Home Diocesan News Hundreds gather for celebration of Fatima at Comforter of the Afflicted Shrine
Hundreds gather for celebration of Fatima at Comforter of the Afflicted Shrine Print E-mail
Written by Pete Sheehan   
Friday, 19 May 2017 14:11

YOUNGSTOWN – Hundreds of people gathered at Our Lady Comforter of the Afflicted Shrine here in prayer, procession, and celebration of the 100th anniversary of the reported apparitions of Mary, mother of Jesus, in Fatima, Portugal.

“It’s exciting that so many people come for something that happened 100 years ago,” remarked Wilma DePiore, one of the more than 300 people  who packed the shrine chapel for the rosary and hymns of praise to Mary before a concelebrated Mass.

The attendees had gathered to celebrate several reported appearances of Mary to three shepherd children between May 13 and Oct. 13, 1917.

Fatima is one of a handful of locales, including Lourdes, France; Guadalupe, Mexico; and Knock, Ireland, where reported apparitions of the Blessed Mother have been deemed “worthy of belief” by Church authorities.

Two of the children who reported the apparitions, Francisco Marto and Jacinta Marto, died the next year in the 1918 influenza pandemic. They were canonized by Pope Francis May13 at Fatima. (See related story, Page 3.)

The third, their cousin, Lucia dos Santos, became a sister and lived until 2005. There is an effort under way for her canonization.

“It was a beautiful celebration of the Blessed Mother,” said Carol Elias, who chairs the Queen of the Holy Rosary Prayer Group at the shrine, which organized the celebration of the Fatima anniversary.

The shrine has two statues of Our Lady of Fatima that came from Fatima itself. One of the statues stands in an alcove in the chapel while the other stands outside in an area known as “the Chapel of the Pines.”

“I was being asked where all these people came from,” Elias noted, adding that she met people from Cranberry, Pa., and one person from Jamestown, Pa.

The shrine parking lot was filled, forcing some of the devotees to park on a road across the street and at St.  Mary Byzantine Catholic Church down Belle Vista and across from the shrine.

“It shows how much people love the Blessed Mother,” said Marie Cataline, a member of the planning committee.

“People were coming up to me saying how prayerful it was, that they haven’t heard such singing and such praying in years,” Elias said. “It was a very inspirational day.”

“We were hoping to have 100 or 120 people,” said Terry Gallagher, a member of the planning committee. “We were so surprised to have this many. I think it speaks well for the area.”

Three Franciscan priests serving at the shrine, including Father Vit Fiala, shrine director, concelebrated. Franciscan Father Dennis Arambasick, who preached the homily, and Franciscan Father Jules Wong, also concelebrated.

A standing-room-only congregation – which left little room in the chapel aisles – gathered for the Mass. Beforehand, Gallagher talked about Mary’s Fatima message, which included repentance, daily praying of the rosary, and the consecration of Russia to the Sacred Heart of Mary.

In his homily, Father Dennis pointed out that this year sees a number of anniversaries – some of which are celebrated while others are observed with degrees of sadness.

The anniversaries include the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation; the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution in Russia, which led to the formation of the Soviet Union; and the 800th anniversary of the feast of St. Bonaventura, the 13th century Franciscan theologian and doctor of the Church.

“And for  those of us in Youngstown, it is the 100th anniversary of Rulli Brothers,” the name of two popular family-owned grocery stores, Father Dennis said with a laugh. He noted that both the Boardman and Austintown branch of Rulli Brothers are closed on Sundays.

Father Dennis noted that the message of Fatima, as reported by the three shepherd children who reported seeing Mary and hearing her talk to them, is judged by the Church as a “private revelation” – meaning that Catholics are not required to believe it as a doctrine of faith.

At the same time, numerous popes, notably Pope John Paul II, emphasized “the fidelity with Catholic doctrine” of the messages of Fatima, Father Dennis said. The central message of Fatima is that of conversion to Christ and repentance from sin, he noted.

At the end of the homily, Father Dennis led those gathered in the praying of “The Memorare,” a traditional prayer to Mary.

Following Mass, many of those gathered took carnations that were being distributed by celebration organizers for a procession to the altar in the “Cathedral of the Pines.” Those participating in the procession, sang “Ave Marie” as they left the flowers at the altar.

Organizers served a luncheon for participants in the chapel basement following the procession and many discussed the celebration.

“It was so uplifting,” said Monica Mattiusi, a senior at Walsh University. “I could feel the presence of Jesus.”


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