Metro Detroiters to celebrate Our Lady of Fatima

Mark Hicks
The Detroit News

To some Metro Detroit Catholics, what three shepherd children glimpsed in Portugal a century ago is as memorable as any prayer or communion.

Worshipers around the world believe May 13, 1917, marked the first time the Virgin Mary appeared before the group of youngsters — launching several visits that ultimately revealed plans for pursuing peace in the world.

To celebrate the centennial for what they consider a miraculous occasion, many followers are expected in downtown Detroit on Saturday for a Mass and procession honoring Our Lady of Fatima. And just as others have done over the last 100 years, devotees are keen to connect with the divine.

“In the Catholic faith, she is the queen of heaven and earth,” said Bill Stack of Taylor, who plans to participate. “There’s no other human being who is as important as she is because Mary is the mother of the Jesus. She draws us toward the Lord, draws us toward peace.”

Coinciding with Pope Francis canonizing two of the children who spotted the Blessed Mother, the Saturday event at Old St. Mary’s Church in Greektown revolves around her significance.

During a 5:30 p.m. Mass led by Archbishop Allen Vigneron, attendees can expect to find about 1,000 red roses — a symbol often associated with Mary, said Micki Czerniak, an altar guild chair involved in the coordinating.

“We have a lot of parishioners who are anxious to help because it’s a very beautiful occasion,” she said. “Many miracles have been attributed to Fatima. Many people make pilgrimages there. It’s an important part of our Catholicism — the whole metaphysical aspect of our faith, things that transcend the physical.”

That link also anchors what follows the Mass: a procession through the city streets with a statue in Mary’s likeness.

While singing songs and praying the rosary, demonstrators can reflect on what she reportedly imparted to them as World War I continued.

“Even now, with unrest in the world, the message of Fatima is critical today,” said the Rev. John Hedges, the spiritual director for the World Apostolate of Fatima Detroit Archdiocesan Division. “Our lady calls us to ask for peace and work for peace. So the message is more timely now than it was 100 years ago.”

Marking the milestone is momentous for devotees such as Mary Kruso, a mother of four from Wyandotte who has visited the Fatima site in Portugal and credits devotion with deepening her faith.

“For a society that is self-aware of their own being they forget about the simplicity of things, that life can be far happier and more peaceful when you stop and grasp the fact that our lord and savior’s mother appeared to three children,” she said. “If society were to step back and look back through the eyes of a child with love and understanding and faith, we would live in a far more peaceful world.”

Meanwhile, the anniversary also is kicking off associated events at the Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima in Riverview.

Presentations by guest priests are planned around the middle of each month through October — mirroring the apparition dates in 1917, said Jane Lenart, who volunteers in the bookstore.

“If you were unclear or did not know a whole lot, by attending these events, your devotion to will increase,” she said.