Lent, often times, is depicted as a desert, a place to meet God and experience an inward pilgrimage. Deserts also contain oases, places to go to rest and find peace. Nestled below the Niagara Escarpment is such a place away from a distracting, busy world. That oasis, in the care of the Barnabite Fathers, is Our Lady of Fatima Shrine in Lewiston.
In 1917, Our Lady appeared to three little children in Fatima, Portugal: Lucia, Jacinta and Francisco. The "Beautiful Lady dressed in white and more brilliant than the sun," asked for prayers and sacrifice, so that "Our Lord may save humanity from all calamities and bring peace to the world." She also asked for the conversion of sinners, and to repair the offenses to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
The Fatima message is one of the most pressing heavenly invitations to an authentic Christian life. Lent offers the opportunity for a renewed commitment to a life of daily prayer, sacrifice and penance.
The Barnabite Fathers came to Western New York in the early 1950s with the goal of establishing a seminary. In 1954, Mr. and Mrs. Walter Ciurzak, hearing the Barnabites needed a place to build, offered the Fathers 15 acres of their farmland.
They made a humble request for a small grotto, in honor of Our Lady, to be built behind the future seminary in thanksgiving for favors received through the intercession of the Blessed Mother. With the greatly anticipated release of the Fatima secrets in 1960, great numbers of pilgrims began coming to Lewiston, as early as 1956, to seek protection under the mantle of Our Lady.
A simple grotto was not sufficient to accommodate the vast numbers and needs of the pilgrims. Construction of the present day basilica began in 1959, dedicated in 1965, and conferred with the title of "basilica" in 1975, by Pope Paul VI. That humble request for a small grotto is, today, the National Shrine Basilica of Our Lady of Fatima. Decades have passed, but the Barnabite mission remains - to honor Our Lady by spreading the Fatima message, and also to foster priestly vocations.
During Lent, Fatima Shrine seeks to lead its visitors into a relationship with God. The Stations of the Cross are prayed every Friday in the basilica following the 11:30 a.m. Mass. Easter Triduum services are intensely celebrated, from the solemnity of the Mass of the Last Supper on Holy Thursday, through the Passion of Our Lord on Good Friday, to the triumphant conclusion of the Triduum on Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday.
Fatima Shrine is opened year-round, offering daily Mass and confession. It is a center for day-long youth, confirmation and adult retreats. Sunday devotions include the rosary and Benediction at 3 p.m. First Saturday devotions include 3:30 p.m. rosary and 4 p.m. Mass. Eucharistic adoration is held every Wednesday and Friday from noon to 4 p.m.
The Barnabite Fathers feel privileged to be the bearers of Our Lady's message and stewards of this oasis of peace.
They invite all to come, through the intercession of Our Lady's Immaculate Heart, to rest in and with the Lord.