I was blessed to be at Fatima for the 100th anniversary in June. It was beautiful and overwhelming to attend the canonization of two of the three Fatima children, Jacinta and Francisco; to see Pope Francis’ arrival, the people’s love for him, and his reverence for Our Lady; and most of all, to join him and nearly one million brothers- and sisters-in-Christ in praying the rosary the night before. The universality of the Church was palpable as I looked out at this massive, international crowd that had formed a candlelight procession for Our Lady in this small town.

Back at the Gaming campus just a few days later, I was invited by my students to join them for the Rosary they had begun saying together each night. We filled just a few pews at the front of the Kartause church, with the rows of small, lit candles right in front of us. We started with the sign of the cross, said our intentions, and began the Rosary.

It was only after a couple of decades that the comparison with Fatima clicked. What was this, after that? Just a handful of people. Just a regular church. Just some tiny votive lights. But as one of our Chinese students finished the second mystery, an American missionary named the third, and a Slovakian led it, the universality was no less tangible. Mary’s motherhood for the Church felt no less real. And the New Evangelization was no less active, and was even more intentional and personal.

Only a couple weeks later, we said many sad and tearful good-byes as our students began their trips back home to Kosovo, China, Ukraine, Lithuania, etc. It was hard to imagine a group having studied together, prayed together, eaten together, played frisbee together, gone on hikes and trips to Rome and Assisi together – that having grown so close, we would spread so far.

Yet we remain connected and united in Christ: through the Church and the sacraments; through Mary and the saints; through prayer, especially the Rosary; and through our common mission in the New Evangelization. It has been a joy-filled and awe-inspiring gift this year to help my students grow in that rooted-ness (LCI’s theme this year was “Rooted in Christ), to grow alongside them and the rest of the LCI team, and to pray for each other as we continue and spread that mission.

Our Lady of Fatima and Star of the New Evangelization – pray for us!