A statue of Our Lady of Fatima is carried through the crowd at the Marian shrine of Fatima in central Portugal. Thousands of pilgrims visit the shrine each year. Lucia dos Santos and her cousins, Francisco and Jacinta Marto, received the first of several visions May 13, 1917. CNS photo/Rafael Marchante, Reuters

Our Lady exhibit aims at renewing Marian devotion

  • October 13, 2016

Toronto and Hamilton parishes are celebrating the month of October with a new exhibit on Marian apparitions from around the world.

“The Appeals of Our Lady” exhibit will be touring about 20 parishes in the Archdiocese of Toronto and the Diocese of Hamilton, starting with St. Joseph’s parish in Fergus on Oct. 17.

Carol Johns is organizing the exhibit in partnership with the two dioceses to encourage a renewed devotion to the Blessed Mother.

“Each (display) talks about an apparition and where she appeared and the message she gave and then the healing and then the shrine that was built because of it,” said Johns. “She is always trying to steer people towards her Son.”

Throughout history, there have been hundreds of reported sightings around the world. Only 12 have been approved by the Holy See’s Congregation of Doctrine of Faith for public devotion, including the most popular apparitions of Our Lady of Lourdes and Our Lady of Fatima.

There are also several others that have also been formally recognized by the Coptic Orthodox Church and the Anglican Church.

Though they may at times seem fanciful even to devout Catholics, stories of apparitions have been credited to millions of conversions to Roman Catholicism and the spread of Marian devotions, such as the rosary.

The exhibit displays more than 150 Marian shrines around the world that tell stories of mass conversions, miraculous healings and Divine prophecy.

“I think what that says to me is that she just appears everywhere,” said Johns. “Hopefully, it will open our eyes a little bit more to Our Lady being everywhere and that she’s constantly trying to help us.”

One of the lesser-known Marian shrines in the exhibit is Our Lady of Caysasay in the Philippines where a fisherman named Juan Maningkad recovered an image of Mary from a spring in 1603. It was said to have “shone with a heavenly light.”

It was the first Marian apparition recorded in the country. A shrine was built at the spring where the image was found and throughout the years the spring water has been credited for numerous miraculous healings.

Another lesser known Marian shrine is a popular pilgrimage site in South Africa. In 1955, Mary was said to have appeared to Sr. Reinolda May of the Benedictine Order of Tutzing as the “Tabernacle of the Most High.” For 17 years, Sr. Reinolda recorded several messages from the apparitions.

“Our Lady has messages and miracles and she always asks for a church to be built,” said Johns. “And of course, when a church is built, who’s in the church but Jesus in the tabernacle. It’s always for the glory of her Son.”

Johns hopes that the exhibit will encourage more Catholic parishioners to get to know the message of the Blessed Mother and how integral she is to the Catholic faith. As she organizes the exhibit for the parishes, she is encouraging them to invite nearby schools and to pray the rosary with families.

This is the second time that Johns has co-ordinated a touring exhibit from the Real Presence Eucharistic Education and Adoration Association. RealPresence.org is a North American extension of the Vatican International Exhibition that tours exhibits to educate people on different Catholic doctrines and devotions.

Other tours include “Eucharistic Miracles Around the World,” “Angels and Demons,” and “Paradise, Purgatory and Hell.”

A lot of work goes into co-ordinating the exhibit tours every year and, with a full-time job running a church supplies shop, Johns said she barely has any free time. However, she will continue to bring these exhibits to southern Ontario parishes.

“If God wants me to do this, I will continue to do this,” said Johns. “We’re all supposed to be disciples... There are so many people that don’t know (about the exhibits) and even I didn’t know. I think that it’s up to us to get the word out.”

For more information about the tour contact Johns through her web site, stambrosechurchsupply.com.

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