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Gainesville parish hosts Marian extravaganza

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This article has been updated. 

Holy Trinity Church in Gainesville combined all the fun of a parish festival with the Catholic Church's flair for celebrating the Mother of God during all-day party May 13, the feast day of Our Lady of Fatima and the 100th anniversary of her apparitions to three Portuguese children. After Mass and a rosary procession around the church that morning, parishioners participated in dozens of other Mary-related activities for the whole family.

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Genevieve Rohlene, 6, swirls icing on a cupcake to make a rose, a classic Marian symbol. 


The narthex of the church was buzzing with people, but in front of the Our Lady of Fatima statue, groups of parishioners quietly prayed the rosary in different languages, including Spanish, Swahili and Shona, the language of Zimbabwe. In the parish’s Our Lady Hall, church choirs sang Marian hymns and children had their faces painted. The hallways were decked with parishioner-made paintings, drawings and tapestries of Mary.


Artist Michelle Kotas led children in painting watercolors of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. An infographic on a whiteboard explained the symbols within the familiar image. “That was one of the messages of Fatima: to spread devotion to the Immaculate Heart,” she said. “I started to have a devotion to the Immaculate Heart about two years ago and I’ve been painting this image over and over again. Anybody can paint and make it a prayerful moment. Kids are really open to this, they get it.”


Kotas was one of the parishioners who used their expertise and talent to teach others about Mary, while dozens of others prepared food, handed out schedules and kept the busy event running smoothly. Hourly talks were given in English and Spanish relating the history of Fatima and on the faith, and tours were given describing the art and architecture of the church.


During a more lighthearted activity, baker Stephanie Kenneally taught people how to garnish a cupcake with an icing rose. “A rose is an important Marian symbol and this is something fun and festive for any Marian feast day,” she said.


Gardener Jessica Gaulden led a session on planting a Mary garden, displaying rows of common herbs and flowers with Marian names. In the Middle Ages, many plants were commonly given religious monikers such as virgin’s flower (periwinkle) or Infant Jesus’ shoes (snapdragon), she explained. The name marigold has lasted to modern times.


“People were growing plants and so it was an easy way to teach the faith,” said Gaulden. “As time went on, a lot of monasteries began having gardens just in honor of her.”

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Women from the Swahili community in the parish pray the rosary in front of the Our Lady of Fatima statue. 


Parochial vicar Father Brian B. McAllister’s mother, Delane Karalow, a professor at Lynchburg College, spoke on the history of Mary in art. As Catholics, we should be proud of the beautiful art that has been inspired by our faith, she said. “A religion that isn't rich and deep and profound couldn't produce this quality. We should always be ready to contribute to the creation of it,” said Karalow.


In a small way, the activities of the Marian Festival, even as simple as stringing a rosary together, add to the great trove of art dedicated to the Queen of Heaven. 



© Arlington Catholic Herald 2017