Hundreds of people packed Our Lady of Fatima shrine in Meadowbank, Auckland, to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the first apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary at Fatima to three children, two of whom were canonised as saints by Pope Francis on May 13.

Auckland diocese vicar general Msgr Bernard Kiely, who concelebrated the Mass with Meadowbank parish priest Fr Sam Pulanco and Fr Pat Breeze, SM, stressed that although it was Mother Mary who appeared to the three children, the message was not about her but about her son, Jesus.

“The test of the authenticity of any devotion within the Church is what we [call] the ‘Christocentricness’. Christ is at the centre,” he said. “It is him that we come to know.”

He noted that at the pilgrimage site, the statue of Mary is at the side while Jesus’ statue is at the centre.

As a nod to the young saints, Francisco and Jacinta Marto, the students of Mt Carmel School sang during the Mass.

Msgr Kiely remarked there could be another saint among them.

Msgr Kiely also urged the faithful to keep praying for peace “especially for peace in countries that are torn apart by war and violence”.

During the Mass, Msgr Kiely blessed the newly installed stained glass windows of the church. Each window depicted a mystery of the rosary.

Fr Pulanco initiated the project last year to reinvigorate the parish as a shrine.

“This is a national shrine and I thought we needed to put something in to make it a shrine,” he said.

Fr Pulanco said some parishioners thought it was an ambitious project as each window cost $5000. “They said, ‘Father, you’re dreaming,’” he recalled.” I told them it’s nice to dream and let God do all the work.”

Whangarei stained glass artist Phill Kibblewhite was commissioned to draw, make and install the windows.

“The windows added a new solemnity to the church,” Fr Pulanco said.

The anniversary celebrations at Meadowbank began with a novena and nightly processions, which started on May 5.

At the May 13 Mass, the statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary was crowned and garbed with a sky blue robe by Fr Pulanco. Fr Breeze put a rosary on her clasped hands.

After the Mass, the devotees carried the image out of the church and processed with lighted candles from the shrine to through the carpark and into Mt Carmel School hall.

Msgr Kiely praised the enthusiasm of those who attended the Mass, noting that a number of them were not parishioners, but Marian devotees.

Fr Pulanco said the shrine will have various activities every month up to October 13 in commemoration of the apparitions.

“Then, we will have a big celebration in October in remembrance of the last apparition,” he said.

Fr Pulanco also thanked the students, parents, teachers and staff of Mt Carmel School who helped tremendously in putting on the event.

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