PROVIDENCE — As the observance of the centennial of apparitions of the Blessed Mother at Fatima comes to a close during the diocesan Year with Mary our Mother, Catholics from parishes across the state gathered on Friday evening at Our Lady of the Rosary Church in Providence on the anniversary of the final apparition for a concelebrated Mass in English and Portuguese, followed by the procession filled with song and prayer.
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Hundreds of faithful, illuminated in the darkness, filled the streets during a candlelight procession throughout the East Side neighborhood, carrying banners of saints Francisco and Jacinta Marto, which were blessed during the Mass, and a statue of Mary almost identical to the one in the chapel of the apparition in Fatima, Portugal.
In his homily on Friday, Father Joseph Escobar, pastor of Our Lady of the Rosary Church, asked the faithful to pray for the Blessed Mother’s intercession in their lives as well as for peace in the world and in their hearts. Father Escobar told Rhode Island Catholic that his parishioners feel a special commitment to the message of Mary.
“Since the parish is named after Our Lady of the Rosary, we feel a special connection with the apparition,” he said. “For those who are not able to travel to Portugal, this gives them the Fatima experience.”
Al Dias, a parishioner of St. Francis Xavier in East Providence, took part in the special procession and shared that the Portuguese community feels a unique and deep devotion to the Blessed Mother.
“She is very important to us,” he said. “The Portuguese people feel like it’s an honor to follow her. She is our mother and a lot of people devote their whole lives to her.”
As Angela Moretti celebrated the special occasion, she shared that her brother traveled to Portugal to witness the festivities firsthand. Moretti explained that the events of Fatima have been a treasured story in her family, one shared throughout many generations.
“This is a big thing for us,” she said. “When I was 9 years old, I came from Faial, a Portuguese island in the Azores. My family came to America for opportunities to better their lives. I’ll never forget where I was born, but America is my home. This procession is something I do every year. This is so special for me.”
The procession takes place each year, said Father Escobar, but this year’s was on a much grander scale.
Deb Arruda of Bristol shared that the event was so inspiring that she didn’t want to leave.
“It was so beautiful,” she said. “The church was jam-packed. The faith was palpable — you could feel it. I felt like the Blessed Mother was there and that we were bringing the light of Christ in our world. It was so breathtaking.”
Arruda’s grandparents were married at Our Lady of the Rosary Church and celebrated 63 years together as husband and wife. It was her grandfather, who grew up on São Miguel Island, who told her the story of Fatima.
“There was something very special about Friday,” she explained. It was such a peaceful night and I felt part of a tradition, part of my heritage bigger than myself.”