National Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima



Facade of National Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima Shrine

The making of the National Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima spanned more than three decades of painstaking toil which may also be stated as coming in three stages: first was the founding of the new parish dedicated to the devotion of Our Lady of Fatima which was canonically blessed by His Eminence Rufino J. Cardinal Santos on March 7, 1961; second was the search of a fitting place for the contemplated parish church structure, which was then temporarily set up in one of the old buildings of the G.A. Machineries, Inc. (GAMI) located along MacArthur Highway in Marulas, Bulacan owned by the late Don Vicente Araneta. The building functioned as the church and priest quarters for many years. The late Msgr. Esmeraldo D. Izon, who was also its first parish priest, was more than happy that the heirs of the late Don Emeterio Barcelon donated 3,000 square meters of their land located some 100 meters from the highway. The cornerstone of the new church was blessed in solemn rites by the then Bishop of Malolos Diocese Most Rev. Manuel del Rosario on February 7, 1965; third was the building of the church structure of the Lady of Fatima, as well as the building of the faith life of the parishioners who saw in the image of the Blessed Virgin Mary their source of hope and protection against life's troubles. This was further encouraged by the parish priest and his assistants by promoting to the people the wider dissemination of the message of the Blessed Virgin Mary given to three shepherd children at Fatima, Portugal some seventy-nine years ago.

Interior of National Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima Shrine

It is said that the clamor of the people for a more personal, more sentimental and therefore closer relationship with our beloved Blessed Virgin Mary gained stronger footing after her appearance in Fatima, Portugal. For the people's love for Mary, as the Mother of our Lord Jesus Christ, could be well documented on the choice of Our Lady as the patron saint of a majority of parishes in the Philippines. She is not only widely venerated but loved as well.

It is this same love of the people to our Mother that drove the parish priest and his ardent parishioners to work for the recognition of the devotion to Our Lady of Fatima.

The hard work collectively pursued by the late Msgr. Izon, his pastoral councils through the years and his parishioners in general in building the shrine structure which indeed became a fitting home for Our Lady of Fatima, a pilgrim statue where people flocked for their Marian devotions.

The plan in this Fatima Shrine involved two kinds of work, each one meriting equal concern and determination to succeed. There is the work of keeping the shrine truly a place of worship and reverence, touching everyone's heart into accepting a holy life where love of God and love of fellowmen are the two most important values and virtues to imbibe. And then there is the work of administering to the growing needs of the parishioners who numbered only about twenty thousand in 1961 and today has a population of a hundred thousand, requiring a parish partition at the same time challenging pastoral management skills.

Altar of National Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima Shrine

The fulfillment of these three stages of developing the shrine fell principally on the first parish priest, Msgr. Hizon who gave heart and soul to his mission in Marulas for twenty years until his death. His outstanding contribution to the enrichment of the people's faith and piety was added the work of a young priest, Deogracias Yniguez, now the Bishop of Iba, Zambales who introduced organizational structuring and restructuring to enable parishioners to receive more and better services, as well as enhance their love and devotion to Our Lady of Fatima. With the departure of Bishop Yniguez, Fr. Edgardo Villacorte was assigned and till now oversees the affairs of the parish and shrine.

The altar is dominated by a life-size image of the Virgin of Fatima flanked by the Blessed Sacrament and an image of the Lord Jesus Christ nailed to the cross and an image of the Sacred Heart.

Young people are early on trained to say the rosary, exposing them to the devotion to Our Lady of Fatima, an image of Our Lady of Fatima borne in procession along the streets of Marulas, Valenzuela, Metro Manila.

Excerpt from Shrines, Incarnating Christ Today. St. Paul Philippines, 2004. Photos from guardianangel.in and flickr.com.

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