lady, the sign and message has much more connotation than what is perceived. One must analyze the various occurrences that led to Our Lady’s apparition and what has happened since her apparition. In reality, the apparition began in the year 1916 with the angel’s visit to the three children to prepare them for the visit of Our Lady by means of adoring and receiving Jesus in the Holy Eucharist.”

Taking place during World War I, the Fatima apparitions served as a warning of things to come and a plea from Mary to pray for peace. Aldarondo said that Pope Leo XIII even had a premonition of things to come 33 years before Our Lady of Fatima first appeared to little Lucia, Jacinto and Francisco.

“While celebrating Holy Mass in his private chapel, Pope Leo XIII heard a conversation between God and Satan in which Satan requested 100 years and more power to destroy the Church,” Aldarondo said. “The Lord then revealed the events of the 20th century to Pope Leo. He saw wars involving many countries of the world, widespread immorality, large-scale murder and genocide, advances in technology and knowledge that would sow confusion and pride in the hearts of men. There would also be apostasy on a large scale and satanic cults would rise.”

Noting that many of these dire predictions have since come to fruition, Aldarondo said the Fatima message remains just as important today as it was a century ago.

“It is obvious we have created enormous damage in our relationship with Our Lord that needs to be repaired and Our Heavenly Mother (has) showed us the way,” he said. “Our Lady’s first request to the children was: ‘Are you willing to offer yourselves up to God and to bear all the sufferings He wills to send you, as an act of reparation for the sins by which He is offended, and for the conversion of sinners?’”

To that end, we are all called to make sacrifices and pray for the conversion of sinners, Aldarondo said.

The other aspect of the centennial observance at St. Anthony of Padua is called “Living the Fatima Message,” where a special monthly Mass will be celebrated in her honor. It will consist of Eucharistic Adoration starting at 5:15 p.m., Mass at 6:30 p.m., followed by a small procession outside and around the church. The Sacrament of Confession will also be available.

For each month a guest priest will celebrate the Mass and provide a homily. The remaining dates and homily topics include:

— November 21: The Presentation of Mary;

— December 12: Our Lady of Guadalupe;

— Jan. 1, 2017: Holy Mary Mother of God;

— Feb. 11, 2017: Our Lady of Lourdes/Immaculate Conception;

— Mar. 25, 2017: The Annunciation;

— April 22, 2017: Votive Mass of the Blessed Virgin Mary; and 

— May 13, 2017: Our Lady of Fatima.

A volunteer, grassroots group comprised of clergy, religious and lay people has also formed in the diocese to encourage all to answer Our Lady of Fatima’s call for peace. Known as Living the Fatima Message, this newly-formed group hopes to not only remember and commemorate the Blessed Mother’s 1917 apparition, but also apply her important message to contemporary society.

“A major part of that call is to come to Jesus through Mary, especially by the Rosary,” said Elizabeth Montigny, a member of the Living the Fatima Message team. “We believe the best way to combat all the attacks against our religious liberty, the human person and the family is through conversion of our own lives, devotion to Our Lady and praying for her intercession, which will ultimately lead us to her Son, Jesus.”

Noting that the group’s central mission is to “promote Our Lady’s message in this time of turmoil,” Montigny said they hope to “reach as many people as possible, from all walks of life and, we pray, bring them closer to Jesus.”

As a performer who has presented one-woman shows devoted to the Blessed Mother throughout the diocese, Montigny said she’s very concerned with the “poor state of our culture” and she hopes more people will find comfort in Mary’s message of peace. And as a mother with three young children, Montigny said she was only too eager to get involved with the group.

“You don’t have to look too hard to see the battle we’re up against and we’re wondering what kind of world our boys will face when they are older,” she said. “In my performance work for the Marian Theatre Project, I see people are longing to find their way to Jesus, and this is through Mary! So when my friend Jane asked me and my husband to get involved with this core team of other concerned Catholics, all of what I’d been feeling as a mother and what I’d been seeing in my own work came together. Joining the team seemed to be a natural next step in my faith and it didn’t take long for me to say ‘yes.’”

Montigny said the Living the Fatima Message team has been coordinating events such as the recent evening reflection at St. Bernard’s Parish in Assonet and they are also presenting the Fatima message to students at Bishop Connolly High School in Fall River.

“The principal at Bishop Connolly wants to enthrone the school to Mary’s Immaculate Heart and they have already scheduled a Mass to do just that on the feast of the Immaculate Conception, December 8 at 1:30 p.m.,” she said. And more events and presentations are being planned throughout the centennial year.

“We’ve discovered as a team, though we may be small in number, that God has given each of us different talents and by working together we can help bring people closer to Jesus, which is what I think Mary is asking all of us to do,” Montigny said.

Central to all the planned events — and the Fatima message itself — is prayer, especially through the power of the Rosary.

“Sister Lucia of Fatima told us that, ‘There is no problem, I tell you, no matter how difficult it is, that we cannot solve by the prayer of the Holy Rosary,’” Aldarondo said. “With the Holy Rosary we will save ourselves. We will sanctify ourselves. We will console Our Lord and obtain the Salvation of many souls. Let us know and believe this is true remembering the promises of Our Lady to those who faithfully recite her devotion.”

For more information about events at St. Anthony of Padua Parish, visit

For more information about Living the Fatima Message, email

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