One hundred years ago, on May 13, 1917, the Blessed Virgin Mary first appeared to three small shepherd children in Fatima, Portugal and unleashed a flood of grace in the midst of a world shattered by World War I.

Our Lady of Fatima, as she came to be known, appeared six times, asking for repentance, the daily recitation of the Rosary and prayers that Russia would be converted. She also predicted another, even more brutal war if the world did not repent, and 21 years later the Nazis invaded Poland, sparking World War II. The Fatima apparitions became renowned for the prophecies, secrets and miracles associated with them, and a century later, are still the subject of intense interest. Two of the visionaries, siblings Francisco and Jacinta Marto, died soon after the apparitions; the third, Lúcia dos Santos, went on to become a Carmelite Sister. Sr. Lúcia died in 2005.

Pope Francis and a group of cardinals met in a consistory April 20 to approve the canonization of the Martos. That meeting came just weeks ahead of the pontiff’s visit to Fatima, Portugal, where he will celebrate Mass on the anniversary of the first apparition. Pope Francis dedicated his papacy to Our Lady of Fatima on May 13, 2013.

St. Pope John Paul II attributed his survival of an assassination attempt on May 13, 1981, to the intercession of Our Lady of Fatima. He revealed the third secret of Fatima to the world in 2000, the vision of Sr. Lucia in which she saw a man she perceived to be a future pope get shot. The other two secrets had already been revealed and dealt with a vision of hell and communist Russia.

Pope Francis prays in front of a statue of Our Lady of Fatima during his general audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican May 13, 2015. The statue, which was present for the May 13 feast of Our Lady of Fatima, is a copy of the original in Fatima, Portugal. (CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano, pool)

John Nahrgang, a Diocese of Phoenix seminarian at the Pontifical College Josephinum who’s expected to be ordained a transitional deacon on May 28 of this year, has a special devotion to Our Lady of Fatima. That’s because a statue of her was donated to the seminary back in the 1980s by a priest who hoped it would circulate among the seminarians. It did for a while, but then ended up in a closet.

“I got her and put her in my room for a year, which brought me some big unexpected graces,” Nahrgang said. He then coordinated a program for her to spend a week with a different seminarian throughout the school year. “I was struck by how my heart actually ached when the time came for me to take her out of my room,” Nahrgang said. Fellow seminarians told him their devotion to Our Lady increased after having the statue for a week.

Our Lady of Fatima Celebrations

Saturday, May 13

Our Lady of Fatima Mission

1418 S. 17th Ave. in Phoenix

9 a.m. Musical telling of Our Lady of Fatima

10 a.m. Procession into Mass

11 a.m. Ringing the bells 100 times, followed by dove release and Rosary. Following the Rosary there will be entertainment, family activities and food sold by vendors.

Magnificat Meal, St. Paul Parish

330 W. Coral Gables Drive

8:30 Mass followed by a presentation on Our Lady of Fatima. Ends with a catered lunch

Cost: $15

Info: Cathy at (480) 364-5209; register at

Fr. Michael Accinni-Reinhardt, parochial administrator of Our Lady of Fatima Mission in South Phoenix, said the community will celebrate the centennial with a festival, Mass, concert, luncheon, procession and Rosary on May 13. Catholics throughout the diocese are welcome to attend the daylong event. “We’ll have the ringing of the bells 100 times as soon as Mass is done and we’ll also have a white dove released,” Fr. Accinni-Reinhardt said. “The procession and Rosary begin at 3 and we’ll process through the neighborhood.”

He will also be leading a pilgrimage to Fatima in November.

Across town at St. Paul Parish, Magnificat will also be celebrating the Fatima anniversary with a full program that begins with Mass followed by presentations, the Rosary and a catered luncheon. One of the speakers, Janice Connell, is a well-known Marian author. Although Magnificat is a women’s group, the May 13 event is open to everybody, said organizer Laurie Walsh. The apparitions at Fatima are central to Walsh’s faith.

It was the Blessed Mother who “pulled me back from a bad place” when she was going through a dark time in her life. She had a dream about her and said, “It was so profound that I began praying the Rosary every day.” In looking for the same visage as that of the Virgin Mary in her dream, she came across an image of Our Lady of Fatima. In 2008, after undergoing surgery for a massive brain tumor, she traveled to Fatima.

“It’s when things are at their bleakest that Mary is there to guide us to her Son,” Walsh said. “Mary is there for us in our worst times.”

Fr. David Loeffler, parochial vicar at St. Daniel the Prophet, said the messages of Fatima are more relevant today than ever. Throughout the 20th century, people tried — and tragically failed — to create peace without God.

“Peace, freedom and lasting happiness cannot be manufactured by men, no matter how clever they are. They can only be received as a gift, a gift that God offers in the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Our only hope is to receive this gift with the Immaculate Heart of Mary,” Fr. Loeffler said. “Our Lady of Fatima speaks to us: it is not programs but hearts that must change.”

More Fatima activities

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Statue unveiling and May Crowning at Our Lady of Solitude

Our Lady of Fatima at the United Nations

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Our Lady of Fatima Centenary, Part I by Bishop Olmsted
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