Q: Who was Sister Lucia dos Santos?

A: Carmelite Sister Lucia dos Santos, the last of three Fatima visionaries, died February 13, 2005 in her cloistered convent in Coimbra, Portugal at the age of 97.

Born March 22, 1907, in Aljustrel near Fatima, she and her younger cousins, Francisco and Jacinta, were caring for their families' sheep when on May 13, 1917, after reciting the rosary at midday, they saw a "woman brighter than the sun" holding a rosary in her hand.  The woman told them they should pray much and return to that spot at the same hour on the thirteenth of each month.

With some seventy thousand gathered around the children on Oct. 13, 1917--what was to be the final apparition--the woman told the three children that she was Our Lady and asked that a chapel be built in her honor.  While her cousins Francisco and Jacinta Marto died at a young age, it was left to Lucia to transcribe the messages of Fatima.

In 1921, Lucia went to school at the college of the Sisters of St. Dorothy in Vilar, Portugal.  On October 24, 1924, she began postulancy with the Sisters of St. Dorothy in Pontevedra.  On December 10, 1925, Our Lady appeared to Lucia requesting the observance of the first Saturday in honor of the Immaculate Heart of Mary to make reparation to it for the sins of humankind.

On July 20, 1926, Lucia moved to Tuy, where she began her novitiate; she received her habit on October 2 of the same year.  In 1928, she took first vows as a religious of St. Dorothy and made her perpetual vows in 1934.  She transferred to the Coimbra Carmel in 1948.

In the late 1930s, Sister Lucia made public the first two parts of the messages from Mary, which the children had received and had kept secret.  The third part of the message, Sister Lucia wrote down and gave to her local bishop in a sealed envelope.  The message was sent to the Vatican in 1957, where successive popes read it, but decided not to reveal its contents.

In 1967, Sr. Lucia met Paul VI on the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of the apparitions in Fatima.  One year after the attempted assassination of John Paul II, he made pilgrimage to Fatima in order to express his gratitude to Our Lady for her protection.  In thanksgiving that his life was spared, the Pontiff had one of the bullets that wounded him embedded in the crown of the statue of Our Lady that stands at the shrine of Fatima.  At that time, he also had an encounter with Sr. Lucia.  The two met again in May 2000, when the Pope traveled to Fatima to beatify Jacinta and Francisco and to announce that he was revealing the final piece of the Fatima message.

Throughout her life, Sister Lucia continued having visions of the Virgin Mary and hearing messages from her as late as the 1980s.


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