Fatima Shrine, Portugal
Earlier this month, from August 12th through 14th, I was honored to preside over the International Pilgrimage at the Sanctuary of Fatima in Portugal. This celebration had been originally scheduled for 2020, rescheduled for 2021, and gratefully finally came to fruition in 2022. This event is also known as the “Emigrants and Refugees” Pilgrimage. This international pilgrimage gathers pilgrims from across the globe to bring much-needed awareness to the plight and suffering of our world’s many migrants and refugees.
As I told the migrants present, participating in this special day means so much to me as I have experienced migrating to another country myself. I migrated to the United States from Brazil to New Jersey when I came to this country to study for the priesthood.
On August 12, I led an opening prayer service that included a procession and a blessing of pilgrims with lighted candles. What a remarkable view from the altar as I looked out from the Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary (Basílica de Nossa Senhora do Rosário) at the thousands of candles flickering in the plaza. How blessed to be given the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and this unique vantage point to witness the great faith of so many gathered over the weekend. I was so moved by the many pilgrims walking on their knees from one end of the plaza and around the Chapel of the Apparitions (Capelinha das Aparições), which contains the area where three children, Lúcia dos Santos and her cousins, Francisco and Jacinta Marto, were first visited by the Virgin Mary.
On August 13, I celebrated Mass outside the Shrine Basilica. Tens of thousands of pilgrims participated in both events; I estimated around 50,000 people were in attendance for the Mass, with so many more watching as it was broadcast live across Portugal and via livestream on YouTube and Facebook. As I reflect back, I am overwhelmed and humbled at the incredible privilege of being invited to celebrate a Mass of this size and scope.
My homily focused on the importance of faith and remaining hopeful in every circumstance—reminding all we are never alone in our suffering and difficulties. I encouraged everyone to use this pilgrimage as a moment to meet with God, with our Mother Mary, with our brothers and sisters in the faith, and to make it a moment of true demonstration of faith. Faith in the promises of God and the Virgin Mary. Faith in what Jesus said to the disciple he loved and to all of us: “Behold your mother.”
I concluded my homily by expressing hope that our celebration would be a source of a renewal of faith for each one so that we can return to our lands enlightened by a rejuvenated faith to work together in building a better world. Faith for families, faith for children, faith for young people, faith for the whole world and for future generations. May Our Lady of Fatima intercede with her son Jesus for all of us.
Seminarians Return to Their Studies
As summer winds down and students prepare to return to the classroom, I want to ask you to remember in your daily prayers our Fall River seminarians returning to seminary. In light of the National Eucharistic Revival, it is worth considering the words of Pope St. John Paul II, “There can be no Eucharist without the priesthood, just as there can be no priesthood without the Eucharist.” It is, therefore, the responsibility of all the faithful to pray for vocations and to pray for those discerning a vocation.
Each seminarian has spent this summer assigned to help out in one (or more) parishes in the Diocese; as they conclude their assignments, I’ve asked them to share a little bit about their experiences.
“I was blessed to have spent my first summer as a deacon at Holy Family Parish in East Taunton. I enjoyed working with and learning from Father Matt Gill, as well as being immersed in the parish community. I got to know many wonderful, faith-filled people who warmly welcomed and supported me. Some of the highlights of the summer were: visiting the classrooms at Our Lady of Lourdes School, preaching homilies, celebrating my first baptism, bringing communion to people in the hospital, and even playing in a corn hole tournament at the parish summer cookout!” ~ Deacon John Garabedian
“This summer I was assigned to St. Mary’s in South Dartmouth. It was a joy-filled summer. I really enjoyed working as a part of a great team of clergy and staff. I truly loved getting to know the wonderful people and praying with them. I was inspired by the faith of so many; what stands out to me are the many young families and the home bound parishioners I would visit regularly. Their faith inspires me to grow in holiness. I really enjoyed preaching at Mass, the baptisms of several young children, and growing in love and comfort in celebrating the Sacraments. I was grateful for the guidance and feedback from Fr. David Frederici, the pastor of St. Mary’s. It is an immense blessing to be able to pray, celebrate, and journey with our brothers and sisters in the Lord in a parish family.” ~ Deacon Chris Hughes
“Being at Holy Name for my summer assignment was an incredible gift for me. The pastor, Father Riley Williams, was a great mentor and the parishioners were super supportive of the various forms of ministry I was able to partake in as a Deacon. It was a blessing to be able to serve there and I’m very grateful for the way everyone helped my growth.” ~ Deacon Brian Connors
“I spent this summer at St John Neumann parish in East Freetown. My time at St. John’s gave me so many opportunities; one such opportunity was teaching an adult education series on the Eucharist. Leading this series was a real inspiration to me; seeing everyone who came and were so interested in learning about our Lord in the Eucharist really encouraged me and filled me with hope!” ~ Lucas daCosta
“I was assigned at Our Lady of Mt Carmel Church, located in Seekonk, Massachusetts. The pastor is Rev. Fr. Kevin A. Cook. He is also the Vocations Director for the Diocese of Fall River. I found Christ in the people of the parish. They welcomed me warmly and made sure that I felt part of a family. The parishioners are very faithful and are always praying for seminarians that are discerning God’s will. It was great to see the youth very vibrant in the parish. Overall, the people that I encountered always gave the joy and love of God.” ~ Shayne Dias
The Diocese thanks each of them for their faithful service and their continued “yes” to follow where God calls them. Again, please join me in keeping all our seminarians in prayer as they return this fall to continue their studies and priestly formation. For more information about discerning a vocation to the priesthood, I invite you to the Fall River Diocese Office of Vocations website.
Yours in Christ,
Bishop da Cunha