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Local man met saints’ older brother

Posted By June 6, 2017 | 3:05 pm | Featured Article #4
Lillian Wickstrom joins first-grade classmates leading the rosary at Our Lady of the Valley Elementary School
Lillian Wickstrom joins first-grade classmates leading the rosary at Our Lady of the Valley Elementary School

By Tanya Connor | The Catholic Free Press

UXBRIDGE – “Where were you on October 13?”
A local Catholic said he posed that question to a sibling of Jacinta and Francisco Marto, the visionaries Pope Francis canonized Saturday.
They and their cousin Lucia dos Santos had reported receiving apparitions of the Blessed Mother monthly from May 13 through Oct. 13, 1917 in Fatima, Portugal. They had told of Mary issuing warnings, calling for prayer and promising a miracle. On Oct. 13, reports said, the people who were with the visionaries saw the sun dance, and some panicked as it seemed to hurl towards the earth.
João Marto, an older brother of the visionaries, who was about 11 at the time, said he didn’t go to the apparition site that day. Fearing the world was going to end, he hid under the kitchen table.
Peter McHugh told this story to students at Our Lady of the Valley Elementary School last Friday, the day before the canonization, for a school-wide celebration of the 100th anniversary of the apparitions. The father of Peter McHugh Jr., a sixth-grader there, and a member of St. Mary Parish, he’s given several spiritual talks to students.
May 12 he told students, and The Catholic Free Press, about the Fatima apparitions and their connections with his life. He encouraged the students to pray the rosary, make friends with the visionaries and ask for their intercession.
Jennifer Nealon, a middle school teacher here, asked the students to pray for peace, the world, the nation and their families. The first-graders then led the student body in praying the rosary.
Mrs. Nealon, who organized the event, said different grades take turns leading the rosary. They usually do so monthly, but during May they’re praying it every week.
Mr. McHugh said he used to organize pilgrimages to the Holy Land and sites where visionaries reported seeing the Blessed Mother: Fatima, Lourdes, Knock and Medjugorje. He would work with a tour company, be the tour guide himself, and get a priest to be spiritual director.
When his aunt Claire LaFontaine was diagnosed with cancer in the mid-1990s, he told her to pray the rosary daily, and she started praying 15 decades each day, he said.
“She was healed through the treatment and through her faith,” he said.
“All those prayers helped,” she told him.
It was May 13 when her doctor told her she was cancer-free, Mr. McHugh said. He told her she had to go on a pilgrimage to Fatima to thank the Blessed Mother. She agreed, so he organized a tour.
It was on that tour that he and she and his parents met João Marto, who was then an elderly man, he said. He said he had Mr. Marto sign a book written by the third visionary, Sister Lucia, who had lived long after her cousins died as children, and had become a nun.
Mr. McHugh said his aunt lived to be 99 and died on Christmas, which would have been her 75th wedding anniversary, had her husband not died years earlier, at age 38. He and his son had taken her Communion earlier that day, her favorite holiday.