The Fatima Shrine… 60 years in a short story!
The words at the entrance to the Church are simple:
“I am from Heaven” “
“Build a Chapel in my Honour”
“I am the Lady of the Rosary”
The first pastor of Our Lady of Fatima Shrine, Father Kenneth McDonnell, had a deep devotion to Our Lady. This was the reason the parish was named in her honour. After his death in 1958, Father W. Vincent Egan, the new pastor, built what is today Our Lady of Fatima Shrine. Marble from Italy, stained glass windows crafted in France, sculptures depicting the Lord’s passion carved in Linden Wood, and life-sized statues of the three shepherd children – Jacinta, Francisco and Lucia – obtained from Portugal help to create the rich atmosphere of the interior of the Church.
However, the parish was not always so blessed. In the early days, there was no school. Mass had to be celebrated in a variety of locations for its 400 families. In 1953, a small wooden Church was constructed where the parking lot is today. But when the community had grown to 1300 families, a modern stone structure was begun. To commemorate the 43rd anniversary of the First Fatima Apparition, a cornerstone for the new church was unveiled by his Eminence James Cardinal McGuigan on May 13th, 1960.
Parish life has not changed much from the 1950′s. The men of the parish formed what was called “The Holy Name Society’. They held monthly meetings, ran breakfasts with speakers, and did fund-raising for the new church with a very successful Tuesday night bingo. The men now belong to the Knights of Columbus and do very similar work. The ladies started a chapter of the Catholic Women’s League in 1952. They looked after the care of the Rectory and the church proper. They organized the first parish social, planned spaghetti dinners, potluck suppers, held garden parties, and organized church bazaars. Families in the community formed a bowling league where many enjoyable remembrances can be found. They youth joined the Boy Scouts or the Girl Guides groups that met in the church hall.
In June 2007, after the untimely passing of Father John Weelink, the Carmelite Friars came to the parish to minister to the needs of the people with Father Henry Muscat OCD as first Carmelite Pastor of Fatima. Father Victor Mallia OCD, pastor here since August of 2008, and associate pastor Father Dominic Borg OCD currently guide the parishioners in their spiritual journey. The presence of the Discalced Carmelite Order in the parish brings the added blessing of a love for Our Lady of Mount Carmel. It was Mother Mary herself, during one of her last apparitions at Fatima, who requested the three shepherd children to wear the brown scapular and encourage others to do so. She even appeared – for her October apparition – wearing the Carmelite scapular.
From the beginning the praying of many Rosaries has been encouraged. Like Lucia, those who attend or visit Our Lady of Fatima Shrine are asked to open their hearts and ‘Pray, Pray very much‘ at this Chapel honouring, Mary, Our Lady of Fatima.
The parish community in this 60th year is a tapestry of our Catholic faith. They represent cultures from many parts of the world. They fill the Church with a deep faith and a wealth of ministry.
The future of the Church like its past and its present remains bright. This is evident in the numerous altar servers who display the enthusiastic discernment of the young and in the respectful devotion of their fathers and their mothers. Both maintain the traditions of the Christian way of life. Then there are the quiet words at the door of the Shrine. They are a memory destined to inspire somewhat like the parable of the seeds sewn on fertile ground.