The Dehonian Family in Portugal made its annual pilgrimage to Fátima. The celebration of the 75 years of SCJ presence in Portugal served as a strong motive to resume an old tradition which has been repeatedly interrupted on account of the pandemic. Accompanied by our Mother Mary, we walk more safely and we better experience being a "Family", united around the charism that Fr. Dehon left for the Church.
The Dehonian Pilgrimage to Fátima has become a long tradition of the Portuguese Province. The first steps were taken in 1978 during celebration of the Congregation centennial. Over the years, this initiative has grown stronger and more dynamic, and has become a reference of our presence in Portugal. It is the annual pilgrimage of the Dehonian Family that invariably takes place on the first Sunday in June. The pandemic forced us to pause this initiative, but we were able to resume it this year. Although with many concerns, uncertainties and caution, we still decided to go to Fátima, and it was worth it! We missed being with Mary!
In addition to the intentions each of us carried in their hearts, this year we had a common purpose. We wanted to thank God, through Mary, for the 75 years of the Dehonian presence in Portugal. To this end, we chose as motto “A heart to love”, because that is precisely what motivated the coming of the first Italian SCJs who founded the Portuguese Province (Fr. Canova and Fr. Colombo). Following Fr. Dehon, we desire to love with a heart like the Heart of Jesus.
More than eight hundred participants, coming from all Portuguese regions and mission countries, were present at the feet of Mary in the Diocese of Leiria-Fátima, whose shepherd is our confrere Bishop José Ornelas. He unfortunately could not be present due to his commitments. Our Pilgrimage began on Saturday, when some groups were already gathered in Fátima to pray the Way of the Cross in Valinhos, and to participate in the evening Rosary and candlelight procession. Early on Sunday, the crowd flocked to the Shrine grounds, joining many other pilgrims. The recitation of the Rosary and the outdoor Mass were the highlight of the Pilgrimage. After lunch, everyone went to the spacious Paul VI Auditorium for the recreational session. It was not as full as before the pandemic, but it overflowed with joy, emotion, and memories of these 75 years. We intoned songs that are part of our historical heritage, shared soul-warming testimonies, prayer, and gratitude to all those who, from the very first hour, in the most diverse ways, helped the Province to become a leafy tree that spreads its roots throughout the country and to several mission countries.
On Pentecost Sunday, we were a living expression of the action of the Spirit in Fr. Dehon. An action that is expressed today in the diversity of gifts and charisms for the Church gathered in the Dehonian Family: Dehonian religious, missionary groups, parish communities under the care of SCJs, consecrated women of the Missionary Company, Sisters and friends of the Missionaries of the Merciful Love of the Heart of Jesus, members of Lay Dehonian Volunteer Association, Dehonian Youth, former students of Father Dehon Missionary Seminary, former confreres, “Dehon Families”, relatives, friends, benefactors… What a great diversity and richness!
As another expression of Pentecost renewing and bringing youth into the Church, we had the World Youth Day official announcement given in five languages. It was also an invitation to young SCJs from all over the world to come to Portugal in 2023 to celebrate their faith.
And once more, we came to the feet of Mary at her shrine to conclude our Pilgrimage with adoration and Eucharistic procession.
With the sun setting in the horizon, we returned to our starting points. Next year, God willing, we will be in Fátima again, because we cannot stay too long without visiting our Mother at the place where she visited us.