So, it was not unexpected for vehicles to stop and for Christians in Beeville to get out and say a little prayer Thursday afternoon when a replica of the Statue of Our Lady of Fatima showed up in the parking lot of Taqueria Chapala at 1805 N. St Mary’s St.
St. Mary’s Street was a fitting location, seeing that Our Lady of Fátima is believed to have been Mary, the mother of Jesus.
The story comes from a series of sightings that began on May 13, 1917, and continued on the 13th of each month for the next three consecutive months.
Three shepherds’ children, Lúcia dos Santos and her cousins, Jacinta and Francisco Marto, were herding sheep at Cova da Iria near Fatima in Portugal when Lúcia said she saw a woman “brighter that the sun, shedding rays of light clearer and stronger than a crystal ball filled with the most sparkling water and pierced by the burning rays of the sun.”
The Lady asked the children to do penance and Acts of Reparation, and she confided to them three secrets that became known as Three Secrets of Fátima.
The children were threatened with boiling in oil if they did not confess and tell the secrets, but they refused.
Thousands of Catholics visited the site during the following months, and many reported seeing visions and experiencing miracles.
On Aug. 13, a crowd estimated to be 70,000 strong was at the site when they saw a “sun’s dance” in the sky, and Lúcia said she saw the Virgin Mary.
Today a Chapel of Apparitions is located at that site.
Peter “Péré,” who calls himself “just the driver,” emerged from a trailer being towed by a large bus Thursday to explain the pilgrimage he and his wife, María, and daughter, Magdalena, have been on for the last 10 years.
Residents of Fátima, the family members have traveled the world, towing a trailer with a likeness of the statue displayed in their home town.
They open the back of the trailer and sell medals, rosaries and small statues from displays on the trailer.
Péré said the family will be in the United States four months during this trip. They have been traveling slowly from Laredo and have stopped wherever they were welcomed.
Before reaching Beeville, they stopped in Skidmore.
“From here, we go slowly to San Antonio,” Péré said. Then on to Canada and eventually back to Europe.
They will eventually return to Fátima, where they will study at the convent.
“We are missionaries for the Mother of God,” Péré said. A quiet and reverent man with short-cropped hair and a mild manner, Péré said he and his family are not always welcome where they stop.
“It’s okay,” he said with a smile. “We go.”
The family has seen its bus spray painted, a bullet shot in the windshield, and he was once pushed to the ground, injuring his knee.
But Péré has always refused to file charges on anyone who attack their property or them.
Péré said one of the most rewarding experiences he and his family have had over the years was the time they visited the tomb of Padre Pio, the Patron Saint of the sick, in southern Italy.
He said seven million believers a year visit the shrine to the saint. When they visited the tomb with their rolling shrine that day, the tomb was opened, and he put a small statue inside.
Outside at their small shrine, hundreds of Catholics showed up, stopped to pray and say the rosary. “We were there overnight,” Péré said, smiling.
“Every picture of Mary, every statue has power,” Péré said, “if you believe.”
Gary Kent is a reporter at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 358-2550, ext. 120, or at reporter@mySouTex.com.