2017 marks the 100th anniversary of the famed apparition of Our Blessed Mother in Portugal
By Esther C. Gefroh
Special to the Herald
In 2015, in anticipation of the 100th anniversary of Our Lady’s apparitions in Fatima, Portugal, the World Apostolate of Fatima launched a two-year tour of 100 parishes in the United States with the International Pilgrim Virgin Statue of Our Lady of Fatima.
The Diocese of Honolulu will welcome the statue next year, Jan. 29-Feb. 4. It will visit parishes on Oahu and the neighbor islands, including the Cathedral Basilica of Our Lady of Peace. The faithful are highly encouraged to attend one of these stops, not only for the blessings and graces received, but also to hear the timely message of Fatima — which includes sacrifice, reparation, conversion of sinners, bearing sufferings humbly, and peace through sacrifice — and to help spread that message to others.
The following is a brief history of the World Apostolate of Fatima, the official custodians of the Pilgrim Virgin Statue, and of the statue itself.
The World Apostolate of Fatima was formally known as the Blue Army of Our Lady of Fatima. The apostolate is a public international association of the faithful under the Pontifical Council for the Laity. It is the only Fatima organization which speaks “in the name of the church” and “with the authority of the church” on Fatima.
In 1947, Our Lady answered Msgr. Harold V. Colgan’s prayers for healing after he had suffered a massive heart attack and was in danger of dying. Msgr. Colgan had promised to promote devotion to Our Lady of Fatima if he was healed. Subsequently, he founded the World Apostolate of Fatima. In 1950 the apostolate was officially enshrined in Washington, New Jersey, as a pilgrimage site for the faithful. The collaborative efforts of Msgr. Colgan and John Haffert, and of course Our Lady, became a reality.
Haffert was one of the first lay Catholics to have interviewed Sister Lucia, one of the three shepherd children to whom Our Lady appeared for six consecutive months in 1917, May 13-Oct. 13. It was from her that he learned what Our Lady wanted of her children. Haffert dedicated his life to educating the public on the message of Fatima. He wrote 35 books about the Blessed Mother and Fatima from the 1940s until his death in 2001.
Msgr. Colgan once met Padre Pio and asked the now-canonized Franciscan to accept the apostolate members as his spiritual children. Padre Pio replied that he would accept them as spiritual children if they were faithful. He also predicted that Russia would be converted when there was an apostolate member for every Communist. Once one becomes a member of the World Apostolate of Fatima, he or she has Saint Pio as a spiritual father, this time from heaven.
In 2008, Bishop Larry Silva gave the World Apostolate of Fatima permission to start a division in the Diocese of Honolulu which it did in 2009. Members are required to make the following daily pledge to our Lady of Fatima, composed by Haffert, in reparation for their sins and those of the whole world:
1: To offer up every day the sacrifices demanded by our daily duty;
2: To pray part of the rosary daily while meditating on the mysteries;
3: To wear the Scapular of Mount Carmel as a profession of this promise and as an act of consecration to Our Lady of Fatima;
4: To accomplish the devotion of the Five First Saturdays of the month, including 15 minutes of meditation on the mysteries of the rosary.
Since members of the Apostolate belong to the Blue Army of Our Lady, it is a custom to honor her by wearing baby blue, the color associated with the Blessed Virgin Mary, on her feast days, solemnities and Saturdays, the day we honor Our Blessed Mother.
The statue coming to Hawaii is the one sculpted by Jose Thedim in the 1940s and blessed on May 13, 1947. Named the International Pilgrim Virgin Statue of Our Lady of Fatima, it is based on Sister Lucia’s description of Our Lady.
Thedim made a second statue which was blessed on Oct. 13, 1947, by the Bishop of Liera at Fatima, exactly 30 years after the “Miracle of the Sun” during the last apparition at Fatima. It became the pilgrim statue that would travel the world, spreading the blessings of Fatima. Referred to as the “western statue,” it was brought to the United States by Haffert.
After traveling throughout the U.S., Canada and Europe, the statue arrived in Fatima in 1951 in the Holy Year designated by Pope Pius XII. The pope, in his radio address at Fatima, stated: “In 1946, I crowned Our Lady of Fatima as Queen of the World and the following year, through the Pilgrim Virgin, she set forth as though to claim her dominion, and the favors she performs along the way are such that we can hardly believe what we are seeing with our eyes.”
The Holy Father then blessed the statue on Oct. 24, 1952, imparting a special blessing on the work of the Pilgrim Virgin peace tours. On Oct. 16, 1992, on one of these peace tours, six bishops carried the statue into Red Square in Moscow. It was crowned at midnight, in front of Lenin’s tomb!
In 1995 Haffert formed the International Pilgrim Virgin Statue Foundation to fulfill the mandate of the Bishop of Fatima for the travels and teaching the Fatima message.
According to the foundation, on May 13, 2010, Pope Benedict XVI said: “At that time it was only three children, yet the example of their lives spread and multiplied, especially as a result of the travels of the Pilgrim Virgin, in countless groups, throughout the world dedicated to the cause of fraternal solidarity.”
On Sept. 1, 2014, the World Apostolate of Fatima, USA, assumed the protection and custody of the pilgrim statue. Its current custodian is Patrick Sabat. He is the full-time guardian of the statue, accompanying her wherever she travels.
According to Soul Magazine, the official magazine of the Fatima apostolate: “The statue has visited more than 100 countries bringing the great message of salvation and hope to countless millions of people. Many miracles and graces have been reported wherever the statue has traveled.”
It is amazing that, even in countries where Catholics are a minority, millions of people gather for visits of the pilgrim virgin statue.
We hope that many Catholics and non-Catholics alike will come out to attend the events planned for the visit to Hawaii of the International Pilgrim Virgin Statue of Our Lady of Fatima.
For more information, or to volunteer individually or as a group, contact event coordinator Easter Almuena at the Office of Worship at 585-3342.
Esther Gefroh is a co-director of the World Apostolate of Fatima, Hawaii Division.