Elevation of Riverview chapel to archdiocesan shrine another development in the Fatima saga, apostolate’s spiritual director says
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RIVERVIEW — One hundred and three years after the “miracle of the sun” in Fatima, Portugal, devotees of Our Lady of Fatima now have a new place of pilgrimage in Riverview, Mich.
During an evening Mass on Oct. 13, Detroit Auxiliary Bishop Gerard Battersby, regional moderator of the Archdiocese of Detroit’s South Region, read a proclamation from Detroit Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron declaring the Our Lady of Fatima Chapel in Riverview be elevated to the status of an archdiocesan shrine.
“If you love Mary, you love moments like this,” Bishop Battersby said during his homily. “Because the Mother wants to make us like her Son. And the Mother knows how. I’m excited to be with you to celebrate this feast with Our Lady. This is a momentous day for the World Apostolate of Fatima and the Archdiocese of Detroit.”
The Our Lady of Fatima Shrine becomes the third campus shrine in the Archdiocese of Detroit, joining the National Shrine of the Little Flower Basilica in Royal Oak and St. Joseph Shrine in Detroit. The designation means the entire campus is a place a pilgrimage, where visitors may receive a plenary indulgence after going to confession, Mass and praying for the pope’s special intentions.
From May to October 1917, the Virgin Mary appeared to three shepherd children in Fatima, Portugal. Her appearance to Lucia dos Santos, Francisco Marto and Jacinta Marto included asking them to pray the rosary for the reparation of sin throughout the world, revealing to the youths three revelations about God’s divine plan.
On Oct. 13, 1917, spurred by reports of the apparitions, thousands followed the children to a field, where they witnessed the sun “dancing in the sky” as a sign Mary’s apparitions were real and the messages relayed to the children were authentic.
Since then, devotion to Our Lady of Fatima has grown worldwide, spurred by the work of the World Apostolate of Fatima — also known as the Blue Army — which has a division in Detroit that operates the shine.
“Many think these days are very much part of the Fatima revelation,” Bishop Battersby said during his homily. “We have much to be thankful for, much to give glory to God — to praise Him, thank Him, for the love of Jesus, for the love of Our Mother, the Blessed Virgin.”
According to the Fatima devotion, Mary warned the world of its need for repentance, revealing to the three children a vision of souls suffering in hell and encouraging a devotion to her Immaculate Heart. A third secret, disclosed late in the life of Sr. Lucia of Fatima, OCD, in 2000, predicted there would be a falling away from the faith in the Church, leading to a great persecution of the faith and destruction and war.
Since the “miracle of the sun,” devotion to Our Lady of Fatima and the three secrets has grown. The World Apostolate of Fatima came to Detroit in 1955, with the current shrine built in 2006 at 18637 Ray St., Riverview.
“The work of the Blue Army is to spread the message of Fatima,” Fr. John Hedges, spiritual director for the World Apostolate of Fatima’s Detroit Archdiocesan Division, told Detroit Catholic. “Members go to the chapel for First Friday and First Saturday devotions; we honor the Sacred Heart of Jesus on Friday and the Immaculate Heart of Mary on Saturday. To fulfill Our Lady’s request, we make five consecutive First Saturdays, in reparation to her Immaculate Heart.”
The reparations include confession, receiving holy Communion, reciting the rosary and 15 minutes of meditating on the mysteries of the rosary.
Beyond spreading devotion to Our Lady of Fatima, the shrine has Mass on the 13th of every month from May through October at 7 p.m., and operates the St. Joseph Bookstore, which sells Catholic books, CDs, rosaries, statues and other devotionals. It also serves as the headquarters of the World Apostolate of Fatima’s Detroit Archdiocesan Division, whose members promise to wear the brown scapular, recite the rosary daily and practice the First Saturday devotion to Mary’s Immaculate Heart.
Fr. Hedges, who also serves as pastor of St. Stephen Parish in New Boston, said the elevation of the chapel to a shrine is another chapter in the Fatima story.
“We’re now entering the third secret of Fatima, revealed in 2000, during which we will see a great loss of faith in the Church itself, greater persecution throughout the world, and the domination of communism in Russia and throughout the world,” Fr. Hedges said. “But Our Lady promised the triumph of the Immaculate Heart, the consecration of Russia and peace in the world if we dedicate ourselves to the devotion of the Immaculate Heart.”
Blue Army members and pilgrims come to the shrine to learn more about the Fatima devotion, which they say is a source of strength in their faith.
James De Sana III, a member of St. Stephen Parish, started visiting the shrine this summer after his interest in the Fatima devotion was sparked.
“The whole atmosphere of the community is entrusted to Our Lady, Christ and deepening of one’s faith,” De Sana told Detroit Catholic. “I thought it was awesome, a great victory for Our Lady, when (the archbishop) declared this place to be a shrine. It goes to show the true devotion of Fr. John and all the community of the Blue Army, how focused they are in spreading the message of Our Lady of Fatima.”
Reflecting upon his own visit to the shrine in Fatima, Portugal, Bishop Battersby recalled being a weary, tired pilgrim, but was struck by the immense simplicity of the Basilica of Our Lady of Fatima in a sleepy town in western Europe that’s well off the beaten path.
“When we pulled into Fatima, I was struck, among all the things, about the ordinariness of the shrine,” Bishop Battersby said. “I was underwhelmed, to a very high degree, so I said a quick prayer to let me see with her eyes, and Our Lady answered my prayer.”
Bishop Battersby said his eyes were opened to the beauty of the place, and he began to see what so many others had experienced there.
“It was one more miracle I experienced, among the millions that have occurred,” Bishop Battersby said. “I was blown away by Fatima. Not by anything visual, but by what I described as a presence of peace.”
Bishop Battersby said he prays the men and women who visit the Fatima shrine in Riverview “may experience that love, that love of a grandmother embracing you in her breast the moment you walk in the door of her home.”
“I pray they experience that joy, that peace, that presence — the promise made to the three shepherd children and the 70,000 who witnessed the miracle 103 years ago. I pray this shrine, in some ways, might be an avenue of grace, a place of encounter where we say ‘Mary,’ and she says, ‘Jesus.’”
Our Lady of Fatima Shrine
The Our Lady of Fatima Shrine is located at 18637 Ray Street in Riverview. Masses are celebrated three times per month:
- 7 p.m. on the first Friday of the month
- 8 a.m. on the first Saturday of the month
- 7 p.m. on the 13th of each month from May to October (if a Saturday or a Sunday, Mass is celebrated on the preceding Friday)
Confessions and rosaries take place 30 minutes before first Friday and first Saturday Masses. The St. Joseph Bookstore is open Wednesdays and Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., during which time the chapel is open for private prayer with the Blessed Sacrament. For information, call (313) 320-7887 or visit fatimashrinedetroit.org.