Bishop proclaims 2017 Marian Year in diocese

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PROVIDENCE — With the world poised to mark the 100th anniversary of the apparitions of the Blessed Mother to three humble shepherd children on a hillside in Fatima, Portugal, next year, Bishop Thomas J. Tobin has proclaimed that the Diocese of Providence will commemorate this historic moment by devoting itself to a special Year with Mary our Mother.

The celebration of the year will begin with a special Mass at the Cathedral of SS. Peter and Paul on January 1, 2017, the Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

In a letter to the faithful of the Diocese of Providence, which is printed on page 3 of this week’s edition, along with some suggestions for prayer intentions to invoke as the year progresses, Bishop Tobin calls upon Catholics to focus their attention even more deeply on Blessed Mother Mary during the centenary of her historic appearance.

“It struck me that we could use that as the centerpiece, the focal point for something broader. That’s what got me thinking to have a whole year to honor and increase our devotions to our Blessed Mother,” Bishop Tobin said.

“Our devotion to Mary is such a beautiful, traditional and important part of our Catholic faith that sometimes we overlook or take it for granted, but this is an opportunity for us to renew it and refresh it for all our people.”

While the diocese is planning to observe this Marian Year on a number of special occasions, the bishop is encouraging the faithful to explore more personal ways of deepening their own encounters with Mary. He is also urging parishes, schools, organizations and families to use the time to talk about and to pray to the Blessed Mother.

“Legitimate devotion to Mary always leads us to Christ who is the heart and soul of our faith,” he said.

Just as human beings seek ways to keep the memory of a loved one who has passed alive, the bishop would like people to use this time of reflection and introspection to reaffirm their connection with the Blessed Mother, whose prayer and intercession is powerful.

With so many needs in the world, in our nation, in the Church and in our own individual families, he believes an increase in personal devotion to Mary can help with those.

“Mary is part of our family, our spiritual family. So we honor her, we love her, we keep mementos of her around us and we turn to her for help whenever we need it. So our devotion to Mary is really a family celebration in our Christian family,” he said.

In his own life, Bishop Tobin recalls the devotion he had to Mary as a child growing up in Pittsburgh.

“I had a little May Altar with little flowers to Mary, usually dandelions that I would pick from my side yard and put in front of her altar,” he recalls.

And if that was not enough, his late mother’s first name was Mary.

“My mom was certainly a Blessed Mother for me,” he said.

But like all of us, the bishop acknowledges that he also could and should do better in terms of personal devotion to Mary.

“I see the year as an opportunity for me to personally reconnect with Mary and to grow in devotion as well,” he said.