The International Pilgrim Virgin Statue of Fatima, venerated around the United States and the world since 1947, is making several stops in the Diocese of Jackson.
The statue’s principal custodian, Patrick L. Sabat gave the following interview to Peter Finney, Jr., of the Clarion Herald, the newspaper for the Archdiocese of New Orleans, before an exhibition there.
“It’s been great, not only in the numbers of people who are coming but also hearing from the individuals who are so excited and joyful and have told me they have gone back to confession after so many years,” said Sabat, who is taking the three-and-half foot mahogany image of the Blessed Mother, carved by artist José Thedim, on a tour of more than 100 U.S. Catholic dioceses to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the 1917 apparitions of Mary in Fatima, Portugal.
“People ask me, ‘Look, does the statue make everybody cry?’” Sabat said. “Many people are moved to tears.”
In honor of the Fatima centennial, Sabat began traversing the United States in a figure-8 pattern in March, traveling with the statue in an RV festooned with images of the “Fatima Centennial: U.S. Tour for Peace.”
Not that the Blessed Mother has been a stumbling block to anyone, Sabat said. Recently in Chicago, which has been beset by gun violence, a church held a candlelight procession in the neighborhood, and a man who was drinking heavily in a bar came out to see the commotion caused by the police lights and the candles.
“He was ready to drink his life away, and he walked out of the bar because he thought it was another uprising,” Sabat said. “He was moved to tears when he saw the people with the candles and saying the rosary. The next day he went to confession. How do I know this? The priest who heard his confession related what had happened.”
In Ohio, a parishioner who had invited him to stay in her home during the statue’s visit expressed her sadness about being estranged from two of her five children. During the meal, the woman’s phone rang, and she excused herself to answer it.
“She had been praying for Our Lady to heal the parish during the time window of when the statue was there,” Sabat said. “She came back and told me, ‘That was my son. He’s never called me in a year.’”
The next morning, the woman told Sabat about another phone call she had received at 2 a.m.
“She said, ‘My daughter called and told me she would have ended her life if I had not answered the phone,’” Sabat said. “Our Lady Queen of Peace brought two of her children back to her. Those are the kinds of things people tell me.”
Sabat said despite what might be considered a growing coarsening of society and a decrease in people practicing the faith, he has never been harassed by anyone as he travels the U.S. with the pilgrim statue. On the contrary, he said, people with questions have been very respectful and open to hearing Our Lady’s message of peace.
“I’ve never experienced anything rude or mean, even from non-Catholics,” Sabat said. “When I fly, I open her bag so people can see her. A lot of times the captain will say, ‘We’re going to have a good flight because we have a very special passenger today.’ When I go through security, they know exactly who she is, and a conversation gets started.”
The RV has already logged 21,000 miles. “It’s about time for an oil change,” he said.
All are welcome to see the statue at these Mississippi stops: Tuesday, Jan. 3, Grenada St. Peter Paris; Wednesday, Jan. 4, Gluckstadt St. Joseph Parish; Thursday, Jan. 5, McComb St. Alphonsus Parish.
Contact the indivdual parish for details on the visit. To learn more about the tour and the statue at www.fatimatourforpeace.com.