By Tanya Connor
A statue of the Queen of Peace is providing a moving opportunity to pray for the United States during this election year.
And after kissing the crown for the statue, a paraplegic said she was relieved of her pain.
These were among highlights people shared from this week’s visit of an International Pilgrim Virgin statue.
The statue is on a tour of the 50 states for the 100th anniversary of the Blessed Mother’s apparitions in Fatima, Portugal, a press release said. The tour started last month and concludes in December 2017. The Blessed Mother appeared to three children beginning May 13, 1917.
There was “a different presence that was truly profound” when the Pilgrim Virgin was present, said Father Peter Joyce, pastor of St. John Paul II Parish in Southbridge. He said the bishop who blessed the statue in Fatima in 1947 prayed that the Blessed Mother would accompany it wherever it went. Since then it has visited more than 100 countries, according to the press release.
Monday night its custodian, Patrick Sabat, brought the statue from the Springfield Diocese to St. Mary’s, one of St. John Paul II Parish’s church buildings, Father Joyce said. There people celebrated “33 Hours with Our Lady of Fatima.”
Wednesday the Pilgrim Virgin went to St. Mary of the Assumption Parish in Milford. Father Mateus Monteiro de Souza, chaplain to the Portuguese/Brazilian community there, said they were planning a Mass in Portuguese, a presentation by Mr. Sabat in English and a prayer vigil.
Last night the Brazilian community at St. Stephen Parish in Worcester was to host the statue, before it leaves the Diocese.
“The goal … is to allow Our Lady of Fatima to claim her dominion over America through her Immaculate Heart, and to bring the urgent message of Fatima – the Peace Plan from Heaven – to a world in need,” the press release said. “It also encourages devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, which was the mission given to Lucia, the seer at Fatima, by Our Lady and Our Lord.”
The custody and mission of the statue is under the World Apostolate of Fatima USA, also called the Blue Army, the press release said.
Molly Finn, of St. John Paul II Parish, said she received an e-mail about the tour.
“I asked Father Joyce, ‘Are you interested? I signed us up,’” she said.
She said that as they waited for the Pilgrim Virgin’s arrival at St. Mary’s, she heard Father Joyce exclaim: “She’s here!”
“I thought it was Christmas!” Mrs. Finn said. “He was so joyful. I was excited, but when I saw him my heart started beating faster. He kept saying, ‘She chose this parish.’”
During the 33 hours the statue was there, St. John Paul II Parish held English and Spanish
programs, including Masses and other prayers, veneration of the statue, all-night adoration, presentations about the Fatima apparitions and message, and a scapular enrollment ceremony seeking the Blessed Mother’s protection, those involved said.
Father Joyce said they prayed approximately eight rosaries as a community. One of them, the Patriotic Rosary, included prayers for elected officials and all 50 states, reflections from the country’s founding fathers and patriotic songs, most of which mention God, he said.
“We really do feel like we are a country in crisis,” with the choices for president, the violence and the fear of terrorism, he said.
“People were moved by that experience, I think because of where we find ourselves,” he said. He spoke of God entrusting peace to the Queen of Peace.
“We can build better weapons, but if we don’t pray to Our Lady we won’t have peace,” he said.
Haydee Ramirez-Rodríguez, a parishioner who said she had health problems and became a paraplegic a year ago, had her own story of peace.
“I was strongly devoted to (the Blessed Mother) during my illness,” she said. Before the Pilgrim Virgin arrived, Father Joyce told her, “She’s going to smile upon you.” He let her kiss the crown before he crowned the statue, she said.
“And then she did smile,” Mrs. Ramirez-Rodríguez said, adding that she saw something physical and mystical that others might not have. “It was just a unique experience … one of the most awesome experiences of my life … Besides being alive; I wasn’t supposed to be alive, but I’m here.”
Speaking with The Catholic Free Press Wednesday afternoon, she said she has had no pain since that experience, and hadn’t taken medicine, which she normally would do for her chronic pain.
“The power of prayer,” she said. “You have to believe and you have to trust.”
As the Pilgrim Virgin was leaving, others were emotional, but she was not, she said.
“I was OK, because her presence is still here,” she said of the Blessed Mother.