Twenty Years of Fatima Visits: Winning America for Mary Most Holy
By Ben Broussard
2015 marks an important milestone for America Needs Fatima. For twenty years, Fatima Custodians have crisscrossed the nation. Men consecrated to the Mother of God have brought the Pilgrim Statue of Our Lady of Fatima to tens of thousands of homes.
These Fatima Custodians now mark two decades of adventures while spreading the Fatima message. Giving up the comforts of modern life, these tireless warriors have made it their mission to gain the heart and soul of America for the Mother of God. We now look back on the wonders the Mother of God has done.
The Fatima home visits owe their existence to the example and encouragement of one man: Prof. Plinio Correa de Oliveira. His pen, word and example inspired the men of the American TFP with a deep love for the Blessed Mother, the Holy Eucharist and the Papacy. Dr. Plinio constantly spoke, wrote and lived by example the Fatima message. His passing shortly after the visits began came as an enormous loss. It also served as an inspiration to work ceaselessly to spread the Fatima message in America. The custodians continually find inspiration in his witness as a man of Catholic faith and action.
The early days were filled with unanswered questions. What would be the reaction of Americans to the Fatima message? How would the custodians be received? What challenges would they face while on the road?
The answers were not long in coming. In the summer of 1995, starting slowly with a single team of volunteers, the Fatima Custodians expended all their efforts in proclaiming the Fatima message. The families visited in the northeast United States offered a warm reception. Young and old, recent immigrants or longstanding families, men and women from all walks of life welcomed Our Lady into their homes. Hundreds of promises to pray the daily rosary along with outpourings of support soon became common. More teams were formed to bring Our Lady to homes in the Midwest and the South.
With the growth of the visits, in 1996 a central office in Kansas began to coordinate all the preparations. A dedicated team of staff and volunteers started to mail postcards, make phone calls, organize prayer request to be sent to Fatima and log countless hours promoting the Home Visitation Program. Since the beginning, these schedulers have worked hard to encourage at least thirteen people at each visit, in honor of the day Our Lady appeared to the three shepherds. The work of the central office allowed each team to be more mobile. This left more time to focus on perfecting each presentation.
Challenges and Rewards
With the growth of the visits, Fatima Custodians began to put in long hours behind the wheel. Getting lost, running low on fuel, vehicles breaking down and traffic delays became part of the day-to-day sacrifice of each custodian.
But even here, Our Lady has never failed to provide. Generous donations over the years have ensured efficient vehicles, or “chariots for the Queen.” The advent of the GPS and cell phones with traffic updates have aided greatly in reaching the visits on time. Since the visits began in 1995, it has not been uncommon for custodians to travel more than 100 miles a day to spread the Fatima message.
On numerous occasions, Fatima Custodians have traveled during severe weather. While Mr. Michael Chad Shibler gave a presentation in Michigan, a tornado passed near the house. Everyone quickly moved to the basement, with the storm raging above as all prayed the rosary. Upon leaving, the devastation the tornado left in its wake was apparent, but so was the fact that Our Lady kept everyone safe.
Facing a storm of a far different nature, in December 1999 a Fatima Custodian brought the statue of Our Lady to the home of Elian Gonzales near Miami, Florida. On seeing the statue, the young boy remarked that she was the Lady who had saved him from the waters. A photo of Elian clutching a small statue of Our Lady circulated even after he was taken from his home by federal agents and forced to return to communist Cuba.
The twenty-first century brought new challenges. A distinct change in the country took hold after the September 11 attacks in 2001. One consequence of the attacks on the World Trade Center was that they highlighted the relevance of the Fatima message. Our Lady’s pleas for repentance and conversion remain unanswered. The attacks served as a tragic wake-up call for many Americans to return to Our Lady and the Church. Before this, the custodians would usually have to spend considerable time convincing people of the coming chastisement. After 9/11, things started to change.
The week after the devastating event, Fatima Custodian José Ferraz visited a home in New Jersey. A gentleman there approached him to tell him a story. After attending a Fatima visit of his a few years before, this man made the decision to return to the sacraments and began praying the daily rosary. The day the planes hit he was inside the World Trade Center. He climbed down the stairwell, but when he reached the tenth floor, the fire doors blocked his way. Tempted to panic, he remembered the rosary in his pocket. Taking it out, the man began praying out loud. Moments later, firemen broke down the doors and within minutes he was out on the street. He stood awestruck as the towers crumbled before his eyes, realizing Our Lady had saved his life through the rosary.
On several occasions, custodians have brought Our Lady to those on their deathbeds. One poignant moment came when Dr. Jose Maria Alcasid brought the statue to an elderly Samoan lady on the west coast of Oahu. Family members crowded round as they placed the hands of the dying woman on the statue. Later, several people remarked it was as if she were clinging to Our Lady. Mere hours afterward, the woman surrendered her soul to God.
Our Lady Never Outdone in Generosity
The smile of the Queen of Heaven has shone clearly in the Christian charity extended to Fatima Custodians over the years.
Mr. Joseph Ferrara was traveling in California when his van broke down. Calling the visit he had scheduled for the evening, it happened his host was a mechanic. The gentleman generously lent a spare family car to him for the other visits he had that weekend, and by Monday his van was up and running.
Years of experience show how Our Lady sees to every need. Mr. Michael Chad Shibler arrived at a small pizzeria in Texas late on a Friday night after closing time. Talking with the owner and explaining his work of bringing the Fatima statue to homes, the man was touched. He spent the next several hours conversing about Our Lady and the Catholic Faith over hot pizza, satisfying both body and soul.
Finally, Our Lady’s great care can be seen in how far the Fatima home visits have spread. In July 2010, Mr. Richard Lyon became the first custodian to bring the Pilgrim Virgin Statue to Alaska. Dozens of families in “The Last Frontier” warmly welcomed Our Lady into their homes. With this first visit to Alaska, Fatima Custodians had officially brought Our Lady to all fifty states, along with Puerto Rico, Guam, Saipan and the District of Columbia.
By Their Fruits You Will Know Them
With twenty years of visits, the results speak for themselves.
Stories from the road abound. For a Fatima Custodian, there is no greater reward than to witness people opening their hearts and minds to Our Lady’s invitation to heed and follow her message. Our Lady touches each person in a unique way. This touch is silent, profound and transforming. What follows is a small glimpse into the incredible fruits of two decades of Fatima visits.
A Jewish lady had just moved and received a Fatima postcard in the name of the previous owner announcing that the statue would be visiting the area. She thought, “This must be a sign for me. I will call them.” She called and made an appointment for a Fatima visit. She invited her friends, many of whom were also Jewish. On the day of the visit they were all very respectful, asking several questions about the message, and even trying their best to follow the rosary.
There was the case of two sisters, aged eighty-five and eighty-seven respectively, who received the statue in their home. Before beginning the rosary, one of them approached the custodian and said, “You know, today is the first time that my sister and I are saying a rosary. I have cancer, but I am not worthy of asking Our Lady to cure me. What I will ask is that she grant me the strength to continue and to do what she wishes of me.”
The innocence of children called to admire the sublime love of Our Lady’s Immaculate Heart never fails to inspire. At a home in Michigan, Mr. Michael Chad Shibler met Sydney Grace, a very young girl who is cross-eyed due to poor muscle tone in her eyes. “It is through Sydney’s suffering that I understand how children’s innocent sacrifice is pleasing to God,” said her grandmother. “Every time Sydney sees the ANF calendar with Our Lady’s picture she gives it a kiss.” Just before leaving, the little girl lovingly venerated the pilgrim statue of Our Lady of Fatima.
Families living the Fatima message are shining beacons of light in today’s dark world. Mr. Matthew Shibler visited the Limón family in Austin, Texas. Their home was crowded with over sixty-five relatives. Weeks later, Johnny Limón called to say they had started the Five First Saturdays’ devotion at their home, inviting relatives to come and fulfill Our Lady’s request as a family. Johnny remarked, “The devotion gives us a reason to get together and the Blessed Virgin plays a big part in keeping us in the Faith.”
Going After the Lost Sheep
Our Lord tells us in the Gospel, “There shall be joy before the angels of God upon one sinner who returns.” (Luke 15:10)
As Mr. Byron Whitcraft left a home in Louisiana, the man of the house was at the door holding back his emotions. Looking straight into the custodian’s eyes, he said, “Your visit tonight changed my life.”
Letters giving testimony of the graces from the visits are now plentiful. A woman in Arkansas wrote, “Thank you for coming to our home with the Fatima statue. One of my neighbors I invited made the decision to come back to confession. He hadn’t been in years and years.”
In Maryland, Mr. Kenneth Murphy visited the Ejimkonye family. They sat with rapt attention as he explained the Miracle of the Sun. It was only afterward that he learned that they were Baptists. After asking questions and learning about devotion to Our Lady, the family prayed the rosary for the first time. Months later they called to say they continue the daily rosary and are receiving catechetical instruction.
After visiting a home in San Francisco, Mr. Nicholas Mak received a letter from the hostess of the visit telling how she was extremely moved. She made the decision that day to return to the Church, and approached the sacrament of confession for the first time in fifty years. She concluded declaring her gratitude, “I feel so blessed she helped me find my way.”
Returning America to Order
Since the visits began, everywhere the Fatima Custodians went people talked about the problems in society: struggling families; high unemployment; crushing debts; disregard for God’s laws; a brutal pace of life with rushed schedules and no time to stop and think.
The beginning of 2013 finally brought a solution. The first copies of Return to Order (see www.ReturnToOrder.org for more information) went out with the Fatima teams. What would be the reaction? Would those at the visits accept the new book? Or would the message fall flat, the prospective readers indifferent and disinterested?
With answers to these questions uncertain, the custodians confidently placed this new campaign under Our Lady’s protection. And the best of all mothers did not fail to shower her maternal blessings on the new undertaking.
In homes across the country, souls hungry for a Catholic solution to today’s crisis quickly grasped the book’s importance. Thousands of copies were sold within a short time. Concepts covered within the pages of Return to Order had an immediate appeal in all parts of the country. Timeless ideas such as the rule of honor, embracing the cross and the quest for the sublime attracted great numbers of Americans.
And the results speak for themselves. As of this writing, thousands of copies of Return to Order have been sold by Fatima custodians. Generous hosts have purchased multiple copies to give to family and friends. Most importantly, the dream of how great America will be with a return to the principles of Christian civilization is now being spread in homes across the land.
Toward the Reign of Mary
Saint Louis de Montfort prophesied about the coming Reign of Mary. His masterpiece, True Devotion to Mary, begins: “It is through the Most Holy Virgin Mary that Jesus Christ has come to the world, and it is also through her that He must reign in the world.” The Reign of Mary will be a great era marked by a worldwide rebirth of the Church and Christian civilization.
This is the future the Fatima Custodians are building with every home they visit. Each day brings them into contact with new souls who will serve as living stones for the foundation of this glorious period to come. The first twenty years have been full of blessings and adventures. Thanking Our Lady of Fatima in advance, we look forward to many more.
One home at a time, one day at a time, the Queen of All Hearts is slowly claiming this great country as her own. With immense hope that Mary the Queen of Heaven and Earth will be acknowledged as the Queen of America, let us confidently proclaim:
“Come, O Lady, do not delay! Attend the promise thou made at Fatima:
‘Finally, my Immaculate Heart will triumph!’”
DAILY QUOTE for July 24, 2021
SAINT OF THE DAY
St. Charbel Makhlouf
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