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Fatima statue visits seven diocesan churches during centenary tour

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A couple dozen people were waiting in the parking lot of the Cathedral of St. Thomas More in Arlington March 20 at around 5 p.m. as the blue 33-foot RV pulled up.

With the look of groupies awaiting their favorite band’s arrival, these Catholics were waiting to see Mary, specifically the International Pilgrim Virgin Statue of Our Lady of Fatima on tour around the diocese.

The RV, emblazoned with “Fatima Centennial U.S. Tour for Peace” and a large image of Our Lady of Fatima, came to a stop. The crowd waited. The door opened and the handlers emerged with a large blue zipper bag, so heavy it had to be loaded and strapped onto a cart with wheels.

A makeshift procession began as the statue, the handlers and the faithful made their way to the cathedral’s main entrance. Once unzipped, the statue was placed on a bier, or a processional carrier, and taken to the altar area and placed on a table in front of the ambo.

Flowers were arranged, a box for petitions and donations was set out, braided rope hung from metal posts, and her portable spotlight was placed — Mary’s stage was set.

Many crowded around the altar to get a closer glimpse of Our Lady of Fatima. Cell phones lifted high, photos were taken. Some people took to their knees, others paused longer.

Father Robert J. Rippy, Cathedral rector, welcomed the statue and detailed the events of the next 17 hours — silent prayer; rosary; a talk about the message of Fatima by Larry Maginot, one of the statue’s two custodians; exposition of the Blessed Sacrament; Mass at 7 a.m., and one at 8:15 a.m. with Arlington Bishop Michael F. Burbidge; followed by the Divine Mercy Chaplet; another rosary; and investiture of the Holy Scapular.

The statue is on a two-year U.S. Tour for Peace, visiting more than 100 dioceses in all 50 states through Dec. 20, 2017, to mark the 100th anniversary of the Marian apparitions at Fatima. Mary appeared in 1917 to shepherd children Lucia dos Santos and her cousins, Francisco and Jacinta Marto, in Fatima, Portugal.

Maginot told those gathered to, “Let her do what she does best. Let her draw you into her Immaculate Heart. In her Immaculate Heart will be … a way that leads us to God.”

Sheila Stowell, a parishioner of St. Ambrose Church in Annandale, recently read about the experience of the children when they saw Our Lady of Fatima. “I came to participate in this pilgrimage of the statue because I hope to feel their awe and devotion,” she said.

Seventeen hours later, the statue was secured in the zippered bag, stowed safely aboard the RV and was on the road to Great Falls for the next stop at St. Catherine of Sienna Church in Great Falls. 

See the statue

March 23 — St. John Bosco Church, 315 N. Main St., Woodstock, 11:30 a.m. to 7 p.m.

March 23-24 —  St. John the Baptist Church, 120 Main St., Front Royal, 9 p.m. to 10 a.m.

March 24-25 — St. Paul Chung Church, 4712 Ripling Pond Dr., Fairfax, noon to 6 a.m.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2017