By Maria Lozano
Briefing to our Donors
TO MARK the centenary of the final apparition of Our Lady to three shepherd children in Fatima, Portugal—Oct. 13, 2017—our organization is making a special pilgrimage to Fatima, which is also known as the “Altar of the World.” The pilgrimage, with staff and donors joining together, will take place Sept. 12-15, 2017.
We will take advantage of the pilgrimage to renew the consecration of Aid to the Church in Need to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, 50 years after our founder Father Werenfried van Straaten did so originally. Finally, this unique pilgrimage will mark the 70th anniversary of our founding in 1947
This pilgrimage will be joined by hundreds of benefactors, staff and co-workers from our headquarters and national offices around the world; it will be led by Cardinal Mauro Piacenza, our President.
In countless ways, our organization continues to respond, directly and indirectly, to Our Lady of Fatima’s call for conversion and a return to God. Father Martin Barta, our international Spiritual Assistant explained as follows: “This international pilgrimage is an unrivalled opportunity for all the friends and co-workers of ACN to gather together at the feet of Mary and renew their commitment for the persecuted and suffering Church.
“This persecution and suffering are very much central to the Third Secret of Fátima and Mary has taught us how through prayer and sacrifice, born of love, we can alleviate and even overcome these trials. Under the guidance of the Mother of God, we wish to continue being a sign of love—for the Church in need, for persecuted Christians, for the poorest of the poor and the downtrodden, for priests and religious who continue to bring the presence of God, so often almost empty-handed, to the most remote and inhospitable corners of the world, to the most forgotten communities.”
A piece of the Berlin Wall, which will be placed at the shrine during the pilgrimage, perfectly symbolizes the close bond between the message of Our Blessed Lady in 1917 and the work to which ACN has dedicated itself for the past 70 years: coming to the aid of the persecuted or oppressed Church around the world. In an echo of our first pilgrimage to Fátima in September 1967, whose principal aim was to pray for the persecuted Church, we will be presenting seven testimonies from around the world, which bear witness to the sufferings, hopes and needs of the local Church, including the communities of faith in Syria, Niger, Cuba, Papua New Guinea Ukraine, the Philippines and Venezuela.
Popular devotion to Our Lady of Fátima is among the most widespread Marian devotions in the world, a fact reflected in the more than 400 projects we funded in the past 25 years that had a connection to Our Lady of Fátima. These include not only projects in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, which suffered so much under the communist yoke, but also those in Latin America and Africa, as well as projects in Asia. We have responded to so many requests from the local Church for the construction of chapels, churches and shrines dedicated to the message of the Blessed Virgin in Fátima.
One of the most recent such requests has come from Bangladesh, where the parish of Baromani in the Diocese of Mymensingh draws more than 30,000 pilgrims each year, including Hindus and Muslims. The long-term goal is to construct a permanent shrine there as a part of a compound that can properly accommodate the many pilgrims each year—all eager to pay tribute to Our Lady of Fátima.