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Beloved statue comes to Rostraver

| Thursday, June 23, 2005

ROSTRAVER TOWNSHIP - Pilgrims bowed their heads and reverently prayed as they kneeled before a statue of a holy woman whose message is peace for mankind.

Corky and Louise Hogg of Rostraver Township opened their home June 9 to hundreds of Mon Valley residents who came to humbly bow before the traveling statue of Our Lady of Fatima. The in-home program was presented by the American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property's "America Needs Fatima" campaign.

"I received a postcard asking if we were interested in hosting the statue," said Louise Hogg, a monetary donor to "America Needs Fatima." "I responded to the postcard and in two weeks they called me."

According to the Catholic faith, six apparitions of the Blessed Mother appeared to three children in Fatima, Portugal, in 1917. She delivered a message of concern for the world and offered a practical plan for world peace.

"It is a privilege and a blessing to have the Blessed Mother in your home," said Hogg, who invited family, friends, congregations from seven area Catholic churches, members of area ambulance, fire and police departments and the Gold Wing Road Riders Association, among others, to the home visitation. "The visitors have an opportunity to offer their prayer requests and to leave with the feeling that God loves them."

Hogg said the June 9 visitation was the fulfillment of a promise made to the Blessed Mother when she visited St. Hugh's Church in Carmichael in June 2001.

"I went there to honor and venerate her and take pictures of her," said Hogg.

"I was praying to her and wishing she would visit my home and if she did I promised I would have 500 or more people there. When I first an-swered the post card I had forgotten about the promise, but when I received the response, I became so excited and it brought to mind the promise I had made to her."

In an attempt to keep her promise, Hogg sent out more than 250 invitations.

During the visitation, the statue was crowned, and pilgrims sang "Hail Mary, Gentle Woman" and recited the rosary. An audio-visual presentation, "A Ray of Hope for Modern Times," was shown. Joyce Collins led the rosary, with guitar accompaniment by Joel Bradica and Jason Bradica, all parishioners of St. Anne Church in Rostraver.

The goal of "America Needs Fatima" is to win the heart and soul of America for Mary by spreading the message of Our Lady of Fatima and promoting devotions to her Immaculate Heart.

Norman Fulkerson and John Dacosta, of York, were in charge of the statue's custodial care while in the Hogg home.

Fulkerson said 10 exact replicas of the statue that wept before 12,000 people in New Orleans, La., in 1972 travel a total of roughly 250,000 miles throughout the United States each year.

"It is a very spiritual event," said Fulkerson. "These visitors see the crisis and moral corruption in today's society and look to Our Lady of Fatima, who foretold the solution. This event strengthens them to move forward and not to turn their backs on God."

While the statue was to be on display from 6 to 10 p.m., Hogg said it remained overnight as pilgrims continued to pay their respects until nearly 11 p.m. and again early the following morning. Hogg said she stayed up all night with the statue.

In addition to Catholics, she said pilgrims included those of Orthodox, Methodist and Lutheran faiths, some coming from as far away as Brentwood.

During the visits, the pilgrims dropped their prayer requests in a basket located beside the statue. The custodians later collected the petitions to be burned during a special ceremony at the foot of the statue in Portugal.

Chester Duda of Belle Vernon was among those who came to the Hogg home to renew his faith in the prophetic messages made at Fatima.

"The holy Lady of Fatima is basically a sign of promises of peace," said Duda. "Personally, I'd never seen the statue before. She is very beautiful, a very spiritual image of the Holy Mother. The statue is not a worship thing, but a thing of honor to the Blessed Mother."

Karen Koscelek of Belle Vernon said she came to offer her petitions for miraculous works. "Miracles, miracles," said Koscelek. "I asked Mary for a lot of favors."

Later this month, Koscelek will travel to the site of Marian apparitions in Medjugorje, Yugoslavia, where the Blessed Mother is believed to have visited six visionaries there since 1981.

The June 9 visitation had a special significance for Chris Heasley, of Jefferson Hills. Heasley has cherished a statue of Our Lady of Fatima since childhood.

"It was a gift from my parents about 30 years ago," said Heasley. "It was blessed at the church. It has nicks and chips but it stills sits on top of my highest dresser watching over me as I sleep and wake up each day."

Hogg said she plans to host the Our Lady of Fatima replica again when it returns to the area. "I'm still on cloud nine," said Hogg several days after the event. "It was wonderful, and so serene."

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