For the last 45 years, the annual Marian Festival has been celebrated as a special day of prayer and devotion in honour of Our Lady of Fatima. The festival took place at different Churches in the Bendigo area for many years, then in the 1990s it was moved to Sacred Heart Cathedral. In 2001 it was made an official event of the Sandhurst diocese by Bishop Joseph Grech and has received the blessing and support of Bishop Leslie Tomlinson and now, Bishop Shane Mackinlay.
Since being held at the Cathedral, the festival has included a procession around the Cathedral, praying of the Rosary and the crowning of the statue of Our Lady. The festival has grown over time and in recent years hundreds have come from all over the Sandhurst Diocese as well as Melbourne, Ballarat and Geelong to participate.
In 2021, the Marian Festival will be streamed online so people can at least virtually participate from home. This is the second year that the festival needed to ‘go online’ due to COVID-19 pandemic restrictions.
The Marian 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.
In 1917, Our Lady appeared to three shepherd children at Fatima, and spoke to them. She exhorted us to pray and offer up sufferings for the salvation of poor sinners, and in preparation 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. 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, she 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, 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.
You can join the Marian Festival online by going to www.bendigofatima.com.
Fr Stephen Bolling,
Chaplain to the Bendigo Apostolate of Our Lady of Fatima