Friday, September 29, 2017 - Updated: 9:00 am
In a world filled with racial strife, political conflict, terrorism and a threat of war, the touching image of the Virgin Mary appearing to the children at Fatima can bring us comfort, said Judene Indovina, who heads the diocesan Office for Family Ministry and Faith Formation.
“It’s a message of hope that we desperately have to hear today,” she said.
That message will be proclaimed Friday, Oct. 13, as Bishop David Zubik leads a consecration to the Virgin Mary and centennial celebration of Fatima at St. Paul Seminary, 2900 Noblestown Road in Crafton.
The celebration of the 100th anniversary of the apparitions of Our Lady of Fatima will feature a picnic-style dinner from 5-6:30 p.m., and a candlelight Eucharistic procession and consecration from 7-8 p.m. With its consecration to Mary, the diocese will entrust itself to her heart.
In response to Our Lady’s message at Fatima, the bishops of Pennsylvania will consecrate the state to the Mother of God Sept. 27 at St. Patrick Cathedral in Harrisburg during their annual meetings. Each diocese will then mark the anniversary Oct. 13-15.
“In this time of civil unrest, racial strife, political divisions, war, persecution and natural disasters, it may be difficult to believe that peace is possible,” said Bishop Zubik in a letter to the faithful. “Perhaps this is why the apparitions in Fatima concluded with the magnificent miracle of the sun, which appeared to change colors and dance in the sky.”
Proceeds from the picnic dinner and a free-will offering will benefit Maternidad de Maria, the maternity hospital, clinic, orphanage and home visit program at the diocesan mission in Chimbote, Peru.
“We will honor Our Lady not only with prayer, but with charity,” the bishop said.
Children and adults preparing for reception of the sacraments will have a special role in the procession. Second-graders preparing for first Communion will drop rose pedals along the route. Also featured will be confirmation students and catechumens preparing for baptism, along with seminarians and clergy.
Indovina described it as a “walking parade,” with singing and recitation of the rosary. “We’re entrusting the entire diocese to Mary, and it couldn’t come at a more important time to have those graces be with us and to help us through a time that will be one of growth, but that will also be painful,” she said. “We all know that.”
Other than Guadalupe, she noted, there is no Marian apparition that is as extraordinary as Fatima.
The family picnic, Indovina said, is in the spirit of Fatima, where the children received the message within a family context. Her office does the work of the former Department for Religious Education, and is part of the Secretariat for Leadership Development and Evangelization. The office reflects the new family-centered direction in catechesis.
Studies indicate, she said, that the greatest influence on children staying Catholic comes from parental engagement in their faith formation.
The gathering will be held the day after the annual Peru Mission Dinner, which supports the Center for Social Works mission in Chimbote. Dominican Sisters Margaret Mary Birchmeier and Lillian Bocheim, who have served the mission for more than 50 years, plan to attend both celebrations.
“The Maternidad benefits women living in dire poverty to birth their children in a safe and clean environment,” said Suzan O’Keefe of the diocesan Mission Office. “The three children of Fatima had a special love for the poor, and so it is very appropriate they donate the proceeds of this event to such a worthy cause.”
In pointing out that the children of Fatima offered their own lunches to other poor children, Indovina said that as Catholics we believe our life of prayer should be poured out as a gift to others.
“It’s a beautiful way to share the full picture of what the Catholic faith is all about,” she said.
Tickets for the dinner are $10 for adults and $5 for children 5 and older. Children under 5 are free. Tickets must be purchased by Oct. 9 at https:tinyurl.com/fatimapgh100. Registration is not required to attend the procession and consecration.