By David Kilby | Correspondent
A group of 200 pilgrims traveled to the Blue Army Shrine in Asbury on the Feast of the Archangels Sept. 29 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the miracles at Fatima, and answer the Blessed Mother’s request to pray the Rosary more often.
Dorothy O’Reilly of St. Peter Parish, Point Pleasant Beach, the main coordinator of the pilgrimage, is part of a group that represents Rosary Altar Society members from 11 area parishes. Two years ago, the group started discussing a possible statewide trip to the Blue Army Shrine in Warren County. They considered the 100th anniversary of the apparitions of Fatima, Portugal, to be the perfect opportunity, O’Reilly explained.
“We really tried to reply to the Blessed Mother’s request of praying the Rosary, spending a day praying the Rosary, focusing on the message of Fatima, reflecting on those mysteries and trying to live them out,” O’Reilly said, “and encouraging other people to reflect on them and what they mean today, and also the power of the Rosary, of stopping wars, and to realize we have that power through the Rosary to change the world.”
In addition to St. Peter Parish, others of the Diocese represented in the pilgrimage included St. Barnabas, Bayville; Visitation and St. Dominic, Brick; Holy Innocents, Neptune; St. Martha, Point Pleasant, and St. Maximilian Kolbe and St. Luke, both Toms River. There were also several other pilgrims from outside the Diocese.
Father Peter Stravinskas, adjunct assistant professor of humanities and fine arts at Ocean County Community College, Toms River, and executive director of the Catholic Education Foundation, an organization dedicated to Catholic education, celebrated Mass for the group, honoring the Archangels and the Blessed Mother in his homily.
As a previous visitor to the shrine, Ellen Conaghan, Respect Life coordinator in St. Peter Parish, said she was happy to volunteer her time to help organize the pilgrimage as well as attend.
“It’s a wonderful place,” she said. “It’s just a very overwhelming feeling when you go there; you feel that you’re some place where people really believe. I just wanted people to experience that.”
“We say the Rosary every day, but this was different,” she said. “We pray for peace in this world. It’s very tough times right now, especially for someone like me who is on the front line of the pro-life movement. When you go there, you go where people believe what you believe, and it makes you stronger.”
Angela O’Dowd – who was in Fatima May 13 when the children who witnessed the Blessed Mother apparitions, Sts. Jacinta and Francisco Marto, were canonized – helped organize pilgrims from her parish, St. Martha.
“I had a great experience. It was so peaceful there,” she said. “We prayed the Joyful Mysteries around the grounds. The sun was shining, and you felt like you were experiencing the Joyful Mysteries.”
O’Reilly said she felt blessed to plan the trip to the shrine. “It was a beautiful day. Everybody was so happy that they were there. It was really very spirit-filled with the peace and joy and love of the Blessed Mother.”