Oasis of serenity, spirituality in Hamilton Township

Published 12:00 am Monday, October 6, 2003

HAMILTON TOWNSHIP - Traffic on County Road 1A (Old U.S. 52) in Hamilton Township is usually heavy these days.

Heavy trucks make frequent trips in and out of the Dow Chemical plant and just a short distance away, at the new Duke Energy facility. New homes are sprouting up along the Ohio River banks.

Among these sources of activity is an oasis of serenity and spirituality. The Our Lady of Fatima Shrine draws the curious and the Christ-seeking.

Email newsletter signup

"Its nice out here," Don Henson said. The Mansfield resident came to southern Ohio to visit his father, who lives in

Portsmouth. He had heard of the shrine and came to see what it looked like.

Henson said he is fascinated by the story of the Fatima prophecies, and wanted to come and visit. "I've been trying to get my kid brother interested in religion, but he's only 10, and so far he isn't," Henson said.

Shrine overseer Larry Holtzapfel said the Our Lady of Fatima was built by local businessmen in the 1950s in an effort to draw people to Christ and to the Catholic faith. They were inspired by the 1917 account of how the Virgin Mary appeared three times to three children in Fatima, Portugal.

During her visits, the Virgin Mary confided a three-part secret to the children: the first part of the secret was a horrifying vision of hell, the second part prophesied the outbreak of World War II and contained the Mother of God's solemn request for the Consecration of Russia as a condition of

world peace. The last part of the secret (often called the "Third Secret") has not yet been made public, but was written down by Lucy Dos Santos, the last living Fatima seer, in 1944 and has been in the possession of the Holy Seer since 1957. Henson said it was this secret that drew him to visit the shrine.

Holtzapfel said when the shrine was first built that corridor along U.S. 52, as it was then, was a more tranquil place, and traffic moved at a slower pace.

"It was an isolated place, really," Holtzapfel said. "These days, with the growth there, you're by it before you know its there."

The Ironton Catholic Community has a Rosary Service there at 13th of every month, weather permitting. Often children at the Catholic schools will have a May Crowning, to honor the Virgin Mary. And Holtzapfel said it is open year round for personal meditation.

"It's peaceful. You can go and sit, read the Bible, whatever. It's just so peaceful."