By Dan Russo
DUBUQUE — A group of local lay Catholics is gearing up for a conference they are sponsoring to mark the 100th anniversary of the Marian apparitions at Fatima, Portugal.
On Oct. 14, Aquinas Communications, a non-profit group based in the Dubuque area is sponsoring the Our Lady of Fatima Conference. The event will take place at the Grand River Center in Dubuque and will feature a series of speakers. Admission is free, and so far about 600 people have pre-registered, according to organizers. They have a goal of attracting at least 1,000 people to hear about the unique events, which occurred in 1917, according to Aquinas Communications CEO Tom Oglesby.
“Part of our mission is one of education,” said Oglesby.
The Aquinas Communications apostolate, which manages a radio station in Dubuque, is not affiliated with the Archdiocese of Dubuque, but members aim to participate in the church’s mission of evangelization as lay people.
“We hope those who attend (the Our Lady of Fatima Conference) reinvigorate their desire to fall in line with what Mary had to say during her apparitions,” said Dick Bergeson, a board member at Aquinas Communications and part of the conference organizing committee. “We want to encourage people to recite the rosary daily — at least one rosary a day. If we do that, our kids and grandkids that have fallen away from the faith will come back, but it’s going to take prayer, and that’s our whole focus.”
The line up of speakers for the event includes: Drew Mariani, host of the “Drew Mariani Show” heard on Relevant Radio, a radio network with Catholic programming based in Wisconsin; David Corollo, of the World Apostolate of Fatima; Dr. Peter Howard of Heroic Families; Msgr. Eugene Morris, a Mariologist from the Archdiocese of St. Louis; and Gary Dolphin, the voice of the Iowa Hawkeyes.
Many of the speakers will focus on the story of the three children who received messages from the Blessed Mother during a series of apparitions that have been deemed credible by the Catholic Church.
“The goal is to evangelize,” said Bergeson. “We’re evangelizing those that are far away from the faith and even those who are close, but are lukewarm.”
The impact of the apparitions has been felt worldwide. On May 13 of this year, Pope Francis declared two of the Fatima children, Francisco and Jacinta Marto, saints at the start of Mass marking the centenary of their visions. A half-million people watched in the vast square in front of the Our Lady of Fatima shrine’s basilica in Portugal, the Vatican said, citing Portuguese authorities, according to a recent Catholic News Service article by author Michael O’Neill.
While tending sheep in a field, Lucia dos Santos and her two younger cousins, Blesseds Francisco and Jacinta Marto, reported seeing a woman dressed all in white, “more brilliant than the sun, shedding rays of light clearer and stronger than a crystal glass filled with the most sparkling water and pierced by the burning rays of the sun.”
Calling herself “Our Lady of the Rosary,” Mary asked the children to pray the rosary daily for the conversion of sinners. She asked for prayer, penance and the consecration of Russia to her Immaculate Heart.
On Oct. 13, 1930, Bishop Jose Alves Correia da Silva of the Diocese of Leiria-Fatima announced the results of the investigative commission and formally approved the apparitions. Every pope thereafter has recognized these events.
The most spectacular of the apparitions was the sixth and final one on Oct. 13, 1917, when Mary appeared with St. Joseph. A crowd of 70,000 witnessed the sun dance, spin, display in various colors and descend on them, drying their rain-soaked clothes and the land. The sun miracle was reported by people as far as 40 miles away.
To RSVP for the Our Lady of Fatima Conference, visit www.kcrd-fm.org or call 563-231-3545.
Cover Photo: The Szatkowski family of St. Stephen Parish in New Boston, Mich., prays together before a statue of Our Lady of Fatima inside the Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima in Riverview, Mich. (CNS photo/Dan Meloy, The Michigan Catholic)