Peace plan endures
DONALD R. SERFASS/TIMES NEWS Praying the rosary for world peace on Sunday in Hometown are, l-r, Thomas and Donna Carrigan, Tamaqua; Beverly Fazio, Barnesville; Kim Brobst, Walker Township; Joan Yacobenas, Hometown and Val Seroka, New Ringgold. Also part of the group: Joyce Minehan, Lisa Frederick, Walter Camier and Pat Rabayta.
They're not from one particular church, but they share in a message.
And it's a message that lives on, even after 96 years.
"We're here to pray for peace in the world," said Thomas Carrigan, Tamaqua, on Sunday as he and five others gathered to continue their practice of praying the rosary in public. "It goes back to Fatima," he said.
The group meets on the fourth Sunday of each month. Sometimes the group is twice as large. And that's fine, they say. The more, the merrier.
"We welcome everyone. You don't even need to be Catholic," said Joan Yacobenas, Hometown.
The worshippers come together at noontime at the Hometown intersection, assembling on the parking lot of The Furniture Connection, Routes 309 and 54.
There, they stand behind a large billboard and pray the rosary for world peace.
They never really know how many will show. You don't need an engraved invitation, they said. You simply need to show up with an open heart.
Fatima prayers, along with the rosary, are part of what is known as Our Lady of Fatima's Peace Plan from Heaven.
The tradition goes back to 1917 in Portugal where, many believe, the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to three shepherd children: Lucia dos Santos and her cousins Jacinto and Francisco Marto. Six times in 1917 at Cova da Iria near the town of Fatima, the children supposedly experienced something unusual between May 13 and October 13, revelations that ended with the miracle of the sun.
According to historical accounts, Our Lady of Fatima told the three children that God wished there to be devotion to the Immaculate Heart for world peace and for the salvation of souls. She also requested that people pray for the conversion of Russia. That country was leaning toward atheism with the Bolshevik Revolution that autumn.
Our Lady of Fatima reportedly also predicted in her second apparition that Francisco and Jacinto would be taken to heaven shortly. Both died soon afterward, victims of the 1918 influenza outbreak in Europe. Francisco died in 1919 and his little sister the following year.
Some say the Blessed Mother also foretold of Lucia's future. Lucia lived a long life, becoming a nun and helping to spread devotion. Sister Lucia lived to see her cousins beatified in 2000. She passed away in 2005.
The miracle of the sun reportedly took place on October 13, 1917.
Before 30,000 to 40,000 people gathered near Fatima on the promise of a miraculous event, extraordinary solar activity was described, told as dancing of the sun. Several newspaper reporters were in attendance and took testimony from many on hand, later added to by an Italian priest and researcher in the 1940s.
The event reportedly lasted approximately ten minutes.
"The sun spun itself like a ring of fireworks," said one witness.
The three children also reported seeing a panorama of visions, including those of Jesus, Our Lady of Sorrows, Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, and of Saint Joseph blessing the people.
The event was officially accepted as a miracle by the Roman Catholic Church on October 13, 1930.
Some say the children actually experienced supernatural visions in 1916 when an angel visited them three times. He supposedly called himself the Angel of Peace and taught them the first of these Fatima prayers.
On behalf of the church, the Bishop of Leiria-Fatima declared the apparitions of Fatima as worthy of belief in 1930. The town continues to attract pilgrims to its basilica.