Father Renè Pulgarin, pastor of Our Lady of Fatima Parish, welcomes all to the church and leads a bilingual recitation of the Rosary.
Father Renè Pulgarin, pastor of Our Lady of Fatima Parish, welcomes all to the church and leads a bilingual recitation of the Rosary.

Standing before a statue of Mary illuminated by candles and car headlights, Father Rene Pulgarin jubilantly announced, “Tonight we made history! Now Keyport knows we have a Catholic church, and its name is Our Lady of Fatima!”

Named for the site of the Blessed Virgin Mary’s visits to three Portuguese shepherd children in 1917, Our Lady of Fatima Parish concluded its monthlong celebration of its patronal feast with its first public procession and a bilingual recitation of the Rosary Oct. 13. Hundreds of faithful took part – some driving vehicles adorned with homemade Rosaries – to show their support for the merged faith community. The parish was formed two summers ago from the merger of St. Joseph and Jesus the Lord Parishes.

Photo Gallery: Our Lady of Fatima Procession

“We wish you hope and love, healing and unity. … We know that [Mary] listens to our prayers,” Father Pulgarin, parish pastor, said as he addressed both the faithful inside their automobiles as well as those viewing the prayer service via livestream on the parish’s Facebook and YouTube.

The procession of vehicles began at the Jesus the Lord Church worship site. Knights of Columbus, including Gregg Savoy and John Gaffney, sported orange safety vests as they directed cars into the Broad Street parking lot and handed each driver a tiny electric tealight for their dashboard. “This is our feast day,” said Gaffney. “We need to get involved.

Nearby, Anne Biagianti, parish catechetical leader, and her assistant, Joanne Guarracino, adorned a pickup truck with a larger-than-life Rosary constructed from a string of dragonfly lights and colorful polyethylene pool noodles. Paper dolls of the Virgin Mary that the parish’s young people had decorated served as Rosary beads.

Explaining the importance of the youth involvement, Biagianti said, “Our whole focus is to connect them to God, the Church and each other. They can watch the procession and see their dolls.”

Representatives from Keyport police and fire departments, as well as the rescue squad, led the slow, silent procession of about 90 vehicles through the streets of the shoreside community to the St. Joseph Church worship site roughly a mile away. In the lead was a pickup truck bearing a banner exhorting “Pray the Rosary” and carrying a towering statue of Our Lady of Fatima and roses. Another truck carried a large cross.

Upon reaching St. Joseph Church, pilgrims filled the parking lot. Most remained to pray inside their vehicles, while a handful were drawn to the illuminated statue of Mary underneath the parish façade. Father Pulgarin, accompanied by parish faithful, deacons and clergy including Father Fernando Lopez, parochial vicar of Christ the King Parish, Long Branch, led the congregation in praying the Glorious Mysteries in both English and Spanish.

Parish music director Daniel T. Neff led Marian hymns during the service, intoning the ancient “Salve Regina” as slips of paper containing intercessions to the Virgin were burned. “Music is uplifting to the soul,” Neff said. “It connects them to the liturgy.”

Later on Facebook, Maureen Kennedy Maurer Vena reflected, “We were so blessed to be part of this beautiful procession. Such a feeling of community and love for Our Lady of Fatima. … A pilgrimage of love.”