On May 13, the feast of Our Lady of Fatima, several hundred Polish Catholics gathered at Our Lady Mother of the Church Polish Mission in Willow Springs for the first of six monthly processions honoring Mary and praying for peace. The evening began with Mass followed by a procession with a statue of Our Lady of Fatima that made its way around outdoor stations of the cross on the mission’s grounds. The procession stopped and prayed the sorrowful mysteries of the rosary in front of a large bronze statue of St. John Paul II. A parishioner purchased the statue of Mary in Fatima and had it blessed there, so it has special significance to the parish. First communicants led the procession with 13 altar servers and five priests. Parishes in the archdiocese with large Polish populations celebrate the devotion to Our Lady of Fatima each year from May to October, commemorating the times Mary appeared to Lúcia dos Santos and her cousins Francisco and Jacinta Marto in Portugal. “This Fatima procession is very famous,” explained Father Marek Smolka, coordinator of the archdiocese’s Polish Ministry Council and the main celebrant for the Mass. “It very is common here, especially in Chicago, but in Poland as well, to have a special devotion to the Blessed Mother and to do the procession. They are trying to copy what they do in Portugal.” Our Lady of Fatima is particularly special to Polish Catholics because St. John Paul II was shot on her feast day in 1981 and he credited her with saving his life. In her messages to the children, Mary asked people to pray for the conversion of sinners, for the consecration of Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary and talked about World War II, which makes this devotion particularly important in today’s world, Smolka said. “I think now her message is stronger and more needed for people to realize that we need to pray for peace, especially now with Ukraine. You know, when it comes to Poland, we are the neighbors to Ukraine, so I think that’s also very important. We pray for one another, especially for Ukraine, and for the end of violence and for peace as well,” he said. “We should really promote this type of devotion and especially the rosary. It’s all around Our Lady of Fatima.” Devotion to Mary is very popular to Polish Catholics, said Elizabeth Ceisel-Mikowska, a parishioner at the mission. “Mary and walking pilgrimages and processions, especially the walking pilgrimages in Poland, are very well known,” she said. “The Marian devotions are very rooted in Polish tradition and Polish religious traditions.” Those traditions date back to devotion to Our Lady of Czestochowa that began in 1656. Ceisel-Mikowska called Our Lady Mother of the Church Polish Mission “a little Poland” where devotions to Mary — especially during May, the month dedicated to Mary, and October, the month dedicated to the rosary — are very well attended. Every day during May, parishioners gather at the church to pray the Litany of Mary and in October they gather daily to pray the rosary. “Mary does take a high place in our hearts,” said Ceisel-Mikowska. Mary brings the prayers to her son, Jesus, she noted. “She is our mother. Motherhood means sharing in the life of the child, so when we need anything, we can run to our mother, so we run to Mary,” she said. “That’s what’s important to me as a mother. I know that I can put it in her hands and it will be delivered to her son to maybe get some of my prayers answered, to have the hope to comfort us.” Ceisel-Mikowska said she would be a different person if not for her lifelong devotion to Mary. “She sets a great example for all of us, that we need the faith, we need the trust that she had to have the child of God,” she said. “It’s something that we grew up with and now we want to instill in the children as well.” For a list of parishes hosting monthly Fatima devotions, visit polonia.archchicago.org/news-and-events/events.