WATERBURY – More than 200 people recited the rosary as they followed a statue of the Blessed Mother around the Waterbury Green Oct. 1, kicking off the 100th anniversary month of the first apparitions of Mary to three Portuguese children at Fatima.
It was the 28th annual archdiocesan rosary rally, held this year at the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception and organized by Lorraine Greski of Ansonia.
Father James Sullivan, pastor of Assumption Church in Ansonia, spoke on “Mary: How Humility Leads to God.” He outlined the seven heavenly virtues and their corresponding deadly sins: humility against pride, kindness against envy, abstinence against gluttony, chastity against lust, patience against anger, generosity against greed and diligence against sloth.
He stressed that sin is real, that we are all sinners and need forgiveness. He said, “The six most difficult words for a Catholic to say are, ‘Bless me, Father. I have sinned.’”
The rosary, he said, is a powerful tool to keep Satan at bay. He confessed that he does not say the rosary as often as he feels he should, but he is making an effort.
He said we should be saying, “I’m sorry for saying yes when I should have said no. I’m sorry for saying no when I should have said yes.”
He said, “The more we say no to self, the more we’re capable of saying yes to Christ. The more we go on saying yes to self and seeking a comfort level, then before you know it we find ourselves saying yes to things we should be saying no to and no to things we should be saying yes to.”
Father Christopher Ford, rector of the basilica, opened the program by saying he was pleased with the high turnout to celebrate the anniversary of Fatima.
He quoted St. John Paul the Great’s letter of Oct. 16, 2002, in his 25th year of his pontificate. Pope John Paul II was quoting Blessed Bartolo Longo when he wrote: “O Blessed Rosary of Mary, sweet chain which unites us to God, bond of love which unites us to the angels, tower of salvation against the assaults of Hell, safe port in our universal shipwreck, we will never abandon you. You will be our comfort in the hour of death: yours our final kiss as life ebbs away.”
Msgr. John J. Bevins, former rector of the basilica and now a senior priest, said, “Let’s hope that with your prayers, the Blessed Mother is going to be able to hold Jesus’ hand back.”
Elaine B. Atiyeh of Canton, former coordinator of the annual rally, said the event began in 1990 as a seven-day “Rosary Congress,” with conferences at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. Atiyeh and Father Stanley Smolenski, then assistant pastor at St. Martha's in Enfield, organized a scaled-down rosary rally until 2002, she said.
Until recently, the event was held at the Cathedral of St. Joseph in Hartford. To keep the rally manageable, it was a one-day event, but it was still three hours long. In the past several years, the rosary rally has lasted about 90 minutes.
She said it was Father Ford’s idea this year to add a procession around the green, in addition to one inside the basilica.
Asked why she believes in the rosary, Atiyeh said, “We are Fatima people. We follow the message of Fatima. Marian people have a devotion to Our Lady and we respond to her requests. Her request was to pray the rosary.”
Elizabeth Kola, a New York resident who works in Waterbury, said, “It’s very important to honor Our Blessed Mother.”
She said, “My grandfather built a church in Kosovo dedicated to Our Lady of Fatima. On the day that I was born [in Kosovo], he had a vision that the Blessed Mother opened a special door for him and she welcomed him to the true life, heaven. I’m from a very Catholic and a beautiful family.”
Joyce Roslar attended with 11 other members of St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Naugatuck. She said, “We are here to support world peace. We get to the Blessed Mother by praying. We do rosaries together and just to feel the spirit of Mary being there and coming to help us.”
Fellow parishioner Suzanne Rodrigues added, “We want to bring the world together for peace.”
Another parishioner, Sue White, said simply, “We need prayer.”
Peter Wolfgang, executive director of Family Institute of Connecticut, said this was the first rosary rally he has attended, but it was important because it marked the 100th anniversary of Fatima. Mary warned three small shepherd children then of the evils of communism, he said.
“The Soviet Union collapsed 25 years ago, but in a way cultural Marxism is still with us today, with all the attacks on the family and on human life in the womb and the true definition of marriage and other attacks against procreation,” he said.
“We very much still need our Lady of Fatima,” he said. “Mary is the strongest saint there is. She crushes the head of the serpent and she is the one who can defeat it if we stand with her and do as she says.”