This year is the 100th year anniversary of the renowned apparitions of the Virgin Mary to three peasant children in a remote Portuguese village. The events are being commemorated with Fatima processions large and small, a seemingly unlikely development even a few years ago, after decades-long neglect on the part of the larger Church.
But now, there’s something in the air. For example, in Chicago, where REGINA sat down with Fr Joshua Caswell of St John Cantius church and Craig Johnson, an organizer of the impressive procession there on 13 May 2017.
Photos by William Benjamin
Fr JOSHUA CASWELL: The evening started with a presentation by Fr. James Presta, professor of Mariology in the Archdiocese of Chicago, about the first apparition of Our Lady. The procession assembled outside after the conclusion of Fr. Presta’s talk, about7:45pm. Candles were lit and participants began walking and praying the rosary through the streets of Chicago. The mile-long procession concluded at St. Stanislaus Kostka Church with the statue of Our Lady being brought inside the church at8:30pm.
Fr JOSHUA CASWELL: We are estimating between 1,500 and 2,000 people participated in this peaceful procession. I would say only about half of the participants were from St. John Cantius. We noticed familiar faces from neighboring parishes and lots of new faces as well. We heard stories of people traveling from Indiana, Iowa and Wisconsin to celebrate with us.
CRAIG JOHNSON: In addition to parishioners living in Chicago and its suburbs, there are those who drive from Indiana, northern Illinois, and from communities south of Chicago. But it is not only a matter of the distances people travel that makes a profound impression. I noticed families and individuals who experienced a good deal of inconvenience to get there and to marshal their children for the evening’s events. That is, it was not convenient for them either because of distance or work responsibilities. It required effort, and faithful commitment, and hopeful expectation to go through the trouble to be there.
Fr JOSHUA CASWELL: We did a lot of PR for the event. We created a video to share on Facebook that was viewed by people across the world! We were fortunate enough to be on both Morning Air and the Drew Mariani Show on Relevant Radio.
We created a website for the event where people could go to get information not only about May’s event, but also about the rest of the monthly events we have scheduled for the Centennial. In my opinion, people came because they wanted to be a part of something that would give honor to Our Lady. There is something very powerful, empowering, about being part of a procession, a visible sign to the world that there are people who care about bringing peace.
CRAIG JOHNSON: Bystanders seemed to divide into four discernible groups. The first, the curious and puzzled, whose demeanor seemed to say “What is this about? Are they protesting something?” The second group were sneering and dismissive. Most in this group were in cars passing opposite. The third group were those who understood what the procession was about. They either knelt on the sidewalk, waved from cars, or stood quietly as the procession passed. The fourth group were those standing on balconies and at windows taking photographs.
Fr JOSHUA CASWELL: The reaction from bystanders on the streets was positive and understanding of the delay in traffic. People were seen leaving their cars to take photos and kneel on the side of the road in prayer. We noticed people waving from their balconies as we passed by. We have received such positive feedback in the days following the event.
Fr JOSHUA CASWELL: The Chicago Police Department was wonderful. They had been helping us in the months leading up to the event. We have had nothing but support from them. It was an honor to have them carry Our Lady, especially as we know they also pray for peace in our city.Fr JOSHUA CASWELL: The event concluded with Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament at St. Stanislaus Kostka Church with Fr. Anthony Bus. The third talk and procession on Thursday, July 13th will be led by Fr. Richard Heilman. The monthly events will culminate with a Solemn Pontifical High Mass celebrated by the Most Rev. Joseph N. Perry, Auxiliary Bishop of Chicago on Friday. October 13, the 100th anniversary of the Miracle of the Sun.
Visit Fatima100Chicago.org for more information.