Sandy Koenig of St. James Parish in Randall felt her faith slipping away. Although she attended Mass regularly, she often felt she was just going through the motions.
“My faith had been dead for so long. I just couldn’t connect with God; I just couldn’t pray,” she said.
As a child, she had a strong devotion to Mary, influenced partly by her mother who also loved the Blessed Virgin. Koenig had heard about the many different apparitions of Mary around the world, but the one that intrigued her the most was when Mary appeared to the children of Fatima, Portugal.
“That one just really speaks to your heart,” she said.
A couple of years ago, while she was experiencing the spiritual challenges, she picked up the book “A Pathway Under the Gaze of Mary: Biography of Sister Maria Lucia of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart,” which tells the story of one of the Fatima children who later became a religious sister.
“It really inspired me,” Koenig said, and she began “digging deeper” into the message. Through her reading, she came across the World Apostolate of Fatima, sometimes referred to as the “Blue Army,” and became a member.
The apostolate is made up of individual members who live around the world and follow the principles of the apostolate, including offering up sacrifices and praying the rosary daily.
“The more I learned about the message, it made me want to do more. I thought if these kids could do what they were asked to do, I certainly could do more. It kind of gave me a purpose in my faith life,” Koenig said. “I had been asking Mary to help me connect with her son, and she did.”
Koenig believes the 100th anniversary is a good time for people to renew their interest in the Fatima message or, if they haven’t before, to take the time to explore it. In her parish, she’s working to plan a time for people to watch videos about Fatima.
“If you look at what was going on in the world at the time of the apparitions with communism and then look at what we are going through now in the world, look how far we have fallen,” she said. “I never thought in my life I would see some of the things in the world being played out right now. We need now more than ever for people to [ask for her intercessions] again.”
Each morning, Koenig carves out about 20 minutes to pray the rosary, offer other prayers to God and spend time in silence.
“I never was a big rosary prayer, but after I read about Fatima I thought this is all she’s asking us to do,” Koenig said. “And look what it can do, how much power it has. I can pray a rosary every day, praying for our world, for the salvation of souls, for the conversion of our country and the world. I think we are living in some really frightening times. The message of Fatima is so relevant today because of what we are experiencing in the world today.”
Koenig was hopeful she might travel to Fatima for the 100th anniversary. Although she won’t be there for the actual day, she is planning to be a part of a pilgrimage there in November with the World Apostolate.
She also was instrumental in bringing the International Pilgrim Virgin Statue of Our Lady of Fatima, which has been traveling around the world since 1947, to Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Little Falls last October.
“Fatima has really inspired me, I think because of the times we are living in,” she said. “It can be very depressing to see what’s going on in the world so you have to find something to cling to that gives you some hope and I’ve found that in the Fatima message,” she said.
“It tells me that, Lord, you are in charge and I guess we can’t worry because you have a plan. We can’t worry about the politics of the time but set our minds on the heavenly world. This isn’t our final destination. We might have to go through hardships, but we have to know that God is in charge and will get us through it.”