Our Lady of Fatima will dedicate a permanent, outdoor shrine honoring the miracle that took place near Fatima, Portugal, on October 13, 1917, as part of this weekend’s events. The shrine has become a reality due to the efforts of parishioner Claire Huntley, of Wilmington.
“It’s the job of everybody to share the faith,” said Huntley on Tuesday. “This is my way to evangelize and to honor the 100th anniversary of the patroness of the church.”
Huntley, who is also the administrative assistant for the church, had the idea of constructing an outdoor shrine to the Fatima miracle more than two years ago. She was able to secure the blessing of the priest at the time, Father Cyrain Cabuenas, and the planning began.
“The grotto is my own design,” Huntley said. She also stressed that the church itself has not been involved in building or paying for the shrine. It’s all been done through donations of time and money from many sources.
The shrine itself is a post-and-beam-style structure, with native stonework supporting statues of the Virgin Mary, the three children whom she appeared to in Portugal, and a number of animals.
“We tried to find stones similar to the ones already on the church wall,” said Huntley. “That wasn’t the easiest thing to do.”
But Huntley and the many artisans who have worked on the project have done an amazing job keeping the look in line with the architecture of the church, and in a style appropriate for Vermont. The shrine also integrates paver stones, including some with names carved into them to honor donors and their families. A bronze plaque off to one side commemorates the 1917 miracle and tells the history of it.
According to the church’s current pastor, Father Ilayaraja Amaladass, the shrine couldn’t have come at a more needed time. “This is an explanation of the story of what happened at Fatima in Portugal. Mary appeared to three shepherd kids. On the final day, on October 13, she gave the message to pray the rosary every day for world peace and to do sacrifices for the conversion of the sinners. That message is applicable now. This world needs peace. We need to pray for the conversion of hearts. That’s what we are trying to do. This is why it’s so special to us.”
The grotto was designed by builder Jim Lynch. Paul Freed, a dry mason, was crucial in designing the pocket park for the shrine and the laying of the memorial stones. Doug Swanson has done the electrical work and Travis Wendell erected the wooden beams for the structure. The stonework has been done by Tayler Powell. Abbiatti Monuments in Brattleboro did the granite work and Bob Lambert has donated a marble slab. Richard Arsenault offered his boom truck to place the statuary.
Huntley also said Betsey Reagan, Lucy Imperatore, and Gale Palladino were instrumental as sounding boards for ideas and were “100% involved” in two fundraising raffles.
Amaladass said he was also thankful to everyone who contributed to the project, including some generous donations from second-home owners in the community. “People have been very generous with their labor and their resources,” he said. “We do appreciate their help in building this shrine.”
Events at Our Lady of Fatima for the weekend include 24 hours of adoration, from 9 am Friday until 9 am on Saturday. People are invited to stay for an hour to pray. There will also be a regular adoration from 5 to 6 pm on Friday, which will include confession. On Saturday, there will be a Marian Procession and a blessing of the statue of Mary. The procession will begin at 5:20 pm and will be followed by a Mass. On Sunday, the blessing of the shrine will take place. It will begin with a Mass at 9 am, including a blessing by Father Clifford Jones. The services will be followed by a breakfast at the church. All are welcome to any of the events.
For Huntley, the shrine’s biggest success will be its spiritual impact. “The shrine will be a success and worth all the time and effort,” she said, “if just one person heeds the plea of our Blessed Mother and starts to say a rosary every day.”