Marcia Koutellos visited Fatima, Portugal, a few years ago and she felt the importance of being present for the centennial celebration of Our Lady of Fatima at St. Patrick’s Cathedral on May 13 after having her faith challenged last year.
“I had a bad year,” said Ms. Koutellos of Manhattan. “My faith was very weak. I started coming to (St. Patrick’s Cathedral), and after that my faith got stronger and stronger. I gained a better life, a better job.
“I really feel, regardless of the church or house you’re going to, if you have a strong faith, you will see miracles in your life, and I have seen a lot of miracles.”
May 13 marked the 100th anniversary of Our Lady of Fatima communicating for the first time with three young children in Fatima. Two of the children—St. Jacinta Marto and St. Francisco Marto—died at a young age from influenza and were canonized by Pope Francis in Fatima May 13. The third child and their cousin, Lucia dos Santos, became a nun. She died at age 97 in 2005.
The celebration at St. Patrick’s started with recitation of the Rosary, followed by Eucharistic Adoration and procession inside the cathedral led by Father Kazimierz Chwalek, M.I.C., the provincial superior of Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception in Stockbridge, Mass.
A reliquary containing the relics of St. Jacinta, St. Francisco and a piece of the holm oak tree Our Lady of Fatima stood on during the apparitions was present for the congregation to view up close before and after the Mass.
Mass began after the Eucharistic Adoration with Msgr. Robert Ritchie, rector of St. Patrick’s, serving as celebrant and homilist.
“The three children were not important as far as the world was concerned,” Msgr. Ritchie said. “They had no authority, they had no money. But they had faith and they had hope and they had belief in their hearts. So when the mother of God spoke to them, they didn’t understand what it was all about at first. They knew something very special and very important was happening.”
“The same thing happened in different places throughout the world in our history where the mother of God revealed herself to people that were not important in the eyes of the world but very important to God. Every single one of us is important in God’s eyes.”
Msgr. Ritchie said it is important for Christians to continue to express their beliefs even in the face of opposition and persecution.
“Today as we commemorate the 100th anniversary of Fatima, we ask God’s blessings on his Church, on his people, on the people of Portugal and Fatima, and all people who are persecuted, especially Christians who are persecuted for their faith,’’ Msgr. Ritchie said.
Mark Veluz was with a group of seven adults and two children, representing the Servants of the Black Nazarene prayer group ministry from Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal parish in Queens. “Coming here, we try to internalize the purpose of this event, which is for world peace,” he said. “I heard before, peace comes first from our hearts. Blessed are those who are peacemakers. I’m hoping this will help me bring peace first to myself, to my family, to my prayer group and to the greater church community.”
Nikki Kingsley, a practicing Muslim for 40 years who escaped from her arranged marriage in Dubai to the United States with her young children, returned to St. Patrick’s where she said she first heard Mary’s call during a trip to New York City with her husband Simon, a Catholic. She has since converted to Catholicism.
Ms. Kingsley, who led the congregation at St. Patrick’s in reciting the Rosary, told CNY, “If you hear the voice of God, don’t ignore what you’re hearing. If I ignored that whisper I heard at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, I would have missed so much. Dig deeper and you may be surprised where God will lead you to a great adventure.’’