Merced County Times Newspaper
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TIMES PHOTOS BY JONATHAN WHITAKER

St. Patrick’s Church celebrates Rosary Garden, ‘Our Lady’

St. Patrick’s Catholic Church and Parish in Merced celebrated the blessing of a new Rosary Garden, along with a “festa” in honor of Our Lady of Fatima last Sunday.

It was the eve of the 102nd anniversary of the May 13, 1917 miracle in Fatima, Portugal, when the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God, is said to have appeared before three young peasant children.

Saying the prayers of the Rosary for peace and salvation was an important part of the Virgin’s message, and so it was a perfect time in the church calendar to anoint the new garden.

The garden project was inspired some eight years ago when parishioner Mary Helen Rodriguez was trying to reunite with her daughter during troubling times. She had been saying the Rosary and offering prayers to Our Lady of Perpetual Help. When she traveled to Cottage Grove, Oregon, in an attempt to reconnect with her daughter, she checked into a random hotel. She asked for a nearby Catholic Church where she could go and pray, and she was directed to a church just around the corner in the name of “Our Lady of Perpetual Help.” Outside the church was a beautiful, serene Rosary garden.

“Everything happens for a reason,” Rodriguez told the Times. “We saw the Rosary garden and we felt at peace.”

Rodriguez brought her idea to Monsignor Patrick McCormick at St. Patrick’s during a time when the Pope was urging churchgoers to continue the tradition of the Rosary. Later, Father John Fluetsch took up the cause. The garden at St. Patrick’s took about four years to build from planning to construction. It was supported by many private donations, and contractor Dennis Riskey was hired to finish the job that includes all the markers of the Rosary, landscaping, monuments and lighting at night. The Lorenzi family of Merced donated a statue of Our Lady of Fatima to overlook the garden.

Last Sunday, Father Fluetsch shared the blessing of the garden with individual parishioners who sprinkled Holy Water all around the grounds.

Later, a Mass was held in Portuguese, led by Father Manuel Sousa of Turlock’s Our Lady of Ascension Church, along with a candlelight procession for Our Lady of Fatima, and a traditional Portuguese “festa” to top off the celebration.

The entire Our Lady of Fatima celebration at St. Patrick’s in May has been going on for some 35 years. A group of parish members came together at the request of Monsignor John Coelho Harguindeguy in 1982 and they eventually formed the local Our Lady of Fatima association.

Through the years, the tradition of honoring “Our Lady” was continued with members who were Portuguese immigrants living in Merced and surrounding areas such as El Nido and Le Grand.

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