ASHTABULA — Mary Ann Wright traveled 20 miles Thursday morning to see the Papal-blessed statue of Our Lady of Fatima at Mother of Sorrows Church.

“I felt blessed walking into the church,” said Wright, a 67-year-old Madison resident. “As a Catholic, I felt something special.”

More than 100 people watched as the 3-foot-tall, 40-pound National Pilgrim Virgin Statue made its grand entrance at 7:30 a.m. and was carried to the front of the church by the Knights of Columbus. An 8 a.m. Mass followed at the church, one of three in Ashtabula that make up Our Lady of Peace Parish.

“The purpose is to drive home the message of peace,” said Katie Moran, president of Our Lady’s Blue Army, a group dedicated to spreading the message of Fatima. “Our lady gave a peace plan when she appeared at Fatima.”

This year marks the 102nd anniversary of the apparition of Our Lady of Fatima to three shepherd children in the village of Fatima, Portugal in 1917. Roman Catholics believe the Virgin Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ, has appeared throughout the world in times of crisis. 

In Portugal, the faithful believe Our Lady of Fatima appeared six times to Lucia, 9, and her cousins Francisco, 8, and his sister Jacinta, 6, between May 13, 1917 and Oct. 13, 1917. 

The apparition was of a woman who wore white, held a rosary and asked the children to pray.

It is believed that 70,000 people witnessed one appearance. They saw the sun make three circles and move around the sky in a zigzag path.

By 1930, a bishop approved the apparitions, which the church has deemed authentic.

“In the history of apparitions it’s the first time a miracle was predicted when, where and the exact time it would take place,” Moran said. 

Pictures of the Miracle of the Sun event taken afterward and numerous articles about it have published in newspapers around the world.

“They saw the sun dance, they saw the colors, then they all saw the sun come hurdling toward the earth and they felt the heat of it, they felt like they were gonna be burned alive,” Moran said. “And afterward, they had been standing in mud but afterward the ground was dry and their clothes looked like they’d gone to the dry cleaners and were all clean.”

Our Lady of Peace parishioner Regina Petros said she was pleased with the crowds of faithful who came to pray and revere the Miraculous Statue.

The statue was carved in the same image and likeness of the Virgin Mary, as described by the children who said they saw her at Fatima in Portugal.

“It’s a beautiful image,” Moran said. “It’s carved out of a solid block of cedar in Fatima and blessed by Pope Paul VI during his 1967 visit to Fatima.”

On Thursday, lines of parishioners formed in front of the statue after Masses at Mother of Sorrows. They knelt or bent, praying and touching the base, but not the statue itself. Some parishioners walked away wiping tears. 

Many miracles and blessings have been reported by people who visit Fatima, but also by those who visit replica statues, Moran said.

“Whenever there is a visitation program in a diocese many graces and blessings are given to all who come to venerate this image of the mother of God. She is our spiritual mother,” Moran said. “Her role is to take us to her son Jesus. This she does most perfectly.”

The statute at Mother of Sorrows is one of only a few sanctioned and blessed replicas and the only one made to travel the United States.

It was blessed by Pope St. Paul VI during the 50th anniversary celebration of the Fatima apparitions on May 13, 1967.

After the blessing, this hand-carved image was given to the United States by the Bishop of Fatima, and was crowed by Cardinal O’Boyle at the National Basilica in Washington, D.C. in 1971, using a crown blessed by Pope St. Paul VI.

All prayer intentions left at the statue are taken to Fatima and buried in the sacred ground where the Miracle of the Sun happened in 1917. 

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