By Lara Pickford-Gordon
The statue of Our Lady of Fatima crisscrossed the country in the centennial year of the Fatima apparitions and will be remembered by many for the feeling of peace bestowed.
There are many testimonies from parishioners. Andrew Solomon, St Michael’s Parish said his prayer life and spirituality was enhanced. He said the statue attracted “droves” of pilgrims from other parishes and persons experienced “a lot of healing”. “I think Our Lady going throughout the country will do a lot for the healing of our land,” Solomon said.
A parishioner of Holy Cross, Santa Cruz said the statue was “peaceful and delighting”. She could not articulate all the things she felt. She said it was a “miracle” the statue’s presence prompted her whole family to start attending Mass.
Diane Bertrand, president of the Shrine Committee, Our Lady of Montserrat, Tortuga, stated the statue was a “resounding success” and caused “dramatic evangelisation” even among non-Catholics. Mass attendance increased, persons spoke of “miracles” in their lives.
They told of how the statue felt “alive” and comforted them when they were in church. Bertrand said there are many stories of conversion. “There was a tremendous outpouring of love and appreciation for Our Lady’s intervention,” she said. A parishioner from Laventille believed the area will be better for having had a visit by the statue.
These and other testimonials are on the Facebook page of the Archbishop’s Appeal. The 8.5-foot, 500-pound statue which contains a relic from Fatima in its base was unveiled December 31, 2016 at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception.
From January 22, the statue began what was dubbed the “Journey of Peace” when it was taken to Fatima College for two weeks, then transported to Tobago January 28 for public viewing at the St Joseph RC, Scarborough. The next stop when it returned in February was the Church of the Nativity, Diego Martin. The tour continued from March. The project’s success has exceeded the expectations of the organisers.
“We never expected it would result in such wonderful signs and wonders and we did see our Church coming back together to pray,” said Jenny Lee, Director of Fundraising and Development, Archbishop’s Appeal. She explained the project, in the 100th anniversary year of the apparitions at Fatima, was about evangelisation and bringing the Church together “to pray for peace in Trinidad and Tobago”.
The presence of the statue also brought together parishes in clusters. Different parish groups took responsibility for all-day prayers. There was also involvement by youths and school children.
“Everyone got involved and wherever the statue was placed it brought the entire cluster together in prayer. We could not ask for more,” Lee said. The many testimonies about the inner peace felt went beyond expectation.
Lee said peace starts within every individual and radiates outward to others, the community and nation. “If you have conversion of heart you are delivering the message of Christ to love one another the way he loved us,” she added.
Around 100,000 rosaries were distributed as communities came together to pray for peace and recite the Rosary.
The statue of Our Lady is presently back where she started— —at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception.
Joanne Miller, also Director of Fundraising, said the plan is for the statue to remain at the Cathedral until January 6, the Feast of the Epiphany of the Lord. Thereafter it will be taken to Archbishop’s House for cleaning by artist Neil Massy and his brother. A resting place for the statue still has to be determined. Miller said there have been a few offers of land but nothing has been finalised.
The statue will be kept at Archbishop’s House and a special glass-paneled enclosure made for storage. Miller said the statue should not be exposed to too much light, rain or humidity. The Archbishop’s Appeal will await direction from Archbishop Jason Gordon on the site for the statue.
Apart from the inner peace it gave, Miller described the effect of the statue as “a whole tidal wave of prayer, in particular the rosary”. Some Catholics decided to follow the statue to different locations. There were tears when it arrived at parishes and when it departed.
“It was an amazing experience; I can tell you, but people would have to go themselves to experience it,” Miller said.