By Bob Reddy (Florida Catholic)
For one week in February the International Pilgrim Virgin Statue of Our Lady of Fatima spent time within the Diocese of Venice as part of an 18-month tour of the United States commemorating the 100th anniversary of the original apparition in Portugal.
The Fatima Centennial U.S. Tour for Peace stop at Epiphany Cathedral was Feb. 17. The pilgrim statue was brought forward by the Knights of Columbus and displayed during a morning Mass which had more than 800 people. The Mass intentions were for the students of Epiphany Cathedral Catholic School, peace in the world and the protection of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Caroline Anderson came from St. Patrick Parish in Sarasota to be able to pray before the statue. â€śShe is so beautiful,â€ť Anderson said. â€śI have always wanted to go to Fatima but this is the closest I will get. We need Our Mother now more than ever. She is the bringer of peace, peace for our souls and peace for the world.â€ť
The statue also made visits at St. Paul Parish in Arcadia on Feb. 18, St. Margaret Parish in Clewiston on Feb. 19, St. Francis Xavier Parish in Fort Myers on Feb. 22, and then at St. Raphael Parish in Lehigh Acres on Feb. 23. The statue previously stopped at Ave Maria Parish in Ave Maria on Jan. 27.
Charity Rossi of Epiphany Cathedral was grateful the pilgrim statue was available for viewing locally. She also appreciated the history and story as presented by Patrick Sabat, the Statues Custodian. â€śWhat a blessing this opportunity is. My mother will not be able to see it at her home Diocese up north. I said a prayer for her and for others who are not as fortunate as I was.â€ť
Sabat shared the story of the apparition which first took place between May 13 and October 13, 1917. â€śOur Lady was seen by three small children tending sheep along the meadows of Fatima, Portugal, when a great light appeared followed by a message of peace from what was an apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary.â€ť
While many did not believe the young children, Sabat told the students of Epiphany Cathedral School that they need to keep hold of their belief in the Blessed Virgin Mary and Jesus Christ and how they came to us to bring peace to the world.
It was in 1947 when the world-famous International Pilgrim Virgin Statue of Fatima was sculpted by JosĂ© Thedim. Two sculptures were created to reflect the precise instructions of Sister Lucia, one of the children of Fatima. The second statue is on permanent display at the Basilica of Our Lady of Fatima in Portugal. Pope Pius XII crowned Our Lady of Fatima as Queen of the World and the pilgrim statue has travelled to hundreds of countries and has been seen by millions.
Interwoven into each visit was the Mass, silent prayer, Eucharistic Adoration, praying the rosary and much more. A steady stream of people visited each location while in the Diocese. Some knelt as close to the statue as possible, while others prayed in the pews. For each the experience was different, yet no less profound.