Podcast – 2023, June 14
Sister of the Congregation of the Handmaids of Our Lady of Fatima joins the Local Organising Committee of the Day, and is the guest of the #fatimanoseculoXXI May podcast
The episode of Mary’s visit to her cousin Elizabeth, narrated in the Gospel of Luke – which is the motto of the theme of the Pastoral Year in Fatima, and which creates a link between the Shrine and the World Youth Day in Lisbon – finds an unprecedented parallel in the message of Fatima: the haste with which Mary announces the Good News to her cousin is the same haste with which the “heavenly messenger presents herself to the little shepherds” and immediately receives “their commitment”, says the guest of the #fatimanoseculoXXI May podcast, Sister Maria Rita Ornelas.
This is the reason why the Sister of the Congregation of the Handmaids of Our Lady of Fatima believes that the motto of the WYD “is very close to the Message and the event of Fatima”.
“Our Lady hastened down from heaven to earth to leave a series of messages for humanity. Just as she was in a hurry to visit her cousin Elizabeth, she was in a hurry to leave some messages from heaven to the young shepherds, and they said yes, even if they did not know exactly to what,” she explains, referring to the essence of the dialogue narrated by Lucia in her Memoirs about the first Apparition on May 13, 1917.
“During the first apparition, in response to the Blessed Virgin's invitation – Do you want to give yourselves to God? – the three little shepherds, patrons of the youth of the Diocese of Leiria-Fatima who are going to participate in WYD, immediately said yes, without knowing what they were about to do. This simplicity, this radicalism is an example for us and should be present in everyone’s life”.
“The heavenly messenger of the Good News and then the example of the little shepherds, each one in his own way – the contemplative Francisco; or Jacinta, who wanted to put into everyone's breast the zeal for God that she herself felt – are examples that should touch, and I am sure will touch, the youth of the whole world,” adds the nun, who is part of the Local Organising Committee for World Youth Day, which will take place in Lisbon from 1 to 6 August.
Speaking about the meaning of the Message and the example of the protagonists of Fatima for the contemporary world, Sister Maria Rita recalls Lucia, “the shepherdess, who always puts God first, who never speaks of herself and who, in the depth of her silence, remains faithful until the end”.
Moreover, the silence of Fatima is also “an attraction for young people in search of God”, she says.
“In the midst of the noise of our lives, of social media, from Instagram to TikTok, we all need silence, a silence that is not hollow or abstract but one that brings us closer to God. And the silence of Fatima invites us to that,” she emphasises, adding: “the Light that surrounded Our Lady is the silence that we experience in Fatima, and here lies much of the importance of this place”.
“The radicality of the Message is enormous. The initial question and its answer are fundamental: ‘Do you want to give yourselves to God? Yes we do’... This ‘yes, we do’ is said by each one in his own way, according to his condition, as the little shepherds show: Francisco is more contemplative, Jacinta is more daring. And each of us says it today”, here “there is a new connection with WYD”.
“In this laboratory of faith, which every day is, there is an awakening of vocation: through an intense experience of immersion, young people are invited to ask themselves not who I am, but for whom I am... and this is fundamental whatever vocation we are thinking of”, she says referring to Fatima.
“Someone who is searching for his vocation will find in Fatima the perfect space for such discovery,” she underlines.
“Each person has his or her own way to reach God, and God journeys with each one. And, in the awakening of vocation, this is the mystery: in my story, in the story of each one of us, how do we journey with God?” she asks. Sister Maria Rita Ornelas, from the Azorean island of Terceira, took her vows in 2018, a year before the Pope announced in Panama City that next World Youth Day would be held in Lisbon. The young nun, who has a degree in Physical Education and now also in Religious Studies, coordinated the “Get moving with Jesus” project for children between the ages of three to six. She was the first young Azorean from the Sé parish in Angra do Heroísmo to choose religious life in 20 years.
“In the end we will all be in God: our fears and difficulties make us stay very much in our own world, but the message of Fatima takes us beyond,” she says in the podcast #fatimanoseculoXXI, available, in full, at www.fatima.pt/podcast or on the Itunes and Spotify platforms.
The nun believes that one of the dimensions that can touch young people is the Fatima prayer for Peace.
“It is a prayer for personal peace, but also for the world, for our lives, for our relationships,” she says, stressing that she hopes that the Lisbon Day will result in a stronger commitment of young people to the Church.
“Great hospitality will bring great fruits and a greater unity of the Church, which is already being experienced with the pilgrimage of the symbols, and with the diocesan dynamism.”
“The work we have done has been very creative; and we have allowed young people to dream.”
“This is the great paradigm shift: to turn young people into protagonists. And this is happening with the organisation of the Day: committed to the logistics with the organisation itself; committed to social responsibility, in contact with institutions and especially with the Church in what is evangelisation, promoting meetings with other young people, developing activities with other young people, calling them to participate.”
“Faced with so many unfavourable factors since 2019, I think the key word is ‘hope’: the pandemic that has postponed the Day for a year, the economic crisis that has made financial issues more pressing, and now the war, are factors that naturally interfere, but we hope they will not affect the event by making it less important,” she continues.
“It is a moment of celebration and joy, and, in such an atmosphere of adversity, we will show not only that the Church is alive and engaged in today's world, but also that young people are its protagonists,” the Azorean nun concluded.
“There is a mystery that will only be revealed after the World Youth Day... But there are different horizons that we can put into perspective. There is a relational structure between the pastoral activities, between the dioceses, which, I am sure, is a fruit that we will continue to experience after the WYD.”.