Fatima Church celebrates feastday with nine-day rosary

This year marks the 103rd anniversary of the first apparition of Our Lady to three shepherd children in the small village of Fatima, Portugal in 1917.

May 24, 2020

By Gwen Manickam
This year marks the 103rd anniversary of the first apparition of Our Lady to three shepherd children in the small village of Fatima, Portugal in 1917. Thus, in the Catholic world, May is the month of Mary, and most faithful honour the Queen of Heaven in some way. On the home front, Our Lady of Fatima (OLF) usually celebrates the Parish Feast this month, with a nine-day novena or a triduum, culminating in a special Mass, a procession around its neighbourhood and fellowship among parishioners.

In comes 2020! To borrow a line from the Disney animated feature film Aladdin’s soundtrack, (it’s) “A whole new world, a new fantastic point of view” — which pretty much describes our lives since the world met COVID-19. From work and family time to social gatherings and religious practises, online communication is the centre of our existence. And to parishioners of the 57-year old church, it was no different.

Parish administrator Fr Dr Clarence Dass, who was already meeting parish ministry coordinators in the cyber world for discussions and rosary recitations during Lent, proposed a virtual nine-day Rosary and novena prayer among the BECS and or ministries from May 5 – May 13. The parish prepared daily prayer sheets in Tamil and English and this gave an added sense of unity and uniformity.

To some parishioners, it was  their new normal while others found it a daunting concept but were willing to learn. A handful said, the spirit is willing but the technical side is a hindrance.

OLF BECCOT coordinator Margaret Raj said her Pantai Hillpark BEC had two sessions daily, one at noon for the non-working members and another at 8 pm. Raj felt her community was praying together more during the Movement Control Order (MCO).

To the Bangsar Baru 1 BEC, it’s not something new as they had been meeting online weekly to recite the Rosary since the MCO began. Coordinator Ruben Soosay said 10 to 12 members  joined the virtual Novena to OLF and they felt closer as a BEC. He said many homebound members in his community felt extra connected as everyone was linked through the communal prayers. Anna Fernandes said it gave a sense of togetherness and closeness despite the physical distancing, and (she found it) spiritually rewarding.

Of the 15 families that belong to the Jalan Berhala BEC, five faithfully join the nine-day Rosary novena sessions via Zoom while the others prayed in unison, without the virtual link. The Coordinator, Stella Aloysius said, “To celebrate this way was challenging, as most  of us are seniors in our community, but it was ok to learn something new. Thank God for the technology that we could meet via Zoom and say the Rosary.”

As for the St Gabriel’s BEC of Bangsar Park, this novena session was the first time many “saw” each other in almost two months. An average of nine families took part in the daily prayer via Zoom, others joined in spirit. Its former coordinator said, “While severe lagging and teething challenges like forgetting to mute the mic made it difficult to be immersed in a prayerful stance, being in the “company” of our community members in itself felt like a prayer  wrapped in a warm hug.”

Kathleen Ponnachan of Taman Seputeh BEC said, “(Although) in isolation, we remain united in our love for Our Lady of Fatima. We prayed, we sang and we touched base for nine days.”

Some BECs chose not to link online but said the prayers on their own. BEC members were also thrilled when Fr Clarence and Assistant Parish Priest Rev. Fr. Bernard Hyacinth SJ made an effort to join the Zoom Rosary novena at least once during the week. Fr Clarence said, “I was encouraged to see many BECs using online technology to come to pray together. I was happy to join them. Friendship and fellowship were certainly evident but in a new way.”

On the morning of May 13, Frs Clarence and Bernard informed parishioners that in honour of the Parish’s feastday, they would celebrate the Mass by Archdioceses of Kuala Lumpur. Besides Holy Week, it clocked one of the highest live views for the ArchKL weekday Masses since the MCO began.

Though we missed the priests’ insightful sharing during the Feastday celebrations, receiving the Holy Eucharist, professing our faith and fellowshipping with parishioners, we are grateful for technology and for platforms through which we can still connect and unite in Jesus’ name.

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