Shrine celebrates Fatima centennial

By Vincent J. Covello –

On May 13, 2017 the National Blue Army Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima celebrated the centennial of Our Lady’s first appearance in Fatima, 100 years ago. She appeared to three shepherd children, Lucia dos Santos, and the recently elevated, Saints Francisco and Jacinta Marto, with her message of hope and reparation, urging daily recitation of the Rosary.

The Shrine anticipated that a large crowd would attend the event, since it was the centennial and a Saturday. More than 60 buses had preregistered with the Shrine. Two large tents were set up to help shelter the crowd. It was estimated that attendance exceeded upwards of 7,500. There were reports that the nine-mile, two-lane drive from Interstate 78 was bumper to bumper. Visitors began arriving at 7:30 a.m. and throughout the morning both the front and rear overflow lawn areas were quickly filled with cars. Most roads in this part of rural New Jersey are only two lanes.

Unfortunately, the area was pelted all day long with a soaking rainfall that totaled about two inches. It was reminiscent of the rain that saturated the field at Fatima when Our Lady appeared in October 1917.

Ceremony Began at Noon

At noon, David Carollo, executive director of the World Apostolate of Fatima (Blue Army), welcomed all to the centennial celebration. He reminded everyone that this was also the 70th anniversary of the founding of the Blue Army, which is dedicated to spreading the message of Our Lady of Fatima.

The Rosary was then prayed, followed by a short talk by Rev. Andrew Apostoli, CFR. Father Apostoli is a frequent visitor to the Shrine and a regular contributor to EWTN. He is very knowledgeable about the events at Fatima, having written several books on the subject. He captivated the audience as he described Our Lady’s appearances and message at Fatima.

New Bishop

The Mass was celebrated at 1 p.m. by Most Reverend James F. Checchio, the new bishop of the Metuchen Diocese. The police were asked to escort the Bishop’s car to the Shrine because it was stuck in traffic. When he arrived, the Bishop was warmly greeted by the faithful and he chatted with people as he slowly made his way through the crowd to the lower level to get vested. For many people this was the first look at their new bishop. There were more than a half-dozen members of the Knights of Columbus in formal dress regalia, who helped the ushers clear a path for the Bishop.

Reverence Maintained Despite Harsh Conditions

Once the 1,500 seats were occupied, the crowd stood anywhere there was a spot under the roof to keep out of the rain. All the aisles were filled and once people found a spot to stand, they would not move, despite the pleas of the ushers to keep the aisles clear.

More than a dozen priests concelebrated Mass with Bishop Checchio. The choir from a nearby parish provided stirring music for the ceremony. The Bishop spoke about devotion to Our Lady and her appearances at Fatima with an uplifting talk. At the conclusion of Mass, the Bishop led everyone in reciting the Fatima prayers. This was followed by Benediction.

What was most encouraging about this special celebration was to witness how many people profess a strong devotion to Our Lady. To see so many people come out on a rainy Saturday, some traveling more than two hours to stand in the rain for three hours and be crammed into the limited space under the Shrine’s roof, was truly inspiring. Also, most people stayed for the entire ceremony, which ended by about 4:00 p.m. It certainly shows how Our Lady has touched the lives of so many of the faithful, who are strongly devoted to her.

Please join us at the Shrine on all the 13th day celebrations this year, the next one being Tuesday, June 13 from 10:30am – 3:30pm with speaker Rev. Matthew Mauriello and celebrant Fr. Michael Venditti.  We also invite you to join us for monthly First Friday and First Saturday devotions, as well as daily Mass, Rosary and Confession and the many other occasions we are hosting.

Shrine granted extended plenary indulgence

Bishop Checchio has written and obtained for the Blue Army Shrine the granting of the Fatima Jubilee year plenary indulgence on all days from May 13 – Oct. 13, 2017 (not just the 13th day).  We would, therefore, be happy to see you as often as possible during this very special centennial year.



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