All year round, ten members of America Needs Fatima travel from sea to shining sea bringing the message of Our Lady of Fatima to American homes. Each custodian carries a large statue of the Blessed Mother, and an audiovisual presentation of the Fatima story and message.
Crusade Magazine interviewed Mr. José Walter Ferraz, a father of seven and dedicated Fatima Custodian who shares with us his life as the “Queen’s Chauffeur,” the title he proudly claims.
Crusade Magazine: How long have you been working as a Fatima Custodian?
Mr. José Walter Ferraz: I have been escorting the statue of Our Lady of Fatima and taking her message to homes across America for six years; covering about 250,000 miles and making a total of approximately three thousand visits.
Crusade Magazine: You do this full time?
Mr. Ferraz: Yes. Many people ask me at the visits if this is my job. I say that it is not only my job but I also consider it a calling. The work is hard on my family because I am away for several days at a time. But both my wife and I wanted to do this for Our Lady. We wanted to help her save souls. I knew that if I took care of spreading her message, she would take care of our family.
After a year and a half of doing this, I had the rare opportunity to go to Fatima, Portugal with my wife, thanks to a generous soul. We wanted to ask Our Lady for a sign that we should continue on this path. We were kneeling amidst the many thousand pilgrims when a man tapped me on the shoulder and asked, “Do you want to carry the statue?” I couldn’t believe it. He had singled me out of that multitude asking if I wanted the honor of carrying the statue of Our Lady of Fatima in the candlelight procession. My wife began to cry. She explained to the man what I did back in the States and that she was at Fatima asking Our Lady for a sign whether I should continue carrying her statue to homes in America. The man looked at her and said, “You asked. Our Lady answered. You must continue doing what you are doing.”
Crusade Magazine: Can you describe for us a typical Fatima visit?
Mr. Ferraz: Every appointment for a Fatima visit is made and coordinated from our Kansas office. I have visited the following states: Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, North Carolina, Minnesota, Florida and Puerto Rico. When I arrive, people have already prepared a special table or console for the statue. The first thing I do is ask the owners of the house to place the golden crown on the statue's head, symbolic of inviting the Blessed Mother to be the queen of their household. People love this gesture. Many ladies comment that when they were young, they always dreamed of crowning Our Lady but never had the opportunity. After this, we say a Rosary. Following the Rosary, I give a small talk and show the slide presentation of the story and message of Fatima. We close with a questions-and-answers session, usually followed by cake and coffee provided by the family.
Crusade Magazine: How would you describe the reaction of people to the Fatima visits?
Mr. Ferraz: Generally, people accept the visit with open hearts. The reactions are many and varied. Some are so deeply touched that they make a full conversion, change their lives, and commit themselves anew in their Faith. Others are trying to live good lives but are discouraged by what they see all around them. These acquire new hope and zest from the Fatima presentations. You cannot imagine how Our Lady touches souls from all walks of life. I have been in every possible type of home in America, rich, middle and poor, including a variety of ethnic groups. I have visited Spanish, French, Philippino, English, Korean homes and many more. Her Grace touches all. It is amazing—and this is why I like to say that all I do is drive Our Lady around. I drive her, and she gives the graces.
In one Korean home, I was impressed by their devotion. The silence, the respect and the devotion were moving. They knelt motionless before the statue and recited the full Rosary and other prayers.
Once in a while I do come across a few individuals who are closed to the message. I even had a man threaten me once. But most people are very open and more than eager to listen.
Crusade Magazine: Can you share a few stories with us?
Mr. Ferraz: Gladly. I will begin by relating a few experiences with people who were so touched by Our Lady that they changed their lives.
About a month ago I visited a house in Long Island. As I was leaving, a lady approached me.
“I met you six years ago,” she said.
“I’m sorry, Ma’am,” I retorted, “I meet so many people that I don’t seem to recall.”
“Yes, you brought the Fatima statue to my home. At that time, my family was a mess. My children were involved in drugs, my daughters were going down the wrong path, and so on. I only accepted to have a Fatima visit because I had built on to my house and it seemed a good opportunity to show off the addition. But when Our Lady came, I was surprised at how moved I felt.
“After you left, my husband and I decided to change our lives and to try to help our children as well. To date, only one child is still astray. All the others have returned. And I want to tell you that this prayer group you see here began with your visit. After that visit, we started to say the Rosary everyday, as well as meeting with this group of thirty to forty people every week to say the Rosary.”
Now, cases like this are very common. It happens all the time.
Another time a lady approached me at a visit in New Jersey and said, “Do you remember me?” I had to apologize again. She went on, “I just want to let you know that this prayer group you see here exists because of your visit four years ago. After the statue of Our Lady came to my home, my friends and I decided to meet every Wednesday (about thirty of us) to say the Rosary as the Blessed Mother asked. We are very happy because after persevering at it for three and a half years, five of our husbands are coming too. And one of the intentions of our Rosary is for your family and your apostolate.”
At another visit in Philadelphia there were many people and children. At a certain point, one of the mothers stood up and asked about my wife by name. I was surprised but she said, “Some time ago you visited my home, and at that time your wife was expecting a baby, and was going to need an operation. We prayed for her then, but I want you to know that, since then, my family and I have prayed for her and for the success of your work every day in our Rosary. We now say the Rosary not only once a week, but every day, and my children have learned to pray it because of your visit to us.”
Another case that really impressed me was that of a gentleman in Pennsylvania. Last year I received a Christmas card from him. He thanked me for the visit and then added, “This day is the happiest of my life. I have been married for seventeen years but my wife has been out of the Church for fourteen of those. For the past ten years I have gone to Mass and Holy Communion every day asking for her conversion. We never talked about it. I just prayed. Then you brought the Blessed Mother and the Fatima presentation to our home.
“The next day, as I prepared to leave for Mass in the morning, I noticed she was dressed and ready. ‘I am coming to Church with you,’ she said. I was shocked but said nothing. On the second day, she came again, and then wanted to talk about it. On the third day she wanted to come again and made a general Confession. For the past six months she has been coming with me to Mass and Holy Communion as well as saying three Rosaries every day. And now, whereas before I always went to Sunday Mass with only my children, we now attend as a family.”
Crusade Magazine: A true miracle.
Mr. Ferraz: Yes, a true miracle. But, there are many other such cases.
Crusade Magazine: Is there a case that stands out in your mind?
Mr. Ferraz: Yes. It was the case of a man who approached me at a visit in New Jersey on September 14, 2001, three days after 9/11. I made several visits in that area and the atmosphere in every home was that of deep mourning. No one spoke; I only heard weeping. From one of the homes, I could see the smoke still rising from Ground Zero.
After the presentation at this home, I asked if anyone had any questions. A thirty-five year old man stood up and said, “I don’t have a question but I would like to witness to something. Two-an-a half years ago, you were at my aunt’s house. I only went to please my aunt. I was not a good Catholic then. But after the audiovisual presentation, I was so struck by the message of Fatima that I decided to change my life. I went home and began to use this little booklet you gave me (at this, he pulled it out of his pocket) I am the Lady of the Rosary, which teaches you how to say the Rosary. I have used it every day since. That week I made a full Confession, began to say the Rosary every day, and taught it to my two daughters. I also began making a real effort to stop offending God.
Three days ago, I was on the 89th floor of the second building. When the first plane hit, I ran down the stairs, but when I came to the eighth floor, all the doors were shut. I realized I was a dead man. I could hear people screaming for help as they burned to death, and then no longer screamed. I saw a woman who had been decapitated. And now I knew it was my turn. I knelt on the floor, pulled my Rosary out of my pocket and began to say it aloud. A few moments later, a few firemen cranked open the doors and I made it to the street. Several of my co-workers with whom I had worked for ten years never made it home. I owe it to Our Lady that I am here to see my daughters grow. I came today to thank her for saving my life so I can witness to her goodness.”
Crusade Magazine: Did you ever visit Ground Zero with the statue?
Mr. Ferraz: I did take the statue of Our Lady to Ground Zero. The Fire Chief of Hoboken, New Jersey traveled from Cape May only to escort the statue to the spot. He and the others asked Our Lady’s blessing for Ground Zero.
Crusade Magazine: Have you seen any physical cures related to these visits?
Mr. Ferraz: Yes. I will tell you about one such case that really moved me. About five and a half years ago, I had an appointment at the home of a doctor in Florida. As I arrived, I saw an ambulance. I thought the visit was canceled. On inquiry, the lady of the house explained that the ambulance was bringing her husband who had had a stroke a year and a half before. He was in a nursing facility but she wanted him to be present as the head of the family at the visit of Our Lady’s statue. It was a heart-rending sight because the gentleman could neither move nor speak. Still, I had the strong impression that his mind was clear and that he was following every gesture and every word.
At the end of the presentation, the lady approached me asking if I could touch the statue to her husband. As I held the statue before him, the poor man made a tremendous effort to touch her but couldn’t. Taking both of his arms, his wife entwined them around the statue. At this, the man began to cry. He hugged the statue for a long time as the room went silent.
After that, I left.
Two years later, I had a visit in New Jersey. As I knocked on the door, no one answered. I called the number and woke up the owner who was startled as well as apologetic because he had mistaken the date. He had wanted the visit for his twenty-fifth wedding anniversary which was the coming Saturday, and this was Monday. He had made the scheduling mistake because he had done it hastily on an airplane returning from Florida.
As we talked, I realized he knew nothing about America Needs Fatima. I asked him if he would mind telling me how he came across us. He said, “Oh, in a very peculiar way. I was visiting my uncle and aunt in Florida. My uncle had had a stroke. After dinner, my uncle said, ‘Lets say the Rosary.’ I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I knew he was Catholic but I also knew he was not a Rosary-saying-type of Catholic. He saw my surprise and said, ‘you can say the Rosary with us if you want. If not, just sit with us until we finish, but in my house, even if the President of the United States is visiting, we say the Rosary after dinner. I’ll explain later.’
“I said it with them, and after we finished, he told me how his stroke had deprived him of movement and speech for a year and a half. He explained that a man had visited his home with a statue of Our Lady of Fatima and, after that, he had begun to recover, and here he was today. In thanksgiving, he promised Our Lady, that he would always gather those in his household to say a Rosary every day after dinner.”
I smiled and said, “Amazing. I was the one at your uncle’s house with the statue of Our Lady.” For me, it felt like a smile from the Blessed Mother.
Crusade Magazine: You say that many people are encouraged and “fired-up” by the Fatima message. Can you share anything with us?
Mr. Ferraz: I will tell you of an interesting case. At one visit, I noticed a man who was very serious. He was so serious that I thought he didn’t like what he was seeing and hearing. After the presentation, he approached me and said, “You know, today is one of the happiest days of my life. This is because not only did I have the opportunity to come and pray the Rosary, (I pray it everyday with my wife and son) but to meet your organization. We have been meeting weekly with our group for seven years for Bible Study. Still, I was to a point where I did not know what else to do. Just yesterday, as I learned of the Lawrence vs. Texas decision by the Supreme Court for the protection of homosexuality, I was saying to myself, ‘Until when will God allow this? Has God forsaken us?’ Today, as I heard your talk, I saw the solution. You gave me something I much needed—hope, and the certainty of victory.”
Next week I saw him at his sister’s house full of new zest and wanting to gather people to study, pray and act.
Like him, there are many cases of people who are discouraged, betrayed by the modern world, and who obtain new hope. I can see that it is a dual action of Our Lady’s grace and the audiovisual we present.
Crusade Magazine: Do you ever take the statue to the sick?
Mr. Ferraz: I have done so at the special request of some people, with moving results. Once, I took it to a good friend who was dying and in much spiritual distress. At the sight of her, he was enormously relieved and kept repeating, “She came, she came. She did not abandon me.” He died much consoled. After this, I made the resolution to take the statue to the sick whenever asked and whenever possible.
Another time a lady begged me to bring the statue to her twenty-one year old son at the hospital who was in critical condition both physically and spiritually. Three days later I brought the statue to him, he asked to go to Confession and died soon after. That same day, I took the statue to fifteen other patients. Though only a representation of our Blessed Mother, the sight of her statue truly moves people.
Crusade Magazine: Do you visit schools?
Mr. Ferraz: Yes and those visits are very moving for me. For example, I spent four hours at a school in Philadelphia. The children, ages eleven to fourteen, had a flood of questions. I was amazed at how “hungry” they were for answers about their Faith. At the same time, I was saddened because many of the questions revealed appalling ignorance.
After one such visit, a good, zealous teacher sent me a pile of letters from the children. I can assure you that if you read them you would cry. They were not only deeply grateful for the visit of Our Lady to their school but they wanted to do something for her. So, they made a resolution for the summer. They each promised to distributing a hundred Fatima flyers. Some of them had already distributed more than that.
Crusade Magazine: At the Fatima visits, do people ask questions?
Mr. Ferraz: Again, it varies. At some houses people have only a few questions, and others have many. The best questions usually come from younger people. These are people forty and under who grew up with much more than their parents ever had, but who are looking for more to pass on to their children. They are looking for God. And, many times, they find many of those answers at a Fatima visit.
Once, I was at a beautiful house on the shore of Long Island. There were about eighty people. There was a group of about thirty people, 25 years and under who sat right in front. Many of the questions were coming from this group. After the presentation, a girl in her early twenties approached me with a barrage of questions. Some of them were quite personal. Noticing I was a bit embarrassed, she said, “I don’t mean to embarrass you, but I want to know the truth. For about ten months now I have been looking for the truth. I went into a church, made a Confession and then asked the priest. He gave me some answers. At first, I was satisfied. But two or three weeks later I realized that wasn’t everything. I went to another church, and then another, and then another. It was always the same. You see, if I go to a restaurant and ask for a glass of orange juice, I want 100% orange juice. I don’t want 10% orange juice and 90% water; or 50% orange juice and 50% water; or 90% orange juice and 10% water. I want 100% orange juice. If you are not ready to give me 100%, you need not answer me.”
At this particular house, people wanted to talk so much that they invited me back another day. There was a large group of very “hungry” people, people who wanted to know the truth and how to lead their lives in it. We talked until 3:30am.
Crusade Magazine: Do priests attend some of the presentations?
Mr. Ferraz: Yes, many times. When a priest is present, before I start, I always ask him to add anything he wishes. I also beg him to correct me if I am wrong. One time, I even had a bishop present. Several priests at different visits have asked to speak after the presentation and ended by delivering entire sermons manifesting not only their approval but also their enthusiasm for everything that was shown and said.
Once, I took the statue to Saint Augustine, the place where the first Mass was celebrated on American soil. An elderly priest who was with us gave a little talk and said some words I will never forget. He said, “Our Lady did not come to earth to make us feel good. She came to deliver a message to us. She came to help save our souls with her message. Now, a great problem is that the majority of Catholics do not know her message. Many times we don’t do what Our Lady asked because we don’t know the message.” That was very encouraging to me because at our visits, there is a threefold action: we bring the statue, which has a very beneficial effect on everyone; we pray the Rosary, which is what Our Lady asked; and then we show our audiovisual, which informs the public about Our Lady’s requests.
Crusade Magazine: What is the average attendance at the Fatima visits?
Mr. Ferraz: I have had anywhere from a single person to one hundred fifty.
Crusade Magazine: Do you ever have a bad day? I mean, one of those days where everything goes wrong?
Mr. Ferraz: Oooooh, yes. I will tell you of one such day. One morning, it began with my comb breaking. Then, two of the tires blew simultaneously on my car. After changing them, the car wouldn’t start. The day before there was nothing wrong, but this day nothing sparked. Then, someone stole my projection screen. One store didn’t have it, so they sent me to a store two hours away. When I arrived there, they told me they made a mistake; they didn’t have it either. In the end, I bought a screen in enough time for the visit, but I was exhausted.
As I walked into the house, I found about fourteen people. They were polite but cold. So, it was one of those visits I couldn’t wait to finish, and only thought of bed.
As I was leaving, a woman was waiting for me at the door. “Thank you,” she said emphatically, “Thank you very much,” and began to cry. “You have changed my life.” I protested, “No, Ma’am, it was Our Lady who did it, remember I said I’m only her Chauffeur.” She went on. “For the past ten years I haven’t gone to Mass or received Communion. All I have done is enjoy my life. But you have changed all that. Tomorrow I will go to Confession and begin anew.” I said, “Ma’am, I only don’t give you a big hug because I have the statue in my arms. If you only knew the day I’ve had! Your words have made it all worthwhile. You made my day.”
It is for such that I continue to drive Our Queen around the country.
DAILY QUOTE for July 12, 2020
SAINT OF THE DAY
St. John Gualbert
John shared with me the story of his conversion from Protestantism: about fourteen years ago he was visiting one of the 21 Spanish missions in California