On October 13, 1917, more than 30,000 people witnessed the sun “dance” in the sky during an apparition of Our Lady to three visionaries near Fatima, Portugal. The visionaries, Lucia, Jacinta and Francisco, were promised a miracle by the Blessed Virgin so that all would believe in the message that she gave to them.
This miracle signaled the final apparition of Our Lady to the children, and in 1930 the local bishop officially approved the apparitions as “worthy of belief.” Thousands of people from around Europe began to travel to Fatima to pray at the site of the famous miracle and a statue was erected for the many pilgrims based on the description given by the visionaries.
In 1947 a second statue of Our Lady of Fatima was sent out to be a “missionary” statue that would travel around the world. Commemorating the 30th anniversary of the Miracle of the Sun, “the statue was blessed by the Bishop of Liera, Fatima, and commissioned to serve as the Pilgrim Virgin who would carry the blessings of Fatima throughout the world. The bishop prayed that Mary herself accompany the statue wherever it goes. The purpose of the Pilgrim Virgin Statue tours was and still is to bring the graces of Fatima and Our Lady’s message of hope, peace and salvation to those many millions of people who may never have an opportunity to make a pilgrimage to Fatima itself.”
To prepare for the 100th anniversary of the apparitions next year, the Pilgrim Virgin Statue has been on tour in the U.S. since March and will continue to travel to parishes until December 2017.
Accompanying the statue is custodian Patrick Sabat, who gave up his career to be the full-time protector of the statue and has traveled more than a million miles by land, sea and air to more than 25 countries and territories around the world.
In an interview with the Chicago Tribune Sabat explained, “It’s not simply about looking at this beautiful statue, which is a magnificent work of art… I hope people respond and experience the presence of Mary; the statue is a visual aid and it is meant to teach.”
According to Sabat, the timing of the tour for peace couldn’t have come at a better time, “There’s so much violence and hatred, and the answer for how to stop that is clear. This is a call for prayer, and I think after 100 years it’s about time we respond to her request.”
Father Anthony Rice said of the visit to his parish in Volo, “We’re honored to have her here, and we hope that people not lose hope and not be discouraged. If we turn back to Him, our country can turn around, but we have to humble ourselves and say ‘We’ve sinned; we’ve messed up.’”
Besides visiting parishes and pilgrimage sites around the country, the statue has also been present at abortion clinics. Fr. Stephen Imbarrato from Priests for Life arranged a visit to a Planned Parenthood clinic in Madison, WI. A Eucharistic procession and the recitation of the rosary accompanied the prayer vigil, “while the priests said silent prayers of exorcism upon the abortion facility and grounds.”
Upcoming pilgrimage sites can be found on the Fatima Tour for Peace website. The plan is to travel east of the Mississippi in 2016 and west of the Mississippi in 2017. If you are interested in bringing the traveling statue to your parish, please visit their website to make any requests. Dates are filled on a first-come, first-serve basis, and require permission from the local bishop to visit locations within a diocese.