Thomas McGlynn, Order of Preachers: Apostle of Fatima

The story of the sculptor of the statue of Our Lady of Fatima

Thomas McGlynn, Order of Preachers: Apostle of Fatima
Photo: Father Thomas McGlynn, O.P., shows a model of the statue of Our Lady of Fatima that he sculpted under the direction of Sister Lucy, one of the Fatima visionaries, to Lillian Roth, actress and national chairwoman of the American Friends of Fatima organization. This photograph was taken by Mercury Studio of Springfield, Illinois. Originally appeared in the Marianist Magazine.

Father Thomas McGlynn, O.P.: Apostle of Fatima

     The exciting news of the apparitions of Our Lady of Fatima in 1917 arrived in the United States belatedly, after almost a generation had passed. The New York Times made no mention of it before 1947 when it was already common knowledge. From Portugal, however, good Senhora Cacella, who had witnessed the sun miracle at Fatima, described it in a letter to her son, Msgr. Joseph Cacella, author and proprietor of a printing press in the Bronx, New York. After the bishop of Fatima, Msgr. Jose da Silva, declared in a pastoral letter in 1930 the credibility of the apparitions at the Cova da Iria, Msgr. Cacella printed and distributed thirteen million Fatima pamphlets in this country and in many foreign countries. Two books and a Fatima magazine followed. Devotees of Our Lady were roused to action.

     Among the devotees in this country was a Dominican priest, Father Thomas McGlynn, sculptor, author and lecturer. After consulting some Dominicans at Providence College, in Providence, R.I., Father Tom drew up a questionnaire and flew with it to Fatima for a lengthy interview with Sister Lucy, the solve surviving witness of the Fatima apparitions. With the close collaboration of the Carmelite nun, Father Tom carved a small statue of Our Lady as she appeared in the June apparition of 1917. He records in his memoirs: “The composition of the statue was not mine at all. It was in every respect that of Sister Lucy. I shall always think of it as ‘our statue.’” When Bishop Silva saw the statue, he was satisfied and entrusted the American sculptor to carve a much larger one to be placed in the niche of the facade of the Fatima basilica.

     Father Tom then brought the statue to Rome, where Pope Pius XII blessed it on March 4, 1947. A five foot replica of the little statue made by our sculptor was adopted by Daprato Co. of Chicago and reproduced commercially for churches in this country. A copy may be seen in the Dominican church of St. Vincent Ferrer in New York City.

     Father Tom was also a talented author. In order to raise funds for the sculpting of the statue requested by Bishop Silva, he penned in 1947 a book narrating his role in the Fatima phenomenon. The book, entitled Vision of Fatima, is delightful reading and places in proper focus the significance of the Immaculate Heart of Mary in the Fatima drama. Little, Brown & Co. sponsored the publication of the book and requested a second edition.

     A particularly effective apostolate of Father Tom was a lecture tour (1948-1950) sponsored by Alma Savage Lecture Bureau during which he distributed in the major cities of the United States a million leaflets urging the practice of the Fatima devotions and consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. In July, 1950, he preached a novena at the Carmelite Monastery in St. Louis which attracted 37,000 people.

     With sufficient funds now collected, Father Tom began in 1956 sculpting in his studio at Pietrasanta, Italy, a colossal figure fifteen feet high and weighing thirty-five tons modeled on the small original. The quarrying, transporting, carving and mounting make a saga of the sculptors “agony and ecstasy.” The giant artifact was shipped to Portugal and dedication by Bishop Silva on Mary 13, 1958, in the presence of hundred of thousands of pilgrims. It now stands in the niche of the facade of the basilica as the silent guardian of the celebrating shrine and its devotees. During the dedication ceremony two miraculous cures were recorded.

     Father Tom went more than half-way in his zeal for Our Lady of Fatima. In 1967 he undertook a penitential pilgrimage on foot from Rome to Fatima. With a nephew, he made the 1600 mile journey in eighty-nine days carrying across his chest a cross and a large sign reading ROME-FATIMA-PAX. Like crusaders of old, they begged their food and lodging along the way, and despite occasional rebuffs, found strength in praying the rosary and singing hymns to Our Lady. They arrived, exhausted and jubilant, at Fatima on May 12, 1967, vigil of the Golden Jubilee of the Shrine. On May 24, 1977, Father Tom was awarded an honorary degree of Doctor of Fine Arts from Providence College, and four months later, on September 3, 1977, Our Lady called her white-robed crusader to heaven.

[This is a reproduction of a pamphlet published an anonymous lay Dominican.  We've attempted to find the original author, but could not, and have obtained permission from the lay Dominicans of the Eastern Province to go ahead an reproduce it.  If you know the author, please let us know so as to give proper credit.]

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