PROVIDENCE — It began on January 1, 2017, the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, with Bishop Thomas J. Tobin proclaiming 2017 a Year With Mary Our Mother as “an opportunity to renew and refresh our devotion to Mary that we have as Catholics,” by following the Blessed Mother’s example and seeking her intercession in our prayers.
The Marian Year in the diocese would be even more special as it coincided with the 100th anniversary of the apparitions of the Blessed Mother witnessed by three shepherd children in Fatima, Portugal.
Now that the year has officially concluded, Bishop Tobin offered some of his personal reflections on what feels was a very thoughtful and successful celebration of the Blessed Mother across the diocese.
“The centennial celebration of Fatima was the spark, the catalyst that encouraged me to have this special year of devotion for our diocese,” Bishop Tobin said of the historic worldwide 100th anniversary observance of the apparitions.
“In a broader sense, our devotion to Mary is such an integral part of our Catholic faith, such an important part, such a beautiful part that I thought it would be the right time to renew that, certainly for myself and for all other people as well. It is so beneficial spiritually,” he added.
The Diocese of Providence organized several special events to observe the year, including a large procession of hundreds of faithful bearing a statue of Mary around Cathedral Square, before marking the centennial of the first apparition on May 13 with a Mass in the Cathedral of SS. Peter and Paul on May 13.
In August, Bishop Tobin marked the centennial of the fourth apparition of Mary in the hills of Central Portugal by leading an unforgettable diocesan pilgrimage to Fatima, a journey in which the pilgrims also visited other sacred sites across the country as well.
“The pilgrimage to Fatima itself was the high point of the year, it was a beautiful occasion and was really like a retreat for me personally,” the bishop said.
“It was a great opportunity for prayer and in terms of renewing our devotion to Mary,” he said of the group of pilgrims.
In November, the bishop would again lead a Marian pilgrimage, this time to a local sacred place — La Salette Shrine in Attleboro, Massachusetts — to pray for vocations to the priesthood and religious life.
Also in November Bishop Tobin celebrated Mass at the cathedral on the Feast of Our Lady of Divine Providence, in which he extended a warm welcome and words of gratitude to Deacon Stephen Cote, Donna Warner and all who serve in the diocesan marriage ministry for their service with marriage preparation, natural family planning and marriage enrichment. He noted that Our Lady of Divine Providence has a great influence on the marriage ministry, as well as couples entering the sacrament of matrimony.
Throughout the year, the diocesan Office of Life and Family organized several events to help the faithful increase their devotion to the Blessed Mother during the Year with Mary Our Mother, such as arranging for the Missionary Image of Our Lady of Guadalupe to visit various parishes throughout the diocese.
Life and Family Director Carol Owens encouraged all to pray the rosary and seek Mary’s intercession as a way of promoting greater respect for life.
At the beginning of the year, Msgr. Anthony Mancini, rector of the Cathedral of SS. Peter and Paul, and director of the powerful Gregorian Concert Choir, presented an evening of music at the cathedral in celebration of the Year with Mary Our Mother.
And across the diocese a number of parishes hosted holy hours and marked the centennial of the six apparitions, from May through October.
“Along with what the diocese was doing, I’m aware of the fact that many of our parishes and schools and other organizations set aside some special time to honor our Blessed Mother and that was nice to see and to hear about,” the bishop said.
And although the Marian Year has officially come to a close, Bishop Tobin hopes the spirit and devotion to Mary fostered through the yearlong celebration will continue.
“The official year has ended, and I hope it has had the effect of renewing in many of our people our devotion to our Blessed Mother and that’s something that will carry on into the future, just as the pope’s Year of Mercy didn’t end when the year ended,” Bishop Tobin said, recalling the Year of Mercy proclaimed by Pope Francis in 2015.
“It reawakened for us the need to be people of mercy and compassion. In the same way the Year with Mary Our Mother has ended, it shouldn’t end for us our attention and devotion and love for our Blessed Mother, but hopefully even refresh that and renew it.”