That’s why Metro Detroit Catholics are expected to descend on a dozen sites between Sunday and July 31 to welcome the rare coast-to-coast display of the figurine during the Fatima Centennial U.S. Tour for Peace.
“We treat this statue as though she physically is coming down from heaven to visit us,” said Brother Esteban Ybarra, a superior in the Littlest Sons of the Sweetest Heart of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary religious community based at Assumption Grotto in Detroit. “We roll out the red carpet.”
The southeast Michigan locations are the latest to participate in the tour, which launched in March and is believed to be only the second time the piece has crossed the country coast to coast since the 1940s, said Barb Ernster, communications manager at World Apostolate of Fatima U.S.A.
Set to stop at parishes as well as other venues in all 50 states, the journey commemorates the 100th anniversaries of an Angel of Peace and what is said to be the appearance of Mary before three young children in Portugal.
As World Apostolate recounts, while World War I raged in 1917, the Blessed Mother visited the youths multiple times between May and October, “exhorting them to be fervent in working for the salvation of souls and conversion of sinners through prayer, especially the daily Rosary, and daily penance in reparation for sins. She identified the conversion of sinners as key to peace in the world.”
The International Pilgrim Virgin Statue of Fatima was sculpted nearly three decades later. It since has visited more than 100 countries, including Russia and China, bringing a message of salvation and hope, “the peace plan from Heaven,” according to the World Apostolate.
The centennial tour coincides not only with the Jubilee Year of Mercy but, like the first Mary sightings, troubling times around the globe, said Michelle St. Pierre, secretary for the World Apostolate of Fatima Detroit Archdiocesan Division, which is organizing the regional visit.
“The message of Fatima is as relevant today as it was in 1917 because Our Lady warned of wars, of dissension, unless we all came together and prayed for peace,” St. Pierre said.
Seeking harmony is central to the many hundreds expected to fill the National Shrine of the Little Flower Basilica in Royal Oak on Sunday, said its pastor, the Rev. Bob Fisher. “It’s a connection with brothers and sisters around the world who want to work for peace, who want to pray for peace and who are looking to the mother of God for inspiration and guidance in how to do that.”
Ongoing struggles also are sparking interest at Assumption Grotto, which worshipers are adorning with blue-and-white flowers to prepare for the visit, Ybarra said.
“For us, she comes to a place that’s surrounded by brokenness — broken families, broken homes,” he said. “…. We’re coming together to pray and worship and to recognize that through this statue, she brings with her the grace of peace and healing. There’s so much need in our area for the families, for the children, for the elderly, for those of us who are beginning to make it in the world.
”The statue, which has reportedly “wept,” also awes members of St. Stephen in New Boston, which plans an overnight visit next weekend.
“She’s there teaching us and she keeps pointing to who we’re supposed to go to. She’s trying to teach us to love one another,” said longtime member Jane Lenart, who also works in the Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima bookstore in Riverview. “The Blessed Mother’s whole point is to always take us to Jesus.”
Ryan Baik looks forward to visitors at St. Andrew Kim Korean Catholic Church in Northville Township receiving a small packet with a rosary and other items. But the Troy resident also anticipates how the experience will move them.
“Seeing the changes in our lives — that is a miracle,” he said.
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