September 2, 2016

Fatima statue visits southern Indiana parishes on its ‘Tour for Peace’

The Reynolds family, who are members of St. John Paul II Parish in Clark County, pray the rosary before the traveling pilgrimage statue of Our Lady of Fatima in the parish’s St. Paul Church in Sellersburg on Aug. 21. They are Elizabeth, left, Barbara, Rebecca, Anna Kate, William and Joseph. (Photo by Natalie Hoefer)

The Reynolds family, who are members of St. John Paul II Parish in Clark County, pray the rosary before the traveling pilgrimage statue of Our Lady of Fatima in the parish’s St. Paul Church in Sellersburg on Aug. 21. They are Elizabeth, left, Barbara, Rebecca, Anna Kate, William and Joseph. (Photo by Natalie Hoefer)

By Natalie Hoefer

SELLERSBURG—As the rosary was prayed aloud, 16-year-old Rebecca Reynolds knelt with her parents and three siblings near the altar of St. Paul Church in Sellersburg. Her eyes were turned upward toward the illumined statue of Mary.

She described the experience as “emotional.”

“I felt like she was actually with us while I was praying,” she said. “It was an once-in-a-lifetime experience.”

It was not just any statue that Rebecca and her family venerated. It was the traveling pilgrim statue of Our Lady of Fatima, a twin to the statue at the shrine in Fatima, Portugal, where the Blessed Mother appeared six times to three shepherd children in 1917.

The pilgrimage statue was one of two commissioned in 1947 with the purpose of bringing the message of Fatima to the world. It was blessed in 1947 by the bishop of Fatima, and later by Pope Pius XII. It has been traveling for almost 70 years.

“The statues were commissioned for the millions of people who may never have the chance to go to Fatima in Portugal,” said Patrick Sabat, custodian of the statue and coordinator for the tour. “Our Lady of Fatima comes to us.”

The statue’s most recent journey is a nearly two-year mission, from March 2016 through November 2017, to all 50 states in anticipation of the 100th anniversary of the final apparition of Mary at Fatima on Oct. 13, 1917. The journey is called the “Tour for Peace.”

“I think this beautiful country, the United States, could lead this world to peace by means of prayer, penance and conversion, which is the message of Fatima,” said Sabat. “The goal is to make it to 100 dioceses. As of now we already have 90 scheduled, so we’re very close to making that goal already.”

In the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, the statue visited St. Michael Parish in Brookville on Aug. 18-20, and St. Paul Church of St. John Paul II Parish in Sellersburg on Aug. 21.

Rebecca and her family are members of St. John Paul II Parish. They visited St. Paul specifically to see the traveling pilgrim statue.

“Nothing big ever happens in little Sellersburg,” said Rebecca. “This is just amazing.”

Charles Whittaker, one of the Fourth Degree members of Knights of Columbus Father Baden Council #0244 who processed into the church with the statue, says it was an honor to participate in the event.

“The [shepherd children] got to see how beautiful [Mary] was,” said Whittaker, a member of St. Augustine Parish in Jeffersonville. “We haven’t, but we felt her presence, and just that was beautiful.”

His sister and fellow St. Augustine parishioner Karen Long said it was “pretty humbling to be in the presence [of the statue]. Even though it’s a statue, there’s a special ambiance around it.”

Whittaker’s wife, Luann, agreed.

“I was just in awe,” she said. “I just felt a sense of peace.”

Whittaker’s fellow Knight, Joseph Carrico, a member of St. Mary Parish in Lanesville, has visited the shrine in Fatima.

“[The pilgrimage statue] is smaller, but it looks just as beautiful,” he says. “It was an honor to get to [participate in the procession] for the Blessed Mother.”

When asked about the statue, Father Thomas Clegg, pastor of St. John Paul II Parish, said it was “a great honor to be able to host this here at our parish,” but he gave credit to parishioner Phyllis Burkholder for making the statue’s visit possible.

“We have first Saturday devotion here [at St. Paul],” said Burkholder, referring to the request of Our Lady of Fatima for people to go to Mass, receive Communion, go to confession and pray the rosary for her intentions on the first Saturday of five consecutive months.

“So I get information from [the World Apostolate of Fatima]. I found out about there being a world tour throughout the United States of Our Lady of Fatima. I called and found out that she was going to be in [the Archdiocese of] Indianapolis, so I asked if she could come here.

“I think people are really thrilled about seeing her. You can see that in their expressions and in their piety, praying before Our Lady.”

Such prayer is precisely what Our Lady of Fatima called for, said Sabat during a talk he gave in the church.

“On the 13th of every month between May and October [in 1917], she held up the rosary and said to pray it every day,” he said. “Every time we have a problem? No, every day. Every week? No, every day. Every 13th day? No, every day.

“She said this prayer will bring peace. The Blessed Mother, the Queen of Peace, has said, ‘There will be peace if you do what I ask.’ That’s why the Church calls it the ‘peace plan from heaven.’

“Mary is here before us in the form of this pilgrim statue again asking for peace, for penance, for conversion, for the first Saturday devotion, [and for] wearing our brown scapular as a sign of our consecration to her Immaculate Heart. This is the peace plan from heaven.”

Sabat shared how on May 5, 1917, after several years of violence and death during World War I, Pope Benedict XV wrote a letter asking Catholics to invoke the name of Mary for peace. He declared that a new name would be added to the end of the Litany of Loretto: “Our Lady, Queen of Peace.”

“Eight days later, she came to Fatima,” Sabat said.

But the message the Blessed Mother declared was not just for the people of Portugal, nor just for the circumstances of that time, he explained.

“Cardinal [Joseph] Ratzinger, before he became Pope Benedict XVI, said that Fatima’s call for prayer, penance and conversion is the correct response to this moment in our history,” said Sabat.

“Your patron saint, St. John Paul II, a very devoted Fatima pope, he trusted his papacy to Our Lady. On Oct. 13, 2013, Pope Francis consecrated the world to Our Lady of Fatima.”

Such devotion to Mary is not an end of itself, Sabat explained.

“True devotion to Mary naturally leads to the adoration of Jesus Christ in his body, blood, soul and divinity present in all the tabernacles of the world,” he said. “What we’re doing when we pray is that we are in communion with God. It is a call to holiness. When we meditate upon the mysteries of the holy rosary, we become closer and closer to Jesus.”

Turning to Jesus through Mary will result in peace, said Sabat.

“Those simple requests for prayer, penance and conversion, our consecration to her Immaculate Heart, to save souls, is the most important thing to do today to bring about the peace she promised,” he said.

Burkholder was grateful that this message and statue were shared at her parish.

“I’ve been to Fatima, and there’s a special peace there,” she said. “That peace has traveled with the statue. She’s not just a statue—we see Mary in her. It makes our faith really come to life.

“Having her come here, in our own little southern Indiana town, I think this is one of the biggest blessings.”

(For more information on the pilgrimage statue of Our Lady of Fatima’s Tour for Peace, including a list of upcoming locations and information on the message conveyed in the Fatima apparitions, log on to

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