Couple Shares Knowledge of Fatima
A rainy afternoon in the south of Portugal in 1996 sparked Ave Maria residents Jim and Jean Dudek with an absorbing fascination with Fatima, the site famous for Marian visions seen by three Portugese children in 1917. Fatima has been drawing Catholic pilgrims for almost 100 years.
Published on Monday, 05 October 2009 18:22
Since that rainy day when they rented a car to make their first visit, the Dudeks have been back 17 times, which includes 11 pilgrimages they have led themselves.
"Fatima is our number one love, next to each other," Mrs. Dudek said recently in discussing the development of the couple's deep attachment to Fatima.
The Dudeks will be sharing their knowledge and familiarity with Fatima with the Ave Maria community in a number of ways this fall and winter. Jim and Jean will speak in the academic building lecture hall the evening of Oct. 13 on The Story and Message of Our Lady of Fatima. They have also arranged a visit to Ave Maria from Dec. 7-10 by the bishop emeritus for Leiria/Fatima, Bishop Serafim de Sousa Ferreira e Silva, who led the diocese in which Fatima is located from 1993-2006. Bishop Serafim will celebrate mass at the Oratory on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception Dec. 8. (At right, the Dudeks with Bishop Serafim in the rectory at Fatima earlier this year.)
After their first visit, the Dudeks did not make any immediate plans to return to the Portugese village where Our Lady is believed to have appeared to three peasant children in 1917. But while vacationing in Spain a year later, they found themselves yearning to return. Changing their travel plans, they boarded a train and headed back to Fatima. And they kept going back.
"In 2000," Mr. Dudek said, "we thought we've been so blessed and fortunate to encounter so may people there, can we put together a pilgrimage?"
Twenty-seven people from the area around their home in the Washington, D.C., area went with them that year, and Mr. Dudek said the couple has led about 300 people to Fatima and the surrounding area since then. "The message of Our Lady at Fatima was peace, and we call our group Pilgrims for Peace," Mr. Dudek said. (At left, a group of pilgrims outside the Cathedral in Sameiro, Portugal, the first cathedral in the world built to honor the Immaculate Conception.)
The highlight of all their trips was in 2002 when, Mr. Dudek said, they were able to see Sr. Lucia, one of the three seers, on her 95th birthday. While attending a Mass celebrated at by Bishop Serafim at the convent where Sr. Lucia lived, the bishop took the unusual step of opening the grate behind which the nuns were assembled so that other people at the Mass could see Sr. Lucia.
"It was unbelievable," the Dudeks said.
Jean and Jim divide their time between Ave Maria and the home they maintain in Vienna, VA. Like a number of other Ave Maria residents, they did not intend originally to buy property in Florida but were moved to do so after visiting the town.
"Our son lives in Naples," Mr. Dudek said, "so we were familiar with Ave Maria. We visited in April, 2008, went to Mass and were struck by the reverence of the university students and the oratory, which is unique in all the world."
Mr. Dudek said that he first "told a sales guy he was wasting his time, but a week later we had bought a house."
The Dudeks continue with leading their entirely non-profit pilgrimages to Fatima, including their most recent in February. They say they would love to organize one for residents of Ave Maria and southwest Florida if enough people want to go. Anyone interested should get in touch with them at
. (Right, a group of pilgrims during a 2006 visit.)