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Drive-in event connects missions with message of Fatima


  • A drive-in screening of the new film “Fatima” was held Aug. 9 at Our Lady Comforter of the Afflicted Parish in Waltham as a fundraiser for the Society of the Propagation of the Faith. Pilot photo/Jacqueline Tetrault
  • Maureen Heil, director of programs and development for the Pontifical Mission Societies, and Bishop Robert Reed, who served as the evening’s emcee. Pilot photo/courtesy Maureen Heil
  • A car of moviegoers pulls up to the “blue carpet” for a photo as they enter the parking lot. Pilot photo/ Jacqueline Tetrault

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WALTHAM -- With the warm summer weather and people looking for safe ways to get out and enjoy themselves, drive-in movies have popped up in all kinds of places. But perhaps none was as special as the one held at Our Lady Comforter of the Afflicted Parish last week.

The Society of the Propagation of the Faith held a drive-in screening of the new film "Fatima" at the Waltham parish Aug. 9, raising almost $22,000 to support the missions.

The Propagation of the Faith has held movie screenings as fundraisers in the past, helped by Alexis Walkenstein, the president of AWE, Inc., who is originally from Framingham. Previous screenings took place inside movie theaters. This was the first time the Propagation of the Faith held one with a drive-in setup.

Boston was one of several locations throughout the country to show "Fatima," a new film directed by Marco Pontecorvo and distributed by Picturehouse, before its anticipated Aug. 28 release in theaters and on demand. It tells the story of the Marian apparitions at Fatima through the eyes of Lucia dos Santos, the eldest of the three visionaries and the only one who lived to adulthood.

"When Picturehouse first acquired the movie, the message of hope, faith and peace was important, but as the pandemic evolved, its relevancy became prescient," said Bob Berney, CEO of Picturehouse, in an email.

Maureen Heil, director of programs and development for the Pontifical Mission Societies, said she thinks the message of Our Lady of Fatima is "really timely."

"The Blessed Mother's message was to pray for the whole world and to pray for the conversion of the whole world. And that's really what the Propagation is about, bringing people to the Gospel," Heil said in a July 20 interview.

"Hopefully, at some point, everyone will at least have had the opportunity to hear the Gospel message proclaimed and be invited to be part of our faith community. And that's really what the Blessed Mother wanted at Fatima," she added.

For the event, Picturehouse provided an inflatable LED screen as well as a trailer with restrooms and the staff to sanitize them.

As guests arrived in their cars, they received gift boxes containing snacks, Fatima masks, and World Mission Rosaries. The rosaries were made by volunteers from across the archdiocese, who prayed for the recipients as they assembled them.

Instead of walking the red carpet, moviegoers could stop their cars briefly for a photo over a blue carpet -- blue being the color associated with the Virgin Mary.

The Propagation of the Faith also held a raffle for a pilgrimage to Lourdes and Fatima, which was donated by Deacon Mattie Henry and Mary Henry of Marian Pilgrimages. The trip includes airfare, meals, accommodations, and tips, valuing over $6,100. The winner was drawn and announced prior to the screening.

Bishop Robert Reed, the CEO of CatholicTV, served as master of ceremonies and led the attendees in praying a decade of the rosary. He invited them to use the World Mission Rosaries, which were promoted by Bishop Fulton J. Sheen as a way to pray for missionaries. Each decade is made with beads of a different color to represent the different continents.

Before the film began, Heil spoke about the founder of the Propagation of the Faith, Pauline-Marie Jaricot. In 1822, when she was 18, Jaricot "revolutionized the way the Church looked at the missions," Heil said, by involving the laity in prayer and financial support of missionaries.

"She asked people to come together and pray for missionaries, pray for peace around the world, and to sacrifice so that the missionary work of the Church can go on," Heil said.

She said she wanted everyone to leave the event remembering that Our Lady of Fatima's message was to pray for peace in the world and the conversion of sinners.

"We need to remind ourselves every single day that we can change the world through our prayers," Heil said.

One of the invited guests at the film screening was Pat Gohn, a Catholic author and podcaster. In an email sent after the screening, she commended the event and its organizers as well as the film itself.

"The movie was a poignant portrayal of how the faith of children is so much stronger than they are often given credit for. I was especially moved by the scenes showing the hope expressed by the Portuguese people who came from near and far with expectant faith to be with the young seers. So many people today are seeking truth, peace, healing, mercy. And this movie shows them where to place their faith," Gohn said.

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