Fatima statue makes way through Metro Detroit

The Detroit News

Royal Oak — This year and next, the International Pilgrim Virgin Statue of Our Lady of Fatima will crisscross America as it approaches its 100th anniversary.

This week, it will crisscross Metro Detroit. The statue started its Detroit journey Sunday morning at Old St. Mary’s Church in Greektown.

Catholics and others believe the statue represents Mary, Christ’s mother, who also imparted a “peace plan from Heaven” through apparitions in Europe nearly a century ago.

By Sunday afternoon, the statue had drawn hundreds of visitors to the National Shrine of the Little Flower Basilica in Royal Oak. Hundreds more visitors are expected to travel to a dozen Metro Detroit sites through July 31 to welcome the rare coast-to-coast display of the figurine during the Fatima Centennial U.S. Tour for Peace.

Leslie Kemp of Royal Oak didn’t have much time to spare Sunday afternoon but made sure to visit the sanctuary briefly to see the statue of a woman Catholics call “Queen of the world.”

“Just to be in her presence, even for a short time, is worth it,” Kemp, 42, said. “Our Lady,” she said, referring to Mary, “is so important.”

Worshippers crowd the front of Old St. Mary’s Church to get a look at the International Pilgrim Virgin Statue of Our Lady of Fatima.

Patrick L. Sabat, custodian of the statue, has traveled the globe with the figurine since 2003.

“It’s such an honor to by carrying Our Lady and her message throughout the world,” Sabat told a large crowd at the Shrine. A Spanish Mass was pushed back to allow people to “venerate” the statue. People formed lines and took pictures of the shrine, whose history dates back to 1917, about 30 years before it was crafted in the form people know today.

Sabat advised guests to the Shrine, who formed a line out the door and down 12 Mile, to keep their veneration in proper perspective.

“(The statue) does not perform miracles,” he said. “It is only God who performs them.”

She brings a message as relevant today as during World War I, said Michelle St. Pierre, secretary for the World Apostolate of Fatima Detroit Archdiocesan Division, which is organizing the regional visit, “because Our Lady warned of wars, of dissension, unless we all came together and prayed for peace.”

Debbie Riccardo, 57, of Clarkston made the trip to Royal Oak on Sunday seeking comfort from that message.

“Sometimes,” Riccardo said, “we need to remind ourselves that prayer is the path to peace.”

The statue will travel in what Sabat described as a “figure eight” through the eastern U.S. In 2017, that configuration moves through the western U.S. By the end of 2017, the statue will have traveled to all 50 states.

Mike Buckley, 49, of Livonia said Sunday was his first time seeing the statue in person.

Buckley described his bid to see the statue as “trying to find a semblance of peace in the universe.”

“Nothing more sedate and inspiring than that,” he said. “And it’s not just me — millions of people have seen it.”

The statue, he said “means all kinds of things.”

“It’s a piece of heaven on Earth,” Buckley said. “You just expect that statue to turn and look at you and wink; it’s so lifelike.”