Lucia de Jesus dos Santos was 10 years old when she said she saw for the first time, on May 13, 1917, a woman whom she later identified as the Blessed Virgin Mary, in the Cova de Iria.
She saw the vision with her cousins Francisco and Jacinta Marto, who were beatified by John Paul II in Fatima, in 2000.
In a pastoral letter dated Oct. 13, 1930, the bishop of Leiria-Fatima, José Alves Correia da Silva, declared the apparitions of Fatima worthy of faith and allowed public devotion. Since then, the shrine has become a center of spirituality and pilgrimage of international scope.
Born in Aljustrel in 1907, Lucia moved to Oporto in 1921, and at 14 was admitted as a boarder in the School of the Sisters of St. Dorothy in Vilar, on the city's outskirts.
On Oct. 24, 1925, she entered the Institute of the Sisters of St. Dorothy and at the same time was admitted as a postulant in the congregation's convent in Tuy, Spain, near the Portuguese border. She made her first vows on Oct. 3, 1928, and her perpetual vows on Oct. 3, 1934, receiving the name Sister Mary of the Sorrowful Mother.
She returned to Portugal in 1946 and two years later entered the Carmelite convent of St. Teresa in Coimbra, where she made her profession as a Discalced Carmelite on May 31, 1949, taking the name Sister Maria Lucia of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart.
She wrote two volumes, one entitled "Memories" and the other "Appeals of the Fatima Message." In her writings, she recounts how the Virgin Mary and Child Jesus appeared to her on other occasions, years after the initial apparitions.
Sister Lucia's mortal remains were taken today to the cathedral of Coimbra, where a funeral ceremony was held, presided over by Bishop Antonio Cleto of Coimbra. Bishop Seraphim Ferreira e Silva of Leiria also participated in the ceremony. According to the Lusa agency, the nun's mortal remains are due to be returned to St. Teresa's Carmelite convent.
In keeping with Sister Lucia's request, within a year her body will be taken to the Fatima shrine, where the mortal remains of Francisco and Jacinta already rest.
Monsignor Luciano Guerra, the rector of the Fatima shrine, said: "God's will has been fulfilled, who, through Mary, told us that Lucia would remain for some time on earth. She played an important part in the apparitions.
"She was the one who led the group; she was the one who spoke with Our Lady. Sister Lucia had a determinant role as witness and messenger of Mary."
At the request of Pope Paul VI, Sister Lucia traveled to Fatima in 1967 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the apparitions. She also returned to Fatima for John Paul II's three pilgrimages to the shrine, in 1982, 1991 and 2000.
Because of Sister Lucia's death, Portuguese Prime Minister Pedro Santana Lopes announced that Tuesday will be a day of national mourning in Portugal.