“Along the Border” Showcases Life-Changing Testimonies from Missionaries & Volunteers in Diocese of Arlington’s Bánica Mission

Miriam is a 13-year-old girl from the town of Bánica in the Dominican Republic, who was sold as a “wife” to a 40-year-old man by her own father. The reason? Her father couldn’t afford to feed his family.


Fr. Keith O’Hare , a missionary from the Diocese of Arlington, visits a poor family in Bánica. The Dominican Republic is mostly Catholic and the people have great respect for priests. Photo credit: Shana Siler

Andrea is an extremely devout 15-year-old girl, who was hours away from being put on a bus to Santo Domingo, where her father told her she would work as a domestic – a situation that puts young girls at risk for abuse and mistreatment.

Fortunately, for both of these girls, whose names have been changed, there is a mission in Bánica that is staffed by two Catholic priests from the Diocese of Arlington. Father Keith O’Hare, 42, volunteered to work at the mission six years ago. Fr. Jason Weber, 32, arrived this summer. After hearing of the plight of these girls, Father O’Hare took immediate action.

In Andrea’s case, Father sat down with the father, and say, “Let’s deal with this another way. I will get you a sponsor.” Unbelievably, the basic needs of this family of 10 can be covered for $100 a month – about $3.57 a day!


“This photo gives an idea of the travel involved to reach all of the 60 different communities of the Bánica MIssion (total population 10,000),” says Father Keith O’Hare. Photo credit: Shana Siler

In the case of the girl sold as a wife, Father O’Hare and a driver leaped into their car after hearing about the situation from another child and drove into the mountains. It was the morning after the sale. After giving a little money to the government-sponsored deputy guarding the camp, Father was able to recover the girl and restore her to the family after they too were promised a sponsor. Fortunately, the man who had purchased the girl was out farming so the recovery happened without a lot of drama.

Find out more about Bánica Mission, which is located along the border of Haiti, and the work of its priests and volunteers, by tuning in to two terrific programs, which will air this Friday, November 7 on EWTN. (Find EWTN at http://www.ewtn.com/channelfinder.) Hear Father O’Hare discuss stories like the above as well as the work the mission is doing today at 8 p.m. ET on “Life on the Rock.” Then, at 10 p.m. ET, don’t miss “Along the Border,” which showcases the work of college students from the Arlington Diocese who volunteered to work at the mission, an experience that changed their lives.


“Hunger is a real issue, especially in the mountain villages.,” says Father Keith O’Hare. “Notice here the distended stomachs as well as the runny noses (kids get sick here more often because they are malnourished). We currently have a dried soup distribution program (in collaboration with USAID), as well as various projects to build greenhouses (through Food for the Poor), to increase local food production. ” Photo credit: Shana Siler

The American college volunteer program, which was in place for 15 years, has now been replaced by a college scholarship program for Bánica Mission teens, who give back by volunteering at the mission.

Father O’Hare says that the American college volunteers provided an example to the children at the mission. “They taught and lived the faith. The kids I selected for the college scholarship program grew up seeing that. When it was their turn to be apostles, those kids were able to step right in and be an example. It wasn’t the ending of one program; it was the fulfillment. A beautiful grace that came from one to the other.”

Father O’Hare said he is often asked how he deals with the poverty which frequently results in such dire consequences for the children, particularly the girls, who populate his mission. He says there are three stages to loving the poor.

"ESCAPE stands for 'Educating Students Charitably, an Anti-Poverty Effort.'" said Father Keith. "This is the photo of a family who lives on the edge of the town of Bánica and was recently enrolled in the ESCAPE program at $100/month so that their daughters will not be put at risk for being sent off to work as domestic laborers."

“ESCAPE stands for ‘Educating Students Charitably, an Anti-Poverty Effort.'” said Father Keith. “This is the photo of a family who lives on the edge of the town of Bánica and was recently enrolled in the ESCAPE program at $100/month so that their daughters will not be put at risk for being sent off to work as domestic laborers.”

“First, there is a sentimental love of the poor, where you hand out chocolate and give them hugs,” he said. “Second, instead of the cute part of this, you start looking into why they are poor. They need an education. You try to make structural changes in their lives. You make a more concerted effort to change things.

“Third, you come to a stage where you realize it’s a lot bigger than you. [For example,] the government is corrupt; the education system is corrupt. But you don’t let despair enter into that.

“If you despair, you turn to liberation theology [condemned by Pope John Paul II] and want to overthrow the government, etc. Instead, you focus on the good. What would Bánica be like if the mission had never started? There wouldn’t be a parish school; there wouldn’t be priests baptizing and giving the sacraments; there wouldn’t be the witness of American youth groups, housing, or water projects. The poor know how different their lives would be if the Diocese of Arlington wasn’t there. They are happy because, overall, life is getting better step by step. It’s a tremendous thing.”

"Madelin (front right) is from the mountain village of Billiguín, about 2 1/2 hours from the town of Bánica;," says Father Keith. "She is a college freshman and is studying to be an elementary school teacher; she is pictured here with her parents and two of her five siblings. It costs $300/month to sponsor a student."

“Madelin (front right) is from the mountain village of Billiguín, about 2 1/2 hours from the town of Bánica;,” says Father Keith. “She is a college freshman and is studying to be an elementary school teacher; she is pictured here with her parents and two of her five siblings. It costs $300/month to sponsor a student.”

"These are two of the 17 youth in the Bánica college scholarship program," says Father Keith. "These two devout young ladies 'give back' by leading youth ministry activities both in the town of Bánica and in the surrounding villages." Photo credit: Shana Silar

“These are two of the 17 youth in the Bánica college scholarship program,” says Father Keith. “These two devout young ladies ‘give back’ by leading youth ministry activities both in the town of Bánica and in the surrounding villages.” Photo credit: Shana Silar

Before becoming a missionary, Father O’Hare said his image of a missionary “was probably that it required heroic, amazing, extraordinary kinds of people.” Instead, he’s found that “once you get to know the people you are serving, it just requires an ordinary love of God and neighbor.”

The young high school and college students who come to Bánica on week-long mission trips, which are still in place, are always changed, Father said.

“This is an intense seven-day experience of detachment from material comforts for the sake of attaching oneself more intensely to God and one’s neighbor. … A young person goes home much less attached to the materialistic concerns that he or she previously entertained.”

For the Diocese of Arlington, and indeed anyone who contributes to this mission, the rewards are great.

“For me, on a spiritual level, it’s the parable of the rich man and Lazarus,” Father O’Hare said. “For the Diocese of Arlington, Bánica is Lazarus, the poor man on our doorstep. The parable can end differently this time. We’re not trying to save the whole world. Our diocese is doing our part to take care of Lazarus on our doorstep. We are fortunate enough to have priests to loan” and to provide funding through the bishop’s appeal as well as through donations.

You can help by volunteering to pray for the mission every Monday and/or by donating much needed funds to the mission. Find out more at www.Bánicamission.com/ – and don’t forget to tune in to EWTN at 8 p.m. ET, Friday, Nov. 7 for “Life on the Rock,” and 10 pm. ET for “Along the Border.”



Posted in Blog, Broadcast, Catholic, Diocese of Arlington, Dominican Republic, EWTN, Jesus, Missionaries, Missionary, Missions, Religion, Religious, TV, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

EWTN Is On The Ground With Persecuted Christians In Kurdistan, Site of U.S. Bombings Against ISIS

How many journalists do you know who would travel to Kurdistan, the target of U.S. bombing, to bring the world the inside story of Christian persecution in Iraq? As this article was being written, Italian Journalist Elisabetta Valgiusti was there filming an EWTN original documentary. The program is scheduled to run on EWTN in late 2014 or early 2015.

Erbil_childrenThe intrepid filmmaker is no stranger to the Middle East or to Christian persecution, having filmed in Iraq, Egypt, Nineveh, Syria, Turkey, Armenia and many other countries, including Russia and India. She has documented Christian persecution in numerous documentaries for EWTN including “Christian Witness in the Middle East,” “Nineveh’s Christians,” and “Iraq’s Christian Refugees.”

But in an interview conducted with her by phone from Kurdistan, you can hear that this assignment is different. Her anguish is palpable. She sounds exhausted, dismayed and more than a little overwhelmed by the human suffering she is witnessing in Kurdistan. Although she traipses through the countryside with a camera in hand, her exhaustion is clearly more than physical. Valgiusti is emotionally drained because everywhere she looks she sees nothing but traumatized refugees.

She estimates there are about 150,000 Christian refugees in Kurdistan; they are mainly Syriac Catholics and Syriac Orthodox, Chaldean Catholics and Assyrian Christians. All are Iraqis who were forced to flee their homes in the middle of the night with absolutely nothing but the clothes on their backs. These families have no money, no food, and no shelter. Worst of all, they don’t speak Kurdish, so they cannot hope to go to school or secure a job. Valgiusti calls the situation “a disaster.”

Erbil older womanPeople who are terrified and who don’t know where to turn sometimes behave badly. But Valgiusti says that is not the case with Christians in Kurdistan. “They are very courageous. I would be hysterical, but they behave very decently. These Nineveh Christians were used to living like Westerners. Their society was a balanced one. There were no poor people. Now, they are all in misery.”

From the outside, it seems surprising that Kurdistan would allow so many people to cross their border. However, it turns out that these refugees are mostly from Nineveh. The Kurdish army has protected this area for about a decade, Valgiusti says. However, when the normally fierce Kurdish army suffered a humiliating defeat in August by the Muslim terrorist group known as ISIS, Christians – who had been warned they had to convert to Islam or die — had no choice but to flee for their lives.

Valgiusti was especially upset after meeting some of the families she had befriended while filming other EWTN documentaries on Iraq, such as 2006’s “Nineveh’s Christians.” The parents of one of these families were a couple with good jobs, a nice home, and five children aged 15 to 21. She found these friends of hers packed into a schoolroom with 40 other people.

The story has become personal.

Valgiusti a Raban Hurmizd copy (2)“Can you imagine?” she asks. “They had jobs and lived in nice homes like you and me.” She tried to have a somewhat normal conversation with the family, but discovered that she was shaking. “They said to me, “Can you help us get out?’ She pauses, and then says in an anguished voice, “I don’t know how. How do I help them?”

Many would say Valgiusti is helping the refugees by getting out the word about their plight. But clearly, she sees they need much more.

So who is helping these Christians? How are they surviving?

“The local priests are doing everything,” Valgiusti said. “They give them shelter — they find buildings or centers to get them out of tents – regular daily meals and clothing.”

Few people can remain impartial in the face of such suffering and Valgiusti makes no apologies for her outrage on behalf of the refugees. She remembers Nineveh as a very special place. For over 2,000 years, Christians have populated the city. Now, it is empty.

“I have seen very bad things,” says Valgiusti, who sounds as if she is struggling to hold back her tears. “I think of the look on the faces of the refugees. They are physically beautiful people. Their attitudes are beautiful. They are so special. They want to get out. It is very unsafe, very uncertain. Everything is a tragedy – [and] only the Church is helping.”

Note: Help persecuted Christians! Consider donating to Catholic Relief Services at http://emergencies.crs.org/human-kindness-at-the-forefront-of-iraq-humanitarian-crisis/, and/or Aid to the Church in Need at http://www.aidtochurch.org/. See trailers of Valgiusti’s work at https://www.youtube.com/user/Savethemonasteries, and on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/Savethemonasteries.

And please check EWTN’s website, www.ewtn.com, in late 2014 or early 2015, for dates and times of Valgiusti’s documentary on these persecuted Christians from Iraq.

Posted in Catholic, Christian, Christian persecution, EWTN, ISIS, Islam, Jesus, Michelle Laque Johnson, Muslim, Persecuted Christians, sex slaves, TV, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

EWTN To Air ‘The Crusades:’ A Timely & Important Mini-Series!

Crusades Muslim warriorsWhen EWTN decided to produce a new docu-drama on the Crusades two years ago, most Americans had never heard of ISIS; no journalists had been beheaded in Iraq; and no Christian women and girls had been abducted or enslaved. Yet the Lord, with His perfect timing, knew that a mini-series on “The Crusades” needed to be ready to air in October – and so it is. (The mini-series airs 10 p.m. ET from Wednesday, Oct. 8 through Saturday, Oct. 11.)

You’ve heard the tales, now learn the truth concerning the church’s role in the Crusades and its efforts to restore the Holy Land to a place of safety for Catholic pilgrims. This powerful four-part series, shot on location in seven countries, gives viewers a well-rounded understanding of an important historical event, which has repercussions in our own time.

Christian Crusaders pray before battle in this scene from EWTN's new four-part docu-drama, "The Crusades." Airs 10 p.m. ET from Wednesday, Oct. 8 through Saturday, Oct. 11 on EWTN, www.ewtn.com/channelfinder.

Christian Crusaders pray before battle in this scene from EWTN’s new four-part docu-drama, “The Crusades.” Airs 10 p.m. ET from Wednesday, Oct. 8 through Saturday, Oct. 11 on EWTN, http://www.ewtn.com/channelfinder.

Each episode features original dramatizations, an original musical soundtrack recorded in Europe, and three pre-eminent, world-renowned Crusader scholars, together for the first time! They include Professor Jonathan Phillips, Professor of Crusading History at the University of London; Professor Jonathan Riley-Smith of Cambridge University, widely regarded as Britain’s leading historian on the Crusades; and Professor Thomas F. Madden, chair of the Department of History at St. Louis University, a widely recognized expert not only on the Crusades, but on Christian-Muslim conflict.

Viewers will also enjoy the many locales in which the series was shot: Istanbul; Turkey; Israel, including Jerusalem; France, Austria, England, Spain and Slovakia.Crusades Hospitaller nunsThe mini-series is preceded by what is sure to be a fascinating “EWTN Live,” featuring our own Middle Eastern Scholar Father Mitch Pacwa interviewing “The Crusades” Writer, Producer and Host Stefano Mazzeo and Professor Madden, author of “A Concise History of the Crusades,” and a number of other widely acclaimed books on this topic. (Airs 8 p.m. ET, Wednesday, Oct. 8.)

Here’s an overview of a fascinating – and timely – series:

  • Episode 1: A look at the history and reasons for the Crusades, which were originally known as “armed pilgrimages” because they sought to protect pilgrims visiting the Holy Land against Muslim conquerors.
  • Episode 2: A look at the Crusader States, which were set up by the Crusader hierarchy after the miraculous success of the First Crusade; the formation of Military Orders such as the Knights Templars; the re-conquest of the Iberian Peninsula, as well as the rise of Sultan Saladin and his conquest of Jerusalem.Crusades St Francis preaches to Al-KamilEpisode 3: A look at the Third Crusade, which was led by King Richard the Lionheart of England, King Philip of France and German Emperor Fredrick Barbarossa; the famous meeting between St. Francis of Assisi and Sultan Al-Kamil; and the role that devotion to the Apostle James and the Pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela played in Crusader successes.
  • Episode 4: A look at the failures and successes of the Crusades and their legacy, including the role of St. Louis IX, the rise of the Ottoman Empire; the epic Battle of Lepanto, a turning point in the war, and a triumph of faith; the final Christian victory in the Iberian Peninsula, and the loss of the Holy Land, in particular, Jerusalem.
  • Crusades Salijuck Turk attacksFinally, don’t miss another EWTN special on this subject airing the same week! “Franciscan University Presents Myths About the Crusades,” airs at 10 p.m. ET, Sunday, Oct. 5 and 5 a.m. ET, Thursday, Oct. 9, and features Dr. Paul Crawford, professor of medieval history at California University Of Pennsylvania.

If you are at all concerned about world affairs, you will not want to miss this important series. We suggest you mount a Crusade to get your family and friends to watch this important week of programming on EWTN!

Posted in Battle of Lepanto, Blog, Broadcast, Catholic, Christian, EWTN, Father Mitch Pacwa, Islam, Jesus, Michelle Laque Johnson, Middle East, Muslim, Religion, Religious, religious freedom, TV, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 47 Comments

EWTN’s Holy Hour To Make Reparation For ‘black mass’ And Conversion Of Those Involved

In the Middle East, Christians face a choice if they do not convert to Islam: Die or leave your country. Christian women are being raped and sold as sex slaves. Journalists and aid workers are being beheaded. And in the U.S., we have increasing threats to religious freedom. Now, for the second time in recent memory, satanists are threatening to hold a so-called black mass, this time in Oklahoma City.

In response to these threats at home and abroad, EWTN will televise a Eucharistic Holy Hour of Reparation with the Franciscan Missionaries of the Eternal Word. Please join Father John Paul Mary at 8 p.m. ET, Sunday, September 21 as he leads this Holy Hour to make reparation for these blasphemous events, and to pray for the conversion of the organizers of the black mass and those attending this sacrilegious event.

EWTN's Franciscan Missionaries of the Eternal Word! Fr. John Paul (right) on his way to World Youth Day in Rio with Fr. Miguel (left) and Fr. Mark (center).

EWTN’s Franciscan Missionaries of the Eternal Word! Fr. John Paul (right) on his way to World Youth Day in Rio with Fr. Miguel (left) and Fr. Mark (center).

Father John Paul says we must bow down in adoration and thanksgiving for so great a gift as the Real Presence of Jesus in the Holy Eucharist. He is the answer to the problems which threaten to overwhelm us. That’s why, wherever there is great evil, Catholics pick up their greatest weapons – prayer, adoration, the rosary.

“A single act of charity is greater than all the evil in the world,” said Fr. John Paul. “You can think there is more evil in the world than holiness. That’s what the evil one wants you to think. But where sin abounds, grace abounds even more (Romans 5:20). What the nuns do in the slums of Calcutta, what the missionaries do in the deserts of Africa, what the homeschooling mother does in teaching the faith and sacrificing for her children builds up the body of Christ. People look at the Church as an institution, but the Church is much greater than that. It is an actual living organism. When we live lives of charity, we build up the church here on earth. The only way to combat evil is with charity and goodness. Period!”

A black mass is nothing but a mockery of Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. As Father John Paul notes: “Evil is not creative, it can only mock what is good.”

Just as satanists mock Jesus in the Eucharist, some will mock Catholics for saying rosaries for peace. But we know that it was citizens praying the rosary that gave Christian forces their great victory over Muslim Turks in the Battle of Lepanto, even though they had fewer soldiers and fewer weapons; it was Filipino citizens who surrounded the tanks sent by the Marcos dictatorship that caused the soldiers to lay down their weapons and join their fellow citizens; it was the rosary that saved Jesuit Missionaries at Hiroshima after the first atomic bomb detonated a few blocks from their home.

Father John Paul recalls the Battle of Lepanto, which is widely considered to be a turning point in history; indeed, the future of Europe was at stake. “It was a war that we should not have won,” he says. “The victory was accredited to our Lady, under the title our Lady of Victory. Prayer is always effective.”

People of faith shouldn’t be led astray by the argument that they must allow the satanists to attend their “mass” so others can continue to enjoy the freedom to attend their own services. Says Father, “I would challenge those who make this argument to ask themselves if they would allow a group to steal or kidnap the person they love the most and perform the most cruel and heinous acts on them in the public forum. That is precisely what these satanists are doing.”

As you may have heard, Archbishop Paul Coakley of Oklahoma City sued the satanic “church” in Oklahoma City for theft of a consecrated host, which they returned. Assuming the group doesn’t obtain another stolen host, EWTN Vice President of Theology Colin Donovan says this is now a “dry black mass or really just black theater. In any case, it requires reparation for the offense to God. Adoration of the Eucharist answers Profanation of the Eucharist, whether actual or simulated. Both are grave evils.”

Father John Paul says Catholics need to be clear about the importance of this battle: “You cannot get any closer to God this side of Heaven than in the Holy Eucharist. I believe Mother Angelica would want us to defend the Lord Jesus with every fiber of our being. We are not protecting ‘something,’ we are protecting ‘Someone.’ We want to raise people’s awareness of how seriously Catholics take their Faith.”

The rosary is a powerful weapon, but it only works when Catholics use it! Please join us at 8 p.m. ET, this Sunday, Sept 21 – and spread the word because, as Father John Paul said, “Prayer is always effective.”

Posted in Battle of Lepanto, beheaded, black mass, Broadcast, Catholic, Christian, EWTN, Father John Paul, Hiroshima, Islam, Jesuits, Jesus, Mother Angelica, Muslim, Our Lady, Our Lady of Victory, Religion, religious freedom, Reparation, satanic mass, sex slaves, Television, TV, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 14 Comments

Join Susan Conroy on the Coast of Maine for Her New EWTN Series, ‘Coming to Christ’

6_9-12_14_FB_Ad_Coming_ChristSusan Conroy, best known to EWTN viewers for her series involving her friendship with Mother Teresa, visited EWTN this week to talk with “EWTN Live” Host Father Mitch Pacwa and “Life on the Rock” Host Father Mark about her newest series, “Coming to Christ.” (Premieres 6:30 p.m. ET, Monday through Friday, June 9-13.)

The series is one of the most aesthetically pleasing EWTN has ever filmed since it takes place entirely outdoors on the shores of Maine, one of the most beautiful places on earth.

Spending time in Calcutta with Mother Teresa made her appreciate the saint’s sacrifice to leave her home country even more. Conroy says living conditions in Calcutta are “hell on earth” and it took visit to hell for her to appreciate all that Maine has to offer.

“Calcutta changed my life,” Conroy said. “It gave me an attitude of gratitude. Before Calcutta, I never thought to thank God for grass, a tree, flowers. Here in America, we see natural beauty all around — even in our workplace — and we take it for granted. You don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone.”

6_4_14_Mich_Blog_Susan_ConroyConroy said her first summer in Calcutta, she breathed in so much heavy pollution and soot that she thought she would develop respiratory problems. “I never thought to thank God for fresh air,” she said. “Back home in Maine, I take a deep breath and I smell fresh air, and the ocean, and pine trees.”

In Calcutta, the water was so polluted that she could see organisms swimming in it. She had to boil it and use water purification tablets – chemicals – to make it safe to drink. “I never thought to thank God for fresh water or a soft pillow.” To the latter point, Conroy said she saw many people sleeping on the streets – laying their heads on hard, filthy cement infested with rats and cockroaches. There were no soft pillows for them.

After taping each episode of her new series “with the Atlantic Ocean in the background and the sun rising up in the background,” Conroy said she and the EWTN crew would all say, “’We couldn’t have done this in the studio.’ Anything manmade doesn’t come close to what God has made.”

Conroy says her mother was very aware of her blessings. In fact, she taught her daughter to say this prayer every day: “Thank you my Lord and my God for all your wonderful blessings that we can feel so greatly.” But it took the Calcutta experience for Conroy to truly take this prayer to heart.

Would you like to develop a greater appreciation for the gifts God has given you? Join Conroy on the set in Maine for her new series, “Coming to Christ.”

“Give me the choice of the most fancy museum on the planet or watching the waves on the shore, feeling the fresh air, feeling the sunshine, and I’ll take what God has created every time,” Conroy added. “This beauty isn’t lost on me. It makes me love God even more!”

Posted in Catholic, EWTN, Maine, Michelle Laque Johnson, Mother Angelica, Mother Teresa, Religious, Susan Conroy, Television, Travel, TV, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Lessons From Fatima: What We Can Learn from Jacinta Marto

Sister Angela de Fatima Coelho, postulator for the cause of canonization of Fatima Seers Jacinta and Francisco, meets Pope Francis, who has consecrated his entire pontificate to Our Lady of Fatima.

In Part II of our interview with Sister Angela de Fatima Coelho, the postulator for the cause of canonization of Jacinta and Francisco, Sister shares some of the lessons we can learn from the life of Jacinta Marto, one of the three visionaries to whom Our Lady appeared.

Do I understand that hell is real? Our Lady showed Jacinta a vision of hell, which deeply affected her. Sister Angela said Jacinta wanted to go to heaven, but she could not stand the idea of going there alone. She wanted to know why Our Lady didn’t show hell to everyone because she was sure, then, that everyone would reform and no one would go to hell. Want to know more about this? Sister recommends two books by one of the other visionaries, Sister Lucia. They are “Fatima in Lucia’s Own Words” and “Calls from the Message of Fatima” by the more mature Sister Lucia, who died before she could finish it.

The three shepherd children, Lucia, Francisco & Jacinta, to whom Our Lady appeared in Fatima, Portugal, with important messages for the world.

What am I willing to do for God? Is it a big deal to me to refrain from eating meat or between meals on days like Good Friday?

Of the three Fatima visionaries, Sister said Jacinta is the one who physically suffered the most. While both Francisco and Jacinta were victims of the influenza epidemic, Francisco died peacefully at home, having received Communion the prior day, and in the presence of his parents. But Our Lady asked Jacinta if she was willing to stay on earth a bit longer to offer even more for poor sinners. Jacinta said yes.

Says Sister Angela: “Do you see how much Our Lady respects this little girl? She asks, ‘Are you willing to stay?’ And do you see the great generosity and trust of this little girl toward Our Lady?” Jacinta told Lucia, “Our Lady told me I was going to go to two hospitals and that I will die alone. That’s what hurts me the most. Maybe it will be a big hospital, really dark, and I will die alone.”

However, Sister says that Lucia visited Jacinta twice in the hospital and always found her happy because she had the possibility of offering more for the conversion of sinners, for the Holy Father, and for the consolation of the hearts of Jesus and Mary.

Here’s how Jacinta died. A rich family offered to take Jacinta to the best hospital in Portugal. Unfortunately, it was in Lisbon. Jacinta traveled to Lisbon with her mother who left her in a special orphanage. She was completely alone.

The Miracle of the Sun! Witnessed by hundreds of thousands of people and reported on by several newspapers in October 1917, the sun careened toward the earth and the rain drenched earth and the people themselves became completely dry in an instant!

The child endured surgery with no anesthesia. She later told a visiting priest that she was going to die the next day and requested Holy Communion. The priest told her that that her condition was not that serious and that he would bring her Holy Communion tomorrow. She died without receiving her Lord in the Eucharist. She was only nine.

“She died with a wound in her chest like Jesus,” Sister Angela said. “She was very configured with the Passion of Christ. ‘My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?’ But Our Lady was there. Our Lady promised she would pick her up. And I’m almost sure she offered this suffering for the conversion of sinners and for the Holy Father.”

Do I believe that this is the worst time in the history of the world?

Why does Our Lady show the shepherd children heaven, hell and the things to come? Sister says it’s because, first, He wants us to know that He is still here with us. “You are part of Me, so do not be afraid.” Second, she reminds us that Our Lady said, “If what I say is done, many souls will be saved – so no more going to hell – and there will be peace – so no more war. In the end, there is always the door for hope.”

Sister adds that: “Each time has its own problems. Our time might seem worse than other times, but it is our time. We should not be afraid. We should prepare as in any time: Prayer, personal conversion, penance, love God and love our neighbors. We do not need to do extraordinary things – just live as children of God!”

Pope Francis has consecrated his pontificate and the world to Our Lady of Fatima!

Am I afraid of the future?

Sister says she loves the last sentence in Pope Emeritus Benedict’s second book on Jesus of Nazareth. He recalls that when Jesus ascended into heaven, He raised his hands in the position of blessing over his Apostles. The Pope says: “Those hands are the permanent reason of Christian joy.” The last gesture of Jesus in the skies of Fatima was also a gesture of blessing, Sister said.

“The message of Fatima is mainly a message of hope,” she continues. “In the words of Our Lady’s July 1917 apparition: ‘In the end, my Immaculate Heart will triumph.’” It’s the same reassurance that Jesus gives us in the Gospel: “I have told you this so that you might have peace in me. In the world you will have trouble, but take courage, I have conquered the world.” (John 16:33)

If we walk with God, says Sister, “Why be afraid – even if I am the last one!”

Posted in Catholic, EWTN, Fatima, Michelle Laque Johnson, Pope Francis, Religion, Sister Angela de Fatima Coelho, Sister Lucia | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Lessons from Fatima: What We Can Learn From Francisco Marto

Think you know everything there is to know about Our Lady’s 1917 apparitions to three shepherd children at Fatima in Portugal? I had the privilege of speaking to Sister Angela de Fatima Coelho, the postulator for the cause of canonization of Jacinta and Francisco during her visit to EWTN, and after that conversation I can assure you there is more to the six apparitions than you may have realized.

If you’ve studied these important apparitions at all, you know that Our Lady appeared at

Sister Angela DeFatima, postulator for the cause for canonization of Fatima Seers Jacinta and Francisco, talks about what we can learn from these children at www.insideewtn.wordpress.com

Sister Angela DeFatima, postulator for the cause for canonization of Fatima Seers Jacinta and Francisco, talks about what we can learn from these children at http://www.insideewtn.wordpress.com

Fatima to ask us, her children, for prayer, (especially the rosary and the First Saturday devotion); acts of reparation (for our own sins and those of the world); and consecration to her Immaculate Heart, (especially the consecration of Russia). Our Lady said all of this is necessary to bring peace to the world.

However, as the postulator for the cause of canonization of two of the three children (the third being the children’s cousin Lucia), Sister Angela has spent countless hours studying the lives of this brother and sister and talking to those who knew them. In our interview, Sister Angela shared stories about the two children which highlight their spirituality. In Part 1 of this interview, we consider Francisco Marto’s holy life and some lessons we might learn from it.

How faithful am I to the graces I have received from God – often through the hands of Our Lady?

Contrary to popular opinion, the fact that someone sees Our Lady does not make them holy. In fact, Sister Angela says there are examples of seers in other apparitions who did not become saints. “What made the children holy was their faithfulness, their reaction, the way they dealt with the graces they were receiving. Each one of us receives graces, but how do we deal with them? The key was their commitment to everything they saw and heard.”

Am I happy with the graces God has granted me – or do I constantly compare myself with others?

The holy lives of Fatima Seers Francisco and Jacinta have much to teach us, says Sister Angela de Fatima, postulator for the cause of canonization for the two children.

The holy lives of Fatima Seers Francisco and Jacinta have much to teach us, says Sister Angela de Fatima, postulator for the cause of canonization for the two children.

“Francisco never heard Our Lady,” Sister Angela said. “He saw, but he couldn’t listen. That never bothered him. In this world, we are called to be ‘the best.’ If not, we think, ‘I’m not worthwhile. I’m trash.’ He was so humble that he accepted his apparently less privileged role in the history of Fatima. He was loved by God, so who cares that he couldn’t listen! He never felt humiliated. He never felt he was less than his cousin (Lucia) and his sister (Jacinta). He never asked God, ‘Why her and not me?’ One of our mistakes is comparing ourselves with others. That is pride. For me, among the three, the one who understood God the most, who had the deeper knowledge of the mystery of God, was Francisco Marto.”

Sister noted another problem with that “Gotta Be #1” mentality: “What about the millions and millions of people who are not Number One? Are they condemned to be unhappy? God calls us all to be happy. The Good News is a Gospel of Joy. That’s the great message of Easter!”

When things I don’t like happen in my life, do I demand that God explain Himself to me?

The Mother of Francisco told Sister Angela that, in the beginning, Francisco couldn’t see Our Lady. When Lucia realized this, she asked Our Lady why Francisco couldn’t see her. “Our Lady did not say why,” Sister said. “But she said to Lucia, ‘Tell him to pray the rosary and he will see me.’ Francisco obeyed with simplicity. After the sixth or seventh Hail Mary, he started to see Our Lady. Many of our whys will not get an answer, but if we surrender ourselves [like Francisco], everything will be alright.”

Sister Angela notes that this story also tells us the immense importance Our Lady attaches to the rosary.

Do I do my best to console the heart of God – do I even understand what that means?

Pope Francis makes a gesture of affection towards a statue of Our Lady of Fatima in Portugal.

Pope Francis makes a gesture of affection towards a statue of Our Lady of Fatima in Portugal.

Sister Angela said that Francisco was horrified when he realized how much our sins sadden the heart of God. What most defined this little boy’s spirituality was his insistence on the fact that we must all do our best to console the heart of God. Sister said Francisco’s father frequently heard him crying in the middle of the night. He would go to his son’s bedside and ask why he was crying. The child, who first saw Our Lady at age 8 and died at age 10, would say, “I’m thinking about God who is so sad. If only I could make him happy.” Sometimes, says Sister Angela, he did not sleep the whole night. He simply prayed.

Do I believe that only people with big important jobs have the ability to change the world?

In October 1996, Sister said that then-Cardinal Ratzinger (now Pope Emeritus Benedict) gave an interview to a Portuguese radio station where he said (and she was paraphrasing): “It’s one of the most frequent mistakes, even among Catholics, to think that only big political or economic events have an effect on the history of the world. Here, in Fatima, we think about prayer, conversion, and penance. It seems they are nothing, but they are the true efficacious things that can change the history of the world!”

 Next blog: Lessons From Fatima Seer Jacinta’s Life

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