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Rowing to draw attention to Fatima apparitions

Rowing an 18-foot-long open canoe solo along the Intracoastal Waterway from Miami to New York City, Greg Dougherty hopes to draw attention to the centennial of the Marian apparitions at Fatima, Portugal.
 
The craft named the Santa Maria de Fatima packed with bags of food, clothes, emergency gear and a statue of Our Lady of Fatima looks both cramped and small for such a long voyage.
 
His 1,400-mile nautical pilgrimage began June 13 and as of Aug. 14, he was 10 miles south of Myrtle Beach, S.C., he told Catholic News Service. He also said he hoped to arrive in New York by late September or early October.
 
The Southern Cross, newspaper of the Diocese of Savannah, caught up with Dougherty in early August on the 47th day of his pilgrimage. He had arrived at Thunderbolt Marina in Thunderbolt.
 
Dougherty's canoe outfitted with tandem sliding seats enables him to use his legs and arms as he repeatedly pulls on the oars throughout the day. His planned crewmate for the journey, Gerald Sargent, a member of the British Royal Marines, was called back to active duty leaving Dougherty on his own.
 
Rowing on his own "is exhausting," said Dougherty, "and that is a good thing." At night, he sleeps in the forward section of the two-man canoe.
 
The monotony of rowing all day has become an opportunity for prayer and meditation. "When I'm alone out there I'm praying," said Dougherty, "I say the rosary. I pray the whole time, especially in severe weather."
 
He described getting through a thunderstorm that came through just south of Savannah.
 
"All I could do is to position the boat and aim the bow into the wind. My oars became an anchor, and I just wouldn't let the storm move me, and so I just held my own until it passed," he said. "It's like treading water. Once the storm passed, there was still another storm moving in. So I found my way into some marsh grass and let that storm pass over."
 
In calmer weather, his small craft attracts attention both on the water and when he pulls into a marina to have a hamburger and restock his supplies. Mark Bouy, a member of Blessed Sacrament Church in Savannah, met Dougherty at a marina in St. Augustine, Fla., and offered Dougherty a room, a shower and good food when he dropped anchor in Savannah. He spent three restful days with his host.
 
Dougherty is former president of Our Lady's Blue Army/World Apostolate of Fatima USA in the Diocese of Covington, Ky. The lay group's purpose is to promote the message of Fatima and to encourage the faithful to pray the rosary every day as Mary requested.
 
Mary appeared to three shepherd children -- Jacinta and Francisco Marto and their cousin Lucia dos Santos -- in Fatima in 1917. The apparitions began May 13, 1917, when 9-year-old Francisco and 7-year-old Jacinta, along with their cousin Lucia dos Santos, reported seeing the Virgin Mary. The apparitions continued once a month until Oct. 13, 1917, and later were declared worthy of belief by the Catholic Church.
 
In his interview with the Southern Cross, Dougherty quickly pointed out the purpose of his pilgrimage is to spread awareness of Fatima. He said, "I don't want anyone to heap more onto this trip than what it is -– just a way to lead people to Christ through His mother's message."
 
"I've met so many who have fallen away from the church," Dougherty said. "What's encouraged me on this trip is the curiosity of our Protestant brothers and sisters. I think the ocean or the rowing intrigues them. Often they'll ask me what Fatima is, and I'll explain that just as the Lord sent His angels and prophets, in 1917, He sent His mother to deliver what is known as God's peace plan for the world.”
 
"And don't you know," he added, "the majority of hearts have been opened to that message. Lives have been touched, so this has been a beautiful journey so far."
 
  • Published in Nation

'Blue Army' in Vermont

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the Marian apparitions to three shepherd children in the Cova da Iria area of Fatima, Portugal.
 
These apparitions began on May 13, 1917, when 10-year-old Lucia dos Santos and her cousins, Francisco and Jacinta Marto, reported seeing the Virgin Mary. She encouraged praying the rosary and told the children there would be wars worse than World War I and several nations would be annihilated if people failed to pray the rosary. The apparitions continued once a month until Oct. 13, 1917, and later were declared worthy of belief by the Catholic Church.
 
Since then, a veritable army of believers has taken up the devotion to Our Lady of Fatima.
 
Among them is Clairette Berard of Our Lady of Grace Church in Colchester, an original member of The Burlington Diocesan Division of the World Apostolate of Fatima, formerly known as The Blue Army.
 
The local chapter – one of 75 divisions throughout the United States -- began in 1974, and Berard has served as president, secretary and treasurer. She visited the shrine of Our Lady of Fatima in Portugal in 1983 and keeps a statue of Our Lady of Fatima on the dining table of her Essex Junction apartment.
 
“So many times she has answered my prayers. I can’t remember them all,” Berard said.
 
Since 1947 “The Blue Army of Our Lady of Fatima” (as it was previously known) has been working to spread the message of Fatima. In 2005 Pope St. John Paul II renamed the organization and declared it a public international association of the faithful, like the Knights of Columbus. He credited Our Lady of Fatima with saving his life following an assassination attempt on May 13, 1981, the Feast of Our Lady of Fatima.
 
The Burlington Diocesan Division of the World Apostolate of Fatima has some 200 members throughout the state, among them Helen Morrie of Our Lady of Grace Church in Colchester, a members since 1992 and a past secretary of the group.
 
“It’s about devotion to Mary, regardless of her title. There is only one Mary, one mother of God,” she said. “To me, I feel the comfort of our Blessed Mother…. I feel she protects me.”
 
As members of the World Apostolate of Fatima, they fulfill Our Lady’s request to offer up their daily sacrifices as penance, pray the rosary daily while meditating on the mysteries, wear the scapular of Mount Carmel and participate in First Saturday devotions.
 
Anita Cote, a parishioner of Immaculate Conception Parish in St. Albans, was active in the World Apostolate of Fatima even before it was organized in Vermont; she and her husband had a “prayer cell” in their home to foster the devotion.
 
The Blessed Mother’s messages at Fatima appealed to her, and the Fatima devotions have been a blessing to her and to her family.
 
In addition to personal devotions, members of the apostolate participate in various activities including an annual Family Day at St. Anne’s Shrine in Isle LaMotte. Many participate in parish devotions to Our Lady of Fatima, including those associated with the state pilgrim statue of Our Lady of Fatima that goes from parish to parish or special visits of a traveling international statue.
 
The state statue of Our Lady Fatima is to visit seven major churches in the diocese with the theme Fatima Centennial Vermont Tour for Peace 1917-2017. Other parishes may request a visit from now until Oct. 13.
 
In 1986 the four-foot statue was purchased by Alberta Audette on a pilgrimage to Fatima, and the state group uses it still for visits to churches, monasteries, convents, elder care homes and chapels for people to experience the grace and blessings from Our Lady, while learning and live the message of peace, hope and reparation of sins, as she taught the three children in Fatima in 1917.
 
Berard laments that there had been more members and more activities in the past, but as membership decreases, members get older and the pace of a busy world takes its toll, many younger people don’t know about the devotion. So members invite others to participate in devotions and activities, continually trying to share the love of Our Lady of Fatima. She hopes the 100th anniversary of the apparitions will generate renewed interest in the devotion.
 
“When you have an organization … it’s nice to gather in a group and have camaraderie,” Morrie said.
 
There are no dues to belong The World Apostolate of Fatima, but donations are accepted for programming, Masses for deceased members and operating expenses.
 
Asked why the devotion to Our Lady of Fatima has remained for 100 years, Morrie responded, “All the good that is happening through prayer through Mary.”
 
Indeed, members of The World Apostolate of Fatima do not worship Mary but “go through Mary” to Jesus, she explained. “Without Mary there would be no Jesus. If Mary had not said ‘yes’ [to bearing the Son of God], where would we be today?”
 
Yorini Maria Undyantara of St. John Vianney Parish in South Burlington is president of The Burlington Diocesan Division of the World Apostolate of Fatima. “As I am going on the journey in faith with the Blue Army group as the president, I see the thirst in people when the [statue] makes a special visit to each parish. Like a food supplement, she gives an extra boost to pray more intimately” and to receive the Eucharist and the sacrament of reconciliation and to participate in Eucharistic adoration, she said. “Sometimes the visual presence of a mother, especially the mother of Jesus, can give comfort to some people who are in need of special intercession from Jesus through Mary, and they hope she will persuade her son. One can easily relate to her immaculate, gentle heart of a mother.”
 
For more information about The Vermont Chapter of The World Apostolate of Fatima, call Clairette Berard at 802-878-3214.
 
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