Fatima, Portugal, holds special significance to members of the Catholic faith — as it is one of the sites where Mary (Our Lady of Fatima) miraculously appeared after her death. Making the pilgrimage to Fatima, therefore, holds a great deal of weight to followers— though it can be quite the travel commitment.

Parishioners of St. Mary Catholic Church in Newton and students at the school, however, were recently blessed with a similarly special experience — as Fatima came to them, with one of the pilgrim images being hosted at the church this week.

The pilgrim image (a statue of Our Lady of Fatima) was one of six — one for each densely-populated continent — blessed by Pope Francis on Jan. 11 after having been flown to the Vatican in Rome. Missionaries from both the Alliance of the Holy Family International and Human Life International then partnered up to travel with those images across the continents, spreading the message that Our Lady of Fatima delivered a century ago.

"Each of the six images were commissioned to each of the six continents to spread Our Lady's urgent message and call for prayer and reparation on her centennial anniversary," said Sister Clara Kelly, with AHFI.

"What we bring with the image is, most especially, the message, which she gave 101 years ago — with Pope Francis echoing his former predecessors (Benedict XVI and John Paul the Greatest) that the message of Fatima is a message most relevant for our times," Sr. Kelly said. "Our Lady of Fatima came to give us heaven's formula for peace. It's nothing new, but something we have been doing and she wants us to re-enforce."

Consecration and reparation were two main tenets of the message shared by Our Lady of Fatima and part of what AHFI stresses while touring with the pilgrim image through it's "CARE" model, reminding Catholics to focus on confession, adoration, the rosary and the Eucharist in striving towards those tenets.

Our Lady of Fatima's pilgrim image has been touring North America non-stop since it was blessed in January and the Wichita diocese was chosen as one of those stops. St. Mary in Newton was then one of three churches selected within the diocese to host the statue.

Along with the message shared — and re-enforced through Sr. Kelly and Sr. Sarah Elias giving out rosaries (something tied closely to Our Lady of Fatima) and scapulars to the St. Mary students — principal Philip Stutey noted the experience also hits close to home with Mary being the school's namesake, and a mural within the building depicting Our Lady of Fatima.

"It just brings everything that we're talking about with our faith, the stories, to life," Stutey said. "The kids know the story, but to be able to see one of the statues that's been blessed by Pope Francis and to have that come and visit Newton, what a blessing. That's something they'll always remember."

Students had the opportunity to hear the sisters tell the story of Our Lady of Fatima (who appeared to three children in the small Portuguese village during WWI) and parishioners were welcomed for mass and adoration time during the evening while the statue was in town — as well as any others from the Wichita diocese who wanted to make the "pilgrimage to Newton" to witness the statue.

Going on tour with the image, Sr. Kelly noted she has seen a lot of wonderful works through the statue and Stutey stated he is hopeful that will resonate with the St. Mary community.

"I hope they realize that Mary loves them very much, just as she loved Jesus, and she helps bring us to Jesus. That's the whole idea of Mary," Stutey said. "What an honor to be named St. Mary and have that statue come to our school."

"For us, it's not an exaggeration to say every day you see miracles. Every day you see what perhaps men could not convert, the mother of God can do," Sr. Kelly said. "I hope they take away the message and the call and put it into practice."