All the parishes of the Southern Cattaraugus County vicariate joined together at the behest of Our Lady of Fatima to pray for the end of war.
To close out the centennial year of the Fatima apparitions, Holy Name of Mary's Altar and Rosary Society chose to honor Our Lady by following her directive to "pray the rosary daily to obtain world peace." Everyone from the half-dozen parishes that make up the vicariate was invited to take part in a living rosary.
Almost 100 people showed up from all over Cattaraugus County for the Oct. 22 event, held at Holy Name of Mary Parish in Ellicottville.
"We had 60-some people standing in determined positions encircling the church holding candles," explained Father Ronald Mierzwa, pastor of Holy Name of Mary Parish. "As I lit their candle then they would say the Hail Mary or Our Father, whatever was appropriate for that part of the rosary." Others knelt at the church pews and responded to the prayers.
Following the living rosary, Father Luke Uebler, from Queen of Heaven Parish in West Seneca, gave a presentation on "Our Lady of Fatima: Mother of God and Our Mother."
The service concluded with benediction of the Most Blessed Sacrament celebrated by Father Gregory Dobson, pastor of the Basilica of St. Mary of the Angels in Olean and vicar forane for Southern Cattaraugus County.
Following the service, everyone was invited to nearby HoliMont Ski Resort for dinner.
"It was time for fun and fellowship," said Father Mierzwa.
One of the participants from Holy Name of Mary Parish wrote to Father Mierzwa saying, "I want to say what a wonderful, memorable experience upon participating in the living rosary. (Father Uebler's) sermon about Fatima and Mary was so interesting and included all that we need to be reminded about as Catholics. Benediction, which I have not done in years, was rejuvenating. Lastly, the delicious meal at HoliMont was much enjoyed by everyone. We will all remember the living rosary the rest of our lives."
This marks the second time the parish held a living rosary. The first time was held 13 years ago, for the 100th anniversary of the Altar and Rosary Society. "It's something you do once in a generation," said Father Mierzwa. "To see the rosary come to life in the lives of the participants made the whole effort worthwhile."
The Virgin Mary reportedly appeared to three shepherd children in Fatima, Portugal over several months in 1917. She asked that people pray the rosary every day to obtain peace in the world. She also promised salvation to those who embrace a devotion to Her. Among the prophecies attributed to her that came true was the early deaths of two of the children, the end of World War I and the start of World War II, and the expansion of communism.
On July 13, 1917, Our Lady reportedly told the children, "Pray the Rosary every day in honor of Our Lady of the Rosary to obtain peace in the world ... for she alone can save it."