In a world growing more skeptical of God and cynical of religion, there is a response—Fatima. It is the place in Portugal where our Blessed Mother appeared with a plan in 1917 to three shepherd children.
According to Deacon Doug Helbing, the newly elected president of Bismarck’s Chapter of the World Apostolate of Fatima, most Catholics don’t even know about the miraculous events that happened in Fatima. But, he hopes to change that, at least in the Bismarck diocese.
“It’s amazing that Our Lady of Fatima gave us a peace plan for the world and most people don’t even know about it,” he said. “At Fatima, Mary told us what we need to do,” he said. “And it’s simple—pray the rosary every day.”
Helbing was elected Bismarck chapter president at July’s annual council/board meeting, replacing Shirlien Vetter who served for eight years. She agreed to continue as vice president, serving alongside Virginia Dolajak as secretary and Betty Heidrich treasurer. The entire board is dedicated to promoting the Fatima message and encouraging people to pray the rosary.
It was the event on May 13, 1917 that first brought Fatima to the attention of the world. On this day, three young children, Lucia, 10, Francisco, 9, and his sister Jacinta, 7, tended a flock of sheep in the outskirts of Fatima. Around midday, they prayed the rosary, as was their habit after lunch.
Suddenly, a flash of light made them think lightening was announcing a coming storm. There was another flash and then a beautiful Lady holding a rosary, stood over the top of a small oak tree. She explained, “I am the Lady of the Rosary,” and told them to pray, do penance and to make sacrifices to save sinners. She invited the children to return to the area known as Cove of Iria during the next five consecutive months on the 13 day at the very same hour.
During June, July, September, and October, the Lady returned. In August, the apparition took place in a small farm on the 15th because government officials had taken the children away on the 13th of that month. They were deceived, jailed, and then threatened with being boiled in oil if they did not recant their story of the vision. The children stuck to their story, even in the face of death.
Miracle of the Sun
The last apparition on Oct. 13 became known as "
Miracle of the Sun
.” Eyewitness reports estimate the crowd that gathered that day to be anywhere from 75,000 or 100,000. Some who had gathered were skeptics—anxious to show the Catholics to be fools. Government officials from the anti-Catholic socialist regime, police officers, and journalists, who were there not out of faith but to investigate, reported seeing the miraculous event. The two major newspapers carried the same reports of a miracle.
At noon, the driving rain stopped and the clouds parted. Many thousands of witnesses corroborated that during the next 12 minutes, the sun seemed to leave its orbit and spin, throwing off colors of light. Then, it spun on its axis and the rim became scarlet. Bursts of flames scattered across the sky. Amazement turned to terror as the sun appeared to plummet to earth. People cried and prayed, fearing the end of the world was at hand. Then, it stopped and a breeze swept through and instantly dried everything. People within a 20-mile radius saw the event.
At this same time, the children of Fatima saw the following vision as described by Sr. Lucia in the book
Letter from Sr. Lucia to her Bishop, December 8, 1941, Tuy, Spain
, “When our Lady disappeared in the immense distance of the sky, next to the sun we saw St. Joseph holding the child Jesus and Our Lady dressed in white with a blue mantle. St. Joseph and the child seemed to be blessing the world, making the sign of the cross.”
Goals for Bismarck Diocese
Once people know the story of Fatima, Helbing said he hopes they will want to follow our Lady’s peace plan and participate in devotions encouraged by the World Apostolate of Fatima.
He explained that the Bismarck chapter has three primary goals. First, is to promote the “Five First Saturday Devotions” given to us by Our Lady of Fatima. Secondly, an effort to increase the number of family prayer cells (groups), dedicated to the Fatima message that gather in homes to pray the rosary. Thirdly, for the group to continue and expand the family–friendly adoration that takes place on the first Monday of every month at 7 p.m. at the Church of Christ the King in Mandan.
“The world and our country seem to keep falling further and further away from God,” Helbing said. “Our Lady of Fatima asked us to pray the rosary and told us we need prayers to bring sinners back. Just imagine what it would be like if everyone answered her call.”
To learn more about the Fatima story and devotions, go to the World Apostolate of Fatima, USA website:
. For information about the Bismarck Diocese chapter, call Doug Helbing at 400-0233 or email him at