A Catholic Monthly Magazine

Fr O’Mahony and Our Lady of Fatima

Fr Kevin Head sm

My family moved to Our Lady of Fatima Parish in Christchurch towards the end of 1960, and it is from that time that I have my first memories of Fatima, and of Mary’s appearances there. The parish priest, Fr Bill O’Mahony, had an immense devotion to Our Lady of Fatima, and encouraged parishioners to pray to Mary often and fervently. That’s what he did.

Fr O’Mahony was the priest who began the setting up of the parish, along with the primary school, in 1952. With a church and school to be built, he often had to talk about finance. As a consequence, he was often affectionately referred to by his parishioners as Fr O’Money! He was parish priest from 1952 until 1967, and died in 1989.

As one of his altar servers during my teen years, I thought he was terrific. Admittedly, he was grumpy at times; and most of the time he was a kind and caring pastor, a devoted servant of his people. To my way of thinking then, and now, an admirable man and a great priest.

As far as he was concerned, the church and the school had to be built and paid for first, and it was only after Fr O’Mahony moved from the parish that a proper presbytery was built. Until then, he and his curate lived in a ramshackle place, probably the worst house in the area. It looked, and almost certainly was, cold, damp and drafty.

The church that Fr O’Mahony built had a statue of Our Lady of Fatima to the left of the sanctuary. My understanding is that it had been brought back by Fr O’Mahony when he made a pilgrimage to Fatima. It was in that church that my sister was married, my brother and I were ordained, and that we celebrated my father’s Requiem Mass. It was, and is, a special place for my family, a place of mostly happy memories, and some sad ones; and I’m sure that’s the case for most families who have worshipped there down the years.

This plaque in St Peter's Square in Rome, showing the Pope's crest and the date, marks the spot where the assassination attempt on Pope John Paul II took place.

That first church became the parish hall when a new church was opened in 1988, and when the new church was destroyed in the Christchurch earthquakes, the original church once more became the parish church. Nowadays, the parish is made up of a number of former parishes under the patronage of St Francis of Assisi, while the church retains its original name.

I can’t claim for a moment that I have the kind of devotion to Our Lady of Fatima that Fr Bill O’Mahony did. I still have, though, a fascination with what happened at Fatima, and if you are unfamiliar with the events that took place there, or want to refresh your memory of them, the article by Tricia O’Donnell on page 8 of this issue provides an excellent summary.

Since the 1920s, popes have encouraged devotion to Our Lady of Fatima, and Pope St John Paul II was utterly convinced that he was protected by Our Lady of Fatima when Mehmet Ali Ağca tried to assassinate him on her feast day in 1981.

This month, as we recall the centenary of the first apparition of Our Lady at Fatima on 13 May, we ask her to continue to protect us, and to pray for us, her daughters and sons.

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