For 17 years, a group of Oregon Catholics has worked day in, day out to spread devotion to Our Lady of Fatima and divine mercy.
The Divine Mercy and Our Lady of Fatima Crusade brings a statue of Our Lady of Fatima and the Divine Mercy image of Jesus to homes, where families host neighbors for rosary and songs.
“We bring the family together and teach children to pray as well,” says Melba Ganaban, a member of Our Lady of Sorrows Parish and leader of the crusade.
Ganaban, who fondly recalls praying in her grandmother’s home in the Philippines, says many young Catholics do not know how to pray the rosary.
“We want to bring families back to prayer. We want to bring families back to church,” Ganaban says. “When you do that, you save souls.”
The crusade began in 2000, during the worldwide church’s jubilee year. In western Oregon, Archbishop John Vlazny initiated Disciples in Mission, small groups that sought to form Catholic evangelizers by sparking their faith lives.
Ganaban’s husband, Ely, led Disciples in Mission at Our Lady of Sorrows in Southeast Portland. When the jubilee ended, the couple wondered how to advance the spiritual gains.
Melba suggested that they spread the deep Fatima devotion the Ganabans have in their home. The idea of a traveling statue was born.
Word got around by mouth. So many families wanted to host prayers that there was a lengthy waiting list. The Ganabans kept adding statues until they got up to a dozen, which now work their way around the region. In addition to Portland, prayer vigils take place in Oregon City, Salem, Tillamook and even Seattle. On any given weekend, Northwest living rooms are alive with Catholic prayer. Often, worshippers are moved to tears. One man who attended went to confession for the first time in 40 years.
“It has spread like wildfire,” Ganaban says. “Wherever mama Mary leads us, we go.”
Many of the host families are Filipino and now Hispanic families are increasingly involved.
The prayer sessions often have many children. Ganaban herself has taught her nine grandchildren the rosary and divine mercy prayers.
“There are people who are thirsty,” she says, referring to spiritual thirst.
The crusade will host a Divine Mercy Sunday event at 2 p.m. April 23 at Our Lady of Sorrows, at Southeast 52nd Avenue and Woodstock Boulevard. Seven priests will be on hand to hear confessions.
Father Theodore Lange, spiritual director of the group, says members live the spirituality communicated by Our Lady of Fatima. They also pass along the messages of divine mercy Jesus gave to St. Faustina by helping families pray in their homes and having the family consecrated.
“They are real missionaries of Our Lady and divine mercy,” the priest says. “The joy, prayer and fellowship they share at their gatherings is the fruit of their hearts’ desire to help people know the merciful Jesus and his loving Mother.”