My husband and I daily drive around Cajun country in south Louisiana due to our work as insurance inspectors. We enjoy the ride, chatting about life, finding unique places and meeting interesting people. Sometimes we say our rosary together to pass the time on extended drives. We are both devoted to our heavenly mother and pray for her intercession and graces every day. The love of Mary in this part of the country is very evident to anyone who drives along the many country roads. We have seen countless statues of Our Lady in front of homes and business. It always brings a smile to my face to see a special shrine in someone’s yard; knowing that family has the same devotion to the mother of God.
A couple of months ago, during one of these drives, my husband and I came across a special and unique shrine. In the middle of nowhere, we noticed a sign – “Ave Maria Shrine”. I quickly asked my husband to pull into the parking area. The property was very lovely. There was a pavilion with seating and a small building under the pavilion. I noticed the grounds were immaculate with rose bushes, statues, and wooden crosses marking the Stations of the Cross. I was very curious about this shrine, having never heard about it. My husband was uncomfortable being on this property. I began to open the truck door and he immediately asked me what I thought I was doing. I told him I was going have a look inside the building. He let me know that he did not think that was a good idea; (he was being protective as any good husband should). I looked again at the sign and told him, “Look, it says it is open from 6am to 6pm. It is open; I am going have a look.” He knew there was no stopping me; he rolled his eyes and told me that he would turn his truck around while I had a look.
I opened the door to the shrine and was pleasantly surprised to see a statue of Our Lady of Fatima. It was a small shrine, but there was enough room for a kneeler and a box to place petitions. I could see that it was lovingly being cared for as there were flowers and candles on the altar. I wrote a petition, placed it in the box and prayed. On the way out I noticed a pamphlet on the shrine and took one with me.
My husband was patiently waiting in the vehicle. I very excited told him what I found inside the shrine. Together we read the pamphlet. It stated:
“In June of 1994, two young men from Venezuela, visited the Opelousas Ave Maria Rosary Group. They claimed to hear and see the Blessed Virgin Mary. They shared messages of conversion, penance, fasting, sacrifices, weekly confession, daily Rosary and mass. In April of 1996, she asked the Ave Maria Rosary Group to build a replica of the original Fatima Shrine. This was built by hard work and donations. The Shrine was opened November 19, 2000. We have had claims of healings, conversions, and answered prayers since that time. We invite you and your families to come to the Shrine to pray and receive the blessings, comfort, and peace from Our Lady….On the first Saturday of each month, Our Lady has promised her presence at the Shrine from 6 pm to 6:05 pm. She is there to receive our petitions and prayers.”
“How wonderful!”, I exclaimed. “I will be right back.”, said my husband as he left the vehicle and headed towards the shrine.
We returned to the shrine the following month and said our rosary together there. We will return there on the 13th of May in celebration of the 100th anniversary of Fatima. It is also Mother’s Day weekend. I encourage anyone who is in our area to visit the shrine and thank our mother for her visits to earth, her prayers and intercessions. The shrine is located at 3484 Prairie Rhonde Hwy., Opelousas, Louisiana.
I cannot make a pilgrimage to Fatima, Portugal; however, I will make a pilgrimage to the little Cajun Fatima Shrine. It will truly be a special Mother’s Day weekend!