ROCHESTER — The fifth-annual local procession to commemorate the appearance of Our Lady of Fatima in Portugal nearly 90 years ago served not only to honor Mary but to also reach out to others in the community, organizers said.
Members of the Roman Catholic Community of the 19th Ward invited residents along the route to participate May 13 and learn more about the feast and the Catholic Church, said Father Raymond Fleming, pastor of the 19th Ward/Corn Hill/Bull’s Head Planning Group, which comprises St. Monica Church and Emmanuel Church of the Deaf, as well as the recently closed churches of St. Augustine and Our Lady of Good Counsel, and Ss. Peter and Paul which is slated to be closed.
Community members distributed fliers a week prior to the procession, which included about 40 people, in order to encourage neighborhood interaction, he said.
“This procession, on the feast and anniversary of the Marian appearance at Fatima, is a reminder of the responsibility we have as Christians to be people of peace,” Father Fleming said, “to pray for peace, in our hearts, our families, our communities, our world. “
The Mariological Society of America, located at the University of Dayton, explains on its “The Mary Page” Web site (www.Udayton.edu/mary), that the Blessed Virgin appeared six times between May and October 1917 to three Portuguese children in a field called the Cova de Iria, near the village of Fatima, about 70 miles north of Lisbon. The children were Lucia dos Santos and her younger cousins, Francisco and Jacinta. The first apparition took place around noon on Sunday, May 13, 1917, with a brilliant flash of lightning.
Mary appeared dressed in white and asked the children to return on the 13th of each month, explained Joachim Flores, president of the Portuguese Community of Monroe County.
At the final apparition, Oct. 13, 1917, Mary called herself “Our Lady of the Rosary” and a crowd of 70,000 people observed a phenomenon described as “the dance of the sun.”
“People thought … this was the end of the world,” said Flores, who has been reading witness accounts of that day.
Following a diocesan investigation, the Bishop of Leiria approved the devotion to Our Lady of Fatima in 1930. Sister Lucia, who lived many years as a Carmelite nun, died on Feb. 13, 2005.
The yearly local procession includes recitation of the rosary, Flores said.
The statue carried by community members along the streets of Genesee, Sawyer, Ellicott and Woodbine Avenue was brought to Rochester from Portugal in 1948 and previously was part of a garden at St. Francis of Assisi Church. When St. Francis closed in 2000, the statue was given to the Portuguese community at St. Augustine, Flores said.
He noted that the local Portuguese community now faces a difficult transition, with the recent closing of St. Augustine Church. About 200 Portuguese families were members of the community, although not all were active at the church, said Flores, himself a 40-year parishioner.
Since the final Mass at the church on April 29, Flores and his family have been attending St. Monica on Genesee Street.
“Our neighborhood is where our Lord wants us to work a little harder, try to evangelize the people in our area, ” said Flores, who lives on Arnett Boulevard.
But others — who are spread throughout the Rochester area — may choose not to commute to St. Monica, he added.
The transition is one reason processions to honor Our Lady of Fatima in May and October are such important traditions to maintain, Flores said.
“The intention is to promote the name of the Blessed Virgin Mary and our Lord Jesus Christ,” as the host is carried under a canopy, he said. “It is always a Eucharist procession because our Lord Jesus is going with us.”