This weekend is very special for the Catholic Church worldwide. Pope Francis will be in Fatima, Portugal, May 12-13, to mark 100 years of the first Marian apparition there. Mary is said to have appeared to three shepherd children, Lucia Dos Santos and her cousins Francisco and Jacinta Marto six times each month on the same day, starting May 13, 1917.
Pope Francis will celebrate the centenary with a Mass on May 13, Saturday, in the square in front of the Fatima Shrine, during which he will also declare Jacinta and Francisco saints. Less than two years after the apparitions, Francisco died at the age of ten, and his sister Jacinta the following year at the age of nine, both victims of an influenza pandemic. Their cousin Lucia later became a Discalced Carmelite nun in Coimbra, Portugal. She died in 2005, and the process of her beatification and canonization is progressing.
After the apparitions, the Virgin Mary was given the title of Our Lady of Fatima, and the Sanctuary of Fatima has become one of the most popular Marian shrines in the world. The devotion to Our Lady of Fatima spread far and wide across the world, thanks largely to the Blue Army of Our Lady of Fatima, or simply the Blue Army, a movement begun in 1946 by Fr. Harold Colgan, in Plainfield, New Jersey (USA). As the movement further spread around the world, it became an international apostolate with millions of members and national centres in various countries, adopting the worldwide recognized name of World Apostolate of Fatima (WAF). It received the approval of the Holy See as a “public international association of the faithful” on 7 October, 2005.
At the national levels, WAF has been coordinating preparations for the May 13 Fatima centenary celebrations. To know about how the Philippines, Asia’s most Catholic nation, has been preparing for this great day, we called Mr. Reynald Fernandez Andales, the national president of WAF in the Philippines, on the phone. Speaking from the National Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima, Vaienzuela City, Metro Manila, Reynald also talked about how WAF is organized in the Philippines and how they foster and spread the devotion to Our Lady of Fatima. Reynald began by telling us about the preparations: