By Fr Stephen Bolling, Chaplain to the Bendigo Apostolate of Our Lady Of Fatima
For the last 45 years, the Marian Festival has been celebrated every year in the Bendigo area as a special day of prayers and devotions in honour of Our Lady of Fatima. It has taken place at different Churches in the Bendigo area over the years but, in the 1990s, became an annual event at Sacred Heart Cathedral and, in 2001, it was made an official event of the Sandhurst Diocese by Bishop Joseph Grech.
Since then, the festival has always included a procession around the Cathedral, praying of the Rosary and the crowning of the statue of Our Lady. The festival has grown in size over time and, in recent years, hundreds have come from all over the Sandhurst Diocese, as well as from Melbourne, Ballarat and Geelong. This year, because of the lockdown restrictions, the festival will be celebrated at St Liborius' Church, Eaglehawk and streamed online so people can participate at home.
The festival is run by the Bendigo Apostolate of Our Lady of Fatima, which is the local branch of the worldwide movement. The work of the Apostolate is to promote devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary and the messages she gave at Fatima. At Fatima in 1917, Our Lady appeared to three shepherd children and spoke to them. Through them her message exhorted us to pray and offer up sufferings for the salvation of poor sinners, and in reparation for offences against her Immaculate Heart. She also warned of very difficult times to come for the world and the Church, but promised that, in the end, her Immaculate Heart would triumph. To face these challenges, she asked us to entrust ourselves and the world to her, especially through praying the Rosary and the First Saturday Devotions.
In Bendigo, the Apostolate consists of a small number of lay faithful from several Bendigo parishes. In particular, John and Wilma McCormack have been a driving force for the festival every year and for the Apostolate since it was first founded in Bendigo in 1974, when John was elected as the inaugural President.
Especially in these challenging times, we need to turn to the Blessed Virgin for strength and consolation. At Fatima, Our Lady revealed that these times would be extraordinary, and that Our Lord had placed especially in her hands the remedy against, and final triumph over, the sin and error that has spread and become embedded in our modern world. As we navigate these confusing times and stormy waters, there is nothing safer and surer than turning to Our Lady, the Star of the Sea. Please join us in honouring Our Blessed Mother and entrusting into her hands our diocese, our nation and our world at the Marian Festival.
For more information and to participate in the Online Festival held on Sunday, 11 October at 10.30 am, please visit bendigofatima.com