On the feast day of Our Lady of Fatima, Washington Archbishop Wilton Gregory celebrated an All Schools Mass for the 26,000 students and 2,000 teachers from the 93 Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Washington. The Mass was livestreamed from the Archdiocesan Pastoral Center’s St. Ursula Chapel in Hyattsville, Maryland.

The Mass, which was the archdiocese's first All Schools Mass, was a way for the greater Catholic school community to gather in prayer at the end of the school year amid the distance learning measures in place during the coronavirus pandemic.

“We are so very pleased to have the opportunity to worship together as an entire community of Catholic schools,” said Bill Ryan, secretary of Catholic schools for the Archdiocese of Washington.

The feast day commemorates the Marian apparitions of Our Lady of Fatima to three shepherd children from May 13, 1917 to Oct. 13, 1917. The Blessed Virgin urged the children to pray the rosary for peace and for the salvation of souls, and to build a chapel in her honor, which is now the Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary in Fatima, Portugal.

In his homily during the All Schools Mass, Archbishop Gregory said young saints from the past show how young people today can seek Christ and lead others to Him. (CS photo/Andrew Biraj)

 “My young friends, today’s feast day all began with youngsters, just about your age,” Archbishop Gregory said. “The Mother of God chose to visit three young Portuguese shepherd kids and that encounter launched the entire reason that today we honor Mary as Our Lady of Fatima.”

Archbishop Gregory spoke to how devotion to Our Lady of Fatima, which began with the children, is just one example of how, “young saints inspire us,” he said.

“There are a few other modern examples even beyond Saints Francisco and Jacinta from Fatima,” he said.

The archbishop shared two stories of young men who lived holy lives from a young age. The Vatican approved venerable Carlo Acutis, an Italian teenager who died at the age of 15 in 2006 from leukemia, for beatification this past February. Even as a young boy, Acutis was skilled with using computers.

“He (Acutis) did the very same things that you do with your computers,” Archbishop Gregory said. “But he also used that modern technology to help to deepen his love for Jesus Christ.”

Servant of God Matteo Farina was a young boy from Brindisi, Italy who suffered from cancer at the age of 13 until he died in 2009 at the age of 19.

“He was a musician who played several instruments, and was also a computer geek and an excellent student,” Archbishop Gregory said. “Matteo furthermore had a passionate love for the poor in the African country of Mozambique.”

 The archbishop said that it is often kids who point adults in the right direction, “by their own good examples.”

“You have been home now for almost two months, trying to learn in a home environment and to continue to grow in your faith,” Archbishop Gregory said to the students watching the Mass via livestream. “I hope you have also given some good examples to the adults in your home.”

He added that Jesus was once a child himself, and was “like kids everywhere.”

“Mary and Jesus want our youngsters to become more like the Christ Child every day,” Archbishop Gregory said. “You are also called to become saints, even now as you are still school-aged young people, just like Francisco, Jacinta, Carlo and Matteo, the grace of the Holy Spirit can work wonders in and through you.”

“Our Lady of Fatima chose to visit those three youngsters, and she asked them to help the adults in their world to pray the rosary more fervently for world peace. She also asks today’s youngsters to help all of us to grow in our love for her Son,” the archbishop said.

Archbishop Gregory celebrates the May 13 All Schools Mass. Concelebrating the Mass at right is Father Conrad Murphy, the archbishop's priest secretary. (CS photo/Andrew Biraj)

The idea for the All Schools Mass came from Dr. Christina Mendez Hall, the assistant superintendent for Catholic identity and accreditation at the Catholic Schools Office of the Archdiocese of Washington, who both proposed and organized the Mass, as well as served as the lector.

Kelly Branaman, associate superintendent for school operations and strategic planning, shared that she appreciated how the theme of the school year, #ADWfamily, has taken on a new dimension during the pandemic.

“I believe that hashtag carries an entirely different meaning for us as a community now than it did at the beginning of the year,” she said. “I am so inspired by the way our educators and parents have partnered together to make distance learning in our schools so incredibly successful.”

The Mass can be viewed on the Archdiocese of Washington’s YouTube channel.