Tuesday, 01 November 2022 22:32

Marian Festival welcomes back large crowds after three years of pandemic restrictions

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The Sacred Heart Cathedral bells heralded the return of hundreds of pilgrims to the Marian Festival after a three-year hiatus due to COVID-19 restrictions. The large group of pilgrims included members of the Indian, Burmese, Filipino, Italian, Maltese and Croatian communities from Melbourne and across Victoria, as well as local supporters.
Despite challenges as bus companies cancelled coaches at the last minute and cars could not travel from Shepparton and Cobram due to flooding, the mood was buoyant as the Cathedral was once again filled with worshippers and Our Lady provided a beautiful, sunny spring day for the 105th Anniversary of the Miracle of the Sun at Fatima, Portugal.
Bishop Leslie Tomlinson concelebrated a sung Mass with Very Rev. Fr Brian Boyle EV, Fr Stephen Bolling, Fr Denib Josette Suguitan “DJ” and Fr Bernard McGrath. Two seminarians, Xavier Ryan and Anthony Wright, grandsons of Wilma and the late John McCormack assisted Bishop Tomlinson throughout the day. 
The choir, conducted by Dr Paul Taylor with organist Thomas Heywood, and cantor,  Joanne Bonazza, added to the beauty and solemnity of the festival.
The afternoon Festival began with the procession of the Statue of Our Lady of Fatima around the outside of the Cathedral while the rosary was recited, continuing inside with the Crowning of the Statue, Consecration, Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, Benediction, the Litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary and Enrolment in the Scapular. The liturgy was interspersed by Ave Maria sung by Joanne Bonazza as well as other beautiful hymns throughout the afternoon.
Guest speaker Bishop Leslie Tomlinson spoke on the relevance of Our Lady’s message at Fatima for today:
 “In some ways, Devotion to the Rosary and the Immaculate Heart, feels like part of a bygone age. Something from the childhood memories of our grandparents. But the Ukrainian Bishops’ message suggests to me that it is a good time to return to the story of Fatima and to think about how Mary’s message might lead us back to the rosary today to pray for peace and the conversion of Russia and to cope with the magnitude of human sufferings that constantly invades our news and social media feeds.” 
“The church gives great guidance in understanding the place of Fatima and Marian apparitions in general. Throughout history there have been supernatural apparitions and signs which go to the heart of human events, and which, to the surprise of believers and non-believers alike, play their part in the unfolding history.  These manifestations can never contradict the content of faith and must therefore have their focus in the core of Christ’s proclamation.”
Bishop Tomlinson quoted Pope Benedict XVI who said, “A stern warning has been launched from that place [Fatima], a summons to the seriousness of life, of history, to the perils that threaten humanity”.  Bishop Tomlinson continued:
For us today, 105 years later, we recognise that the message of Fatima remains still urgent. Mary urges us to deeper prayer, to repentance for our sins, for greater recognition of our dependence on God alone and being attentive to His word and His will in our lives.”
“It becomes important that we do our part at the local level to respond to Our Lady’s request at Fatima. It is promoting and responding to her request that is at the heart of the Apostolate of Our Lady of Fatima and the Marian Festival.”
Mindful of Our Lady of the Rosary’s instructions at Fatima for achieving peace in the world in the year ahead, the Marian Festival will return in October 2023 to celebrate the 106th anniversary of the Miracle of the Sun at Fatima.

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