Photo: Sacred Art by Religious Sculptor, Frederick Charles Shrady (obit: NY Times Jan. 22, 1990) of New York.
Pope Francis declared 2017 the Year of Fatima to coincide with the 100 Year Anniversary of the Apparitions. The Apparitions are when Our Lady appeared to 3 young children 100 years ago in Fatima, Portugal. The Fatima secrets are fascinating and there are many great books written about Fatima including one by Fr. Andrew Apostoli with a foreward by Raymond Cardinal Burke, that I am currently reading.
There is sequential history behind my personal faith journey that is relevant. My maternal grandmother, Ouida Noelle Bundschuh was baptized as an adult (after raising her seven children Catholic) she went through Sacramental preparation with Father Fulton Sheen at her home in order to receive the Sacraments at Saint Patrick’s Cathedral in New York. My grandmother carried gold filled rosary beads that day, that later were made into bracelets by her daughters, the crucifix was given to me!
In 1966, I was born Kerin Noelle on the feast day of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton.
After years of prayer and reflection, God called me to create a timeline to form some semblance of order in my life.
In 1975, after my grandmothers came into the Catholic faith, my grandfather bequeathed the Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton modern day bronze triptych sculpture altar with candles designed by Frederick Shrady (1907-1990) to Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, in New York. The altar was the brainchild of Father Fulton Sheen and dedicated to the first American Saint in the United States, consecrated by Terrance Cardinal Cooke.
In 1982, Pope John Paul II commissioned the very same artist from New York, Frederick Shrady, who is the first American artist ever to be commissioned by a Pope to design religious inspired sacred art for the Vatican Gardens. Shrady designed Our Lady of Fatima in the Vatican Gardens for JPII.
In 1984, I received the Sacrament of Confirmation. It was through the power of the Holy Spirit that I choose my grandmothers name, Ouida, as the perfect role model and companion in my life. I was then that I was gifted my grandmothers gold rosary crucifix that she carried on her Baptism day, blessed by Father Fulton Sheen. I wear the crucifix today as a sign of my Catholic faith.
[Side note. From 2007-2012, God called me to an instrumental leadership role at St Louis de Montfort Parish in Fishers, Indinana. I had the great pleasure to oversee various Sacred Art projects initally the 1.8 Million dollar renovation and enhancement of the church. The project is summarized in Evangelization through Sacred Art and the Altar Dedication by Bishop Timothy Doherty. It was my Pastoral Project publication for completion of a Masters in Pastoral Theology at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods in Terre Haute, Indiana, in 2012. “In every church building, art and architecture become the joint work of the Holy Spirit and the local community, in preparing a place to receive God’s Word and to enter more fully into communion with him. In these guidelines, approved in 2000, the bishops of the United States offer instruction on how to design places of worship that are dignified, beautiful, and “suited to sacred celebrations.” USCCB. Built of Living Stones-Art, Architecture and Worship.
Subsequently, I would oversee additional Sacred Art projects at Saint Louis de Montfort in 2013 for the renovation of the Youth Ministry Center; a new rectory in 2015; and a new processional cross in 2017. “Sacred art is true and beautiful when its form corresponds to its particular vocation: evoking and glorifying, in faith and adoration, the transcendent mystery of God—the surpassing invisible beauty of truth and love visible in Christ, who “reflects the glory of God and bears the very stamp of his nature,” in whom “the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily.” This spiritual beauty of God is reflected in the most holy Virgin Mother of God, the angels, and saints. Genuine sacred art draws man to adoration, to prayer, and to the love of God, Creator and Savior, the Holy One and Sanctifier.” Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 2502].
In 2016, my husband and I were fortunate enough to receive a 25th Wedding Anniversary blessing on our Anniversary and on the feast of Saint Faustina, by Pope Francis. The day before the audience with Pope Francis, we spent time walking and praying in the Vatican Gardens with fellow pilgrims. It is a spectacular sacred space, magnificent beyond words, breathtaking to say the least. I always wanted to see the Vatican Gardens, especially the sacred art bronze sculpture of Our Lady of Fatima created by Frederick Shrady commissioned by Saint Pope John Paul II.
It has been said, that Saint Pope John Paul II prayed the rosary daily at this particular Marian modern day Our Lady of Fatima sculpture. In fact, I learned over time that JPII dedicated his entire pontificate to Our Blessed Mother, Mary. The apostolic motto of JPII was Totus Tuus a Latin phrase that means “totally thine” taken from the Mariology writing of Saint Louis de Montfort. JPII expressed his Total Consecration to Mary based on the spiritual works of Saint Louis de Montfort.
As providence would have it, God choose Saint Louis de Montfort School and Parish in Fishers, Indiana for our family for over 17 years. In that time I completed a Total Consecration to Mary and renewal annually (author Michael Gaitley) through Saint JPII and Saint Louis de Montfort.
The paradox is that while we were in Italy on the first inaugural Peace Love Pilgrimage International journey, I knew for certain Our Lady of Fatima was speaking to me. From the moment my eyes gazed upon her, my knees began to buckle, totally cognoscente that my feet were standing in the footsteps of Saint Pope John Paul II. It was an incredibly mystical experience. I don’t know why but I touched the gold crucifix that I was wearing to Our Lady of Fatima. I tried to share the prominence of my story with fellow pilgrims but could barely get the words out of my mouth as they continued to walk on the most beautiful path lined with stones and meticuously edged green grass. I knew for certain that my feet were unapologetically stuck like glue to the holy ground beneath me.
I keep going back to that monumental moment in my mind and in my heart. It was a feeling of complete oneness in communion with God. On that day, it was as clear to me as the sky is blue and the day is long that God was calling me to orchestrate a pilgrimage to Fatima, Portugal. This was way before I ever knew anything about the 100 Year Anniversary of Fatima!
My hope remains steadfast that I will someday take as many Bishops and priests to Fatima as possible not only to kneel and to pray but to allow the Holy Spirit to affirm their vocation.
The real irony is that my beautiful seventy-seven year old mom and God-mother to her own Mom who was Baptised by Father Fulton Sheen was the very first pilgrim to register for the Fatima inaugural pilgrimage with me!
You see, God clearly interceded and granted our family more time with my mother through the intercession of Our Blessed Mother. My dear mother was robbed, beaten, strangled and left to die by an intruder in the home where we all grew up, located in the northern suburbs of Chicago. The intruder was caught many weeks later trying to flee the country and he was sentenced to life in prison without parole for attempted murder, burglary and one other count.
When I arrived at the hospital in the middle of the night, mom was unrecognizable, unresponsive and intubated. When I drove my car down I-65 for three hours, I don’t recall the actual drive because I imagined the road to be the aisle at church, never wavering from side to side, my eyes glared straight at the crucifix of Jesus on the cross.
Immediately, I held my mom’s hand and prayed a Hail Mary softly in her ear. She could not respond verbally but she did squeeze my hand! That response was miraculous to me and I attribute it only to Our Blessed Mother, Mary. By God’s Grace, Mom learned how to walk and talk again after many months of rehabilitation and moving in and out of my sisters homes and my brother’s home for a month at a time.
Miraculously, I learned more and more details from mom in her recovery that I had never know before. It became so clear to me that Our beautiful blessed Mother had a hand in weaving it all together so perfectly. There were details pertaining to my mom’s Mother’s conversion to Catholicism, conversations with Father Fulton Sheen over dinner regularly at their home, and the conversion of an incredibly Sacred and world renown artist that all came to the forefront like it never had before.
My own faith journey heightened to a whole new level as a result of the recovery that God granted my mom on this earthly pilgrimage. When our grown children traveled from Indiana to visit my mom after she was settled into her new condominium with full security, mom was quick to show a DVD of Fulton Sheen so they (born in 1998 and 2001) could learn more about a future Saint in the making. I told our kids that by the grace of God, someday we might be able to attend the canonization of Fulton Sheen in Rome!
So, the story lives on!
Guided by the Holy Spirit, I am excited to lead Peace Love Pilgrimage to Fatima, Portugal on June 16-24, 2017 with Fr Travis Stephens. Fatima, Portugal will be followed by a student Pilgrimage to Washington DC that was inspired by the new Saint John Paul II National Shrine. The idea came from God, that a school trip to DC should be faitfilled especially with a Catholic School named St Louis de Montfort. So the journey will be a replica of past years only this trip will be on steroids for the faith with prayer, the Saints and the Sacraments first and foremost.
Many have found spiritual graces that come only through pilgrimages and coming into contact with holy sites. When we go to these holy sites where the Holy Spirit has worked so powerfully through the faith of people we open ourselves to God, and we can come to a profound encounter with Him that could not have otherwise been realized in another place or another kind of situation.
Our Lady of Fatima, pray for us.
Saint John Paul II, pray for us.
Saint Louis de Montfort, pray for us!