Archdiocesan schools honor Our Lady of Fatima

NORWOOD -- Catholic elementary school students across the archdiocese and beyond observed the anniversary of Our Lady of Fatima's final apparition by taking part, either virtually or in person, in the Children's Eucharistic Holy Hour at St. Catherine of Siena Church on Oct. 13.

The Children's Eucharistic Holy Hour is an international event that teaches children about Our Lady of Fatima and encourages them to pray the rosary. In past years, the Boston chapter of the World Apostolate of Fatima had traditionally held their Holy Hour at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross, with hundreds of students from local Catholic schools participating. The coronavirus pandemic prompted them to hold a much smaller event last year and this year, with only students from St. Catherine of Siena School present in their parish church; live streaming allowed other schools and homeschooling families to watch and pray from afar.

This was the 16th year that the Boston chapter organized the Holy Hour, held this year on Oct. 13, the day when, in 1917, Our Lady of Fatima made her final appearance to the three children in Fatima, Portugal, and the "Miracle of the Sun" took place before thousands of witnesses.

Judy Sherman, a member of the Boston chapter of the World Apostolate of Fatima, said that when the Blessed Mother asked the children to pray for peace, she did not mean only the three visionaries.

"She wanted that message passed along, and here we are 100 years later, and we're answering her call and praying the rosary," Sherman said, speaking with The Pilot after the Holy Hour.

The event was live-streamed by St. Catherine of Siena Parish and the Catholic Schools Office, with over 100 classrooms from archdiocesan elementary schools registered to participate virtually. Additionally, homeschooling families from various states, and even one in England, watched the live stream, according to Colleen Donohoe, the CSO's superintendent of Catholic identity.

The students in attendance each received items to take home to remind them of the day and of the message of Fatima: an embroidered handkerchief and a World Mission Rosary, a multi-colored rosary promoted by Bishop Fulton J. Sheen as a way to "embrace the world in prayer." The colored beads of each decade represent a region of the world, and each decade's prayers are offered for the people of that region.

The Holy Hour was led by Father Ed Riley, who serves as spiritual director for the archdiocese's homeschooling families and the Boston chapter of the World Apostolate of Fatima. Many of the students from St. Catherine of Siena School also had active roles throughout the event.

After assembling in St. Catherine of Siena Church, a few students carried a statue of Our Lady of Fatima in procession to the sanctuary, followed by three children dressed as the visionaries of Fatima -- Sister Lucia dos Santos, who has the title Servant of God, and her cousins St. Francisco Marto and St. Jacinta Marto. The statue was blessed by Pope St. John Paul II in 1987 and contained relics of St. Francisco and St. Jacinta and the tree of Fatima.

After the procession, Father Riley exposed the Blessed Sacrament and led the assembly in adoration. They then prayed the World Mission Rosary, with students coming up to a microphone to lead each prayer. They also prayed for the beatification of Sister Lucia, and representatives from each grade placed written prayer intentions in baskets in front of the altar.

At the end of the Holy Hour, as the statue was carried in procession out of the church, the students waved their handkerchiefs in farewell, as is the tradition in Fatima.

Cynthia Hurley came to see her granddaughter, a student in the fifth grade, participate in the event. Speaking to The Pilot afterward, she said that her four children had attended Catholic schools, but they never had an experience like the Children's Eucharistic Holy Hour.

"Our Lady of Fatima was in this church today," Hurley said.