It was 100 years ago, during World War I and the Bolshevik Revolution, that Mary appeared to three Portuguese children. She urged love, steady prayer and conversion.
Archbishop Alexander Sample has asked the people of the Archdiocese of Portland to “fully embrace” the centennial of the apparitions at Fatima, taking to heart the messages of Mary.
In 2014, the archbishop consecrated the archdiocese to Mary under the title of the “Immaculate Heart of Our Lady of Fatima.” Mary’s messages at Fatima are relevant today, Archbishop Sample has said. And for a century, conversion and prayer for the world — particularly Russia — still are high on the agenda for many Fatima devotees, known collectively as the Blue Army.
First Saturday of the month devotions — including confession, rosary and Mass — are part of the message Mary gave at Fatima. At many Oregon parishes, participation is expected to increase during the centennial. The year of celebration will culminate in an archdiocesan pilgrimage to Portugal in September.
In every corner of western Oregon, there are Catholics with a special devotion to Our Lady of Fatima.
Nina Pascua, a member of Our Lady of the Lake Parish in Lake Oswego, takes part in a weekly Fatima prayer group.
“The Fatima devotion allows me that one hour to deepen my devotion and relationship with Our Lady and serve others,” Pascua says. “It provides me the opportunity to pray to Our Lady for her intercession to her Son for the many needs, problems, concerns for other individuals in our lives, communities and the world.”
Eric Walter, an engineer for Lane County, is also a fan of Fatima. He is awestruck because of the miracles and the innocence of the children who carried the message.
“I love how our Blessed Mother comes to us where we are in our different cultures,” explains Walter, who became Catholic a decade ago. “Our Blessed Mother led me to her son.”
The World Apostolate of Fatima promotes devotion and attention to Mary’s messages. Brenda Schwartz, a member of St. Pius X Parish in Portland, is president of the local branch. She says first Saturday devotions are a way to experience many sacraments regularly.
“I was not really practicing confession before,” says Schwartz. “I can’t tell you how much that has meant in my life.”
Therese Ruesink, vice president of the local World Apostolate of Fatima, started praying the rosary after she had veered away from her faith. That led her to apostolate meetings at Holy Rosary Parish in Portland and first Saturday devotions.
“I started longing to go to Fatima,” she says. Ruesink’s wish came true last fall. She walked where Mary appeared and saw where the young visionaries lived.
“I really felt the presence of Mary there,” she says. “The simple messages of love, penance, prayer and sacrifice have just changed my life.”
In Newberg, Sister Juanita Villarreal recalls a year spent on the Iberian Peninsula and a full week in Fatima.
“I basked in the beauty of the basilica,” she says. There was special energy at Fatima that year, 2000, because two of the Fatima visionaries were beatified by St. John Paul II.
“It’s the emphasis on the growth in holiness,” says Mary Nordlund, secretary of the board for western Oregon’s World Apostolate of Fatima. Monthly confession keeps one working on the spiritual life, explains Nordlund, a member of St. Joseph the Worker Parish in Southeast Portland. She leads a first Saturday devotion at St. Henry Church in Gresham and hopes more people begin the practice. “It’s not a lot, but a little commitment,” she says. “We want to do what Our Lady asks.”
Suggestions from the archbishop
Archbishop Alexander Sample has suggested some actions to get the year of celebration started:
• Get acquainted with the story of Fatima.
• Embrace repentance and conversion, the core of the Fatima message. Our Lady asked all to pray for the conversion of sinners.
• Offer daily sacrifices to the Sacred Heart of Jesus through the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
• Pray the rosary daily and have a family rosary at least once a week.
• Foster a devotion to the holy Eucharist.
• Entrust yourself personally to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
• Practice the first Saturday devotions: confession, holy Communion, the rosary and meditation for 15 minutes on one or more mysteries of the rosary.
Upcoming local Fatima events
— "Our Lady of Fatima: 1917 and Beyond," a mini-retreat on Our Lady of Fatima is set for 8 a.m.-noon Saturday, March 11, at St. Stephen Parish in Southeast Portland. The World Apostolate of Fatima hosts the day and Father Eric Andersen will lead. The day starts with adoration at 8 a.m., followed by Mass at 9 a.m. and then confessions. A continental breakfast will be served and Father Anderson will speak in the gym starting at 10:45 a.m. A free-will offering will be accepted. St. Stephen is located at 1112 SE 41st Ave.
— An archdiocesan procession to St. Mary Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception is planned for Saturday, May 13. A Mass will follow to celebrate the feast of Our Lady of Fatima.
— A tour of the Immaculate Heart of Mary statue is planned for parishes Oct. 3 – 18.