The annual Fatima pilgrimage which took place on Saturday, 13 May 2017 proved to be a great success with a record turnout number of pilgrims. The usual large crowd of over 1500 was present at the Church of the Blessed Sacrament in Malvern East in Johannesburg where the pilgrimage started. Over 2000 pilgrims were present at the Mass at Schoenstatt where the pilgrimage concluded.
The pilgrimages in previous years have attracted just under 2000 pilgrims. This pilgrimage continues to be the largest of its kind in South Africa.
This pilgrimage is the eleventh that has taken place in succession. The first pilgrimage took place in 1991 with only around 50 pilgrims led by the parish youth group at the time. The pilgrimage on foot celebrates the apparitions of Our Lady to three shepherd children from the months of May to October in the hamlet of Fatima in Portugal.
On the 13th of May 1917 our Lady first appeared to three poor shepherd children. During these apparitions, that took place over the next 6 months, our Lady under the title of “Our Lady Queen of the Rosary”, appealed for prayer, especially by praying the Rosary and conversion and peace in the world.
Since these apparitions, millions of people have changed their lives positively and come to practice the messages of Fatima. Because these apparitions took place in Portugal, the Portuguese have a special devotion to Our Lady of Fatima. The predominantly Catholic Portuguese community are one of the largest immigrant communities in South Africa.
As in all the previous pilgrimages, the pilgrimage commenced at the Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church and ended, after a four kilometer pilgrimage on foot when the rosary is prayed, with Holy Mass at the Schoenstatt Shrine in Bedfordview, Ekurhuleni.
Coordinator of the Pilgrimage, Manny de Freitas announced that as an extension and success of the pilgrimages, the Fatima five Saturdays will again be instituted, now for the fourth year running. The Fatima five Saturdays originate when one of the visionaries, Sister Lucia dos Santos, then a postulant, received a visionary visit by the Child Jesus and the Virgin Mary in her convent cell. Showing the young nun a heart surrounded by thorns, Our Lady said “See, My daughter, My heart surrounded by thorns which ungrateful men pierce at every moment by their blasphemies and ingratitude… Say to all those who, for five months, on the first Saturday, confess, receive Holy Communion, recite the Rosary and keep Me company for 15 minutes while meditating on the fifteen mysteries of the Rosary, in a spirit of reparation, I promise to assist them at the hour of death with all the graces necessary for the salvation of their souls.”
Through the tireless efforts of Sister Lucia and others, this great, yet simple devotion has, over the last almost nine decades, spread around the world, uniting millions in a universal and continuous act of reparation that seeks to console the Hearts of Jesus and Mary and to save souls everywhere.
As requested by Sister Lucia, the five Saturdays will start on the first Saturday of each month from June until October which is also a month devoted to Mary. All are invited to recite the rosary at 17h00 on the Saturdays of 3 June, 1 July, 5 August, 2 September and 7 October in the Blessed Sacrament Church, corner of Geldenhuis and Mullins streets in Malvern East, Johannesburg. Just like the pilgrimage, the monthly rosary started small and has grown consistently as more and more people discover for themselves the power of the Rosary.