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Marie Rivier Associates On Pilgrimage

Oct 15, 2008, 7:14 AM | Article By: Augustine Kanjia

The Associates of Marie Rivier, an organisation of the Presentation of Mary Sisters, who long to deepen the spirituality of its members and others, have for the second time taken about 19 of their members on a pilgrimage to Fatima in Portugal.In 2004 there were 26 of them who went for the rich spiritual exercise and in 2008, they still long for the same spirituality. Fatima in Portugal is where the Virgin Mary appeared to three young children in three apparitions and one in 1917. The children were Lucia, Francisco and Jacinta. The place has a special place in the heart of those who go there and Catholics who have not been there. Our Lady is honoured in the Catholic Church and so Fatima for them is the peak. Panorama spoke with Mrs. Joanna Sarr, who happens to be the president of the Marie Rivier Associates.

Talking about their journey to Portugal Mrs. Sarr said 26 of them went to Portugal on the pilgrimage to Fatima and it was a turning point in their lives. "By then the last of the three children to whom Our Lady had appeared was still alive. And we were told that by 2007 she would have been a 100 years old. But unfortunately she had died the following year in February 2005, four months after we left and the others - Francisco and Jacinta had died in their teens, and the grave of Lucia was there waiting for her," she said.

Talking about how they traveled to Portugal, she said they are always thankful to President Jammeh who had paid for their group in 2004, about 26 of them, the quota given to them to go with. She praised the Foreign Affairs for processing their documents upon contacting them through the Vicar General, Fr. David Jarju. Our documents are processed through them and we are happy for that. We are thankful to the Presentation Sisters who make it possible for our visit to a Holy place through their Sisters there.

She said their pilgrimage was a private one because the Diocesean pilgrimage is different from theirs. "But Bishop Ellison gives his blessings to us. We can allow others to come with us if only we have space. If anyone drops out of the 26 then others can come in," she said. Our members will stay for 14 days precisely as in the case of the 2004 pilgrims. Mrs. Sarr describes their past visit and subsequent visits to the site as a spirit filled exercise that moves the soul. The main celebration falls on the 12thOctober. There is mass waving of white handkerchiefs, songs to Our Lady and the night of the 12 is a big celebration and after the 13theverything winds up. It is a time of prayer but this time we are going to give thanks because all our prayers have been answered. She said.

Talking about Fatima in Portugal, it is in the very heart of Portugal, is located in the mountainous central region of the Serra de Aire, about thirty miles from the Atlantic Ocean. Originally a remote village in the municipality of Vila Nova de Ourem, it now enjoys the status of a town. Going back to Moorish times, like so many others in Portugal, Fatima was the name of the daughter of Mohammed, the great prophet of Islam.

Pilgrimages take place in Fatima all year round, but especially on the 12thand 13thday of each month from May to October. On the 13thof May, the number of pilgrims varies between Five Hundred Thousand and one Million. There are pilgrimages every weekend, and on weekdays as well, particularly during the summer season. Each pilgrimage includes the following ceremonies: the praying of the Rosary, the Candlelight Procession, Holy Mass, the Blessing of the Sick, and the Farewell "Adeus" Procession, this latter ceremony being still more moving at the greater pilgrimages when hundreds of thousands of handkerchiefs are waved in loving farewell to Our Lady of the Rosary of Fatima.

The three Little Shepherds, Lucia: the eldest was born on the 22ndof March 1907. She was fond of children and they loved her dearly. Francisco: Lucia's cousin was born on the 11thof June 1908. Jacinta: Francisco's sister was born on the 11thof March 1910. She was attached to Lucia by an intensely tender and deep friendship. She was incapable of telling lies in trifling matters, and held that the truth must be told. She loved dancing, she loved sheep, little lambs, flowers, the stars, the moon that she called Our Lady's Lamp and the whole of nature, she loved to pray.

The first Apparition of the Angel took place in the Spring of 1916, the Seers could not tell the exact date, on a rocky hillside near Aljustrel called Loca do Cabeco. It was a rainy day, and the three little shepherds, Lucia, Francisco and Jacinta had sought shelter among the rocks. When the sky cleared, they stayed in the same spot, enjoying their games. A strange light came from the East and when it drew near, they saw that it was a young man, about fourteen or fifteen years old, whiter than snow, transparent as crystal when the sun shines through it, and of great beauty" (Lucia's memoirs). He drew closer and said: Do not be afraid! I am the Angel of Peace. Pray with me."

He knelt down and touched his forehead on the ground and asked them to pray three time the following prayer: "My God, I believe, I adore, I hope and I love You! I ask pardon of You for those who do not believe, do not adore, do not hope and do not love you." He asked the three Seers to pray, that the Hearts of Jesus and Mary are attentive to your supplications." Then he disappeared. They were immersed in the Word of God and were unable to talk.

The second Apparition took place months later, in the summer of 1916, when the Seers were playing near the well behind Lucia's house. The third Apparition was in the Autumn of the same year 1916, where a chalice was suspended and a host by it with blood dripping in the chalice and asked them to pray to the Holy Trinity. They saw Mary who promised to take Francisco and Jacinta soon with her to Heaven and Lucia will stay to spread the News. Today, Gambians are among the Millions that go out there to pray. Aunty Ya Sarah Goddard Joof is one of them who was there in 2004 and in 2008, visiting a lot of Holy sites, Point's Mary Kanu Thomas is part of the pilgrimage this time round again.