New Hope for the 
Fatima Apostolate in Canada

We in Canada have much reason to hope that finally the Fatima Apostolate in Canada is about to be given greater impetus and direction — as good news has just reached us that a breakthrough has been achieved in the long-standing divisions of the Blue Army leadership in Canada. The main leaders of the Blue Army in Canada will soon be meeting under Father Leoni, S.J., with the assistance of Father Gruner, to resolve the problem of fragmented Canadian leadership. A national center for promoting the Message of Fatima will certainly be on the agenda.

History of the Problem

To give you some background about the problem that has hampered the Blue Army and the Message of Fatima in Canada, we quote to you from a recent article in Soul magazine written by the International Lay Delegate of the Blue Army, Mr. John Haffert.

“For many years the International Council of the Blue Army has been concerned over the fragmentation of its leadership in Canada. Over the years, as International Lay Delegate I made trips to principal Canadian cities with Msgr. Colgan, first International President, and with Bishop Venancio, Bishop of Fatima and second International President. Each time we spoke to those who had been identified with the Apostolate either from its beginning or in more recent years. Each time we came away with some reassurance that differences would be resolved and that for the triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (promised to us at Fatima) the leaders of this Apostolate would unite.”

“At first we attributed Canadian fragmentation to French-English differences. But as we look back over thirty years of experience, many other (although lesser) factors emerge. And behind it all we have, as Bishop Venancio never failed to point out, the constant efforts of Satan to divide the leadership of Our Lady’s Apostolate because he knows… by the solemn promise made by Our Lady at Fatima and confirmed there by a public miracle… that this Apostolate will bring about the triumph of Her Immaculate Heart in the world… his defeat.”

Meeting in Rome Brings Hope

Some of the participants at the meeting in Rome last January, of the International Council of the Blue Army. On the far left is Father Gruner.

Still the problems persisted and so finally in January 1980 the International Council of the Blue Army decided to put the problem of lack of unity in Canada on their agenda. It was one of the first items to be discussed at the meeting held this year in Rome. Mr. Setz-Degen, the International Secretary, wrote to Father Gruner to invite him to come to Rome to help the International Council resolve this long-standing problem of the Blue Army in Canada. Father Gruner, who had been interested in helping resolve these problems for a long time, gladly accepted this invitation as he realized that a lot of good for the Fatima Apostolate could be accomplished if a unified and dynamic leadership could be found.

“At its meeting in Rome last January, the International Executive Committee of the Blue Army heard testimony from two leaders of the Apostolate from Canada and gave careful consideration to an important letter from Father Peter Leoni, S.J., Spiritual Director and President of the French section of the Apostolate in Montreal. Father Nicholas Gruner, who has been travelling throughout Canada with the Pilgrim Virgin with the permission of local Bishops, gave an overall report of his meetings with various Canadian leaders.”

And the official Soul magazine article quoted above, continues:

“After hearing the evidence, the International officers decided that, with the help of Father Gruner, Father Peter Leoni be given full authority to bring the various factions in Canada together and to prepare a single National Executive Committee in Canada.”

Father Peter Leoni’s amazing story is told in his own book Vatican Spy.1

Father Leoni, S.J.

Father Pietro Leoni, S.J., on the right, with Bishop John Venancio, second Bishop of Fatima and second International President of the Blue Army.

As a young man, Father Leoni decided to study Russian and to become a priest so that he could secretly go into Russia to bring the Eucharistic King to that nation stifled by militant atheism. He was ordained at the Russian College in Rome (known as the Russicum). He went to Russia where, after many wonderful and at the same time harrowing experiences, he was captured by the Communists and condemned to Siberia as a “Vatican spy”. He was in Soviet prisons for ten years.

Father Leoni accepted those years of forced labor as his apostolate. He brought the True Presence of the Hope of the World to the hopeless. And then one day a “miracle” happened. Feeling almost like St. Peter being released by an angel from the prison of Herod, Father Leoni found himself on a plane to the free world ….

Letter Sent

Responding to the will of the international officers of the Blue Army Apostolate, last April 18 Father Leoni sent the following letter to the Blue Army delegates of Ottawa, Montreal and Toronto:

Dear Friends:

I am sending this letter following the request in writing by Canon José Galamba de Oliveira who is the International Vice-President of the Blue Army (on behalf of the International Executive Committee).

United in Rome last January, after discovering that in Canada the Blue Army has two or three so-called “National Centers” without true ties, and also with a certain rivalry amongst themselves, the Committee decided to appoint a mediator to bring about the desired unity. This concerns the Ottawa Center, with Mr. W.G. Stafford as Chairman; the Montreal Center, of which I am the Spiritual Director; and a third Center in Toronto under the direction of Mr. Vince Leonard.

I therefore address with a prayer for all possible good will among us all with an ardent desire to see united all the children of our heavenly Mother who work for her glory as Mother and Queen, especially those who have undertaken the specific mission to live and propagate the Message of Fatima directed at obtaining peace for all humanity, for the triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

To do this, it seems to be that Providence offers us two immediate opportunities: the first is the Jubilee of our Holy Canadian Martyrs for the 50th anniversary of their canonization. I wonder if it would be possible during the summer to arrange together, under the emblem of the Blue Army, a pilgrimage to the Shrine of the Martyrs in Midland? If you are in agreement, please answer me as soon as possible, setting forth at the same time the date of your choice.

The second opportunity, which chronologically is the first, is the necessity for the Montreal Center to proceed quickly with the election of a new delegate, because Miss Odette Beaudoin, the delegate until now, has handed in her resignation. If you wish to take part and set forth your candidacy, come with representatives of the centers dependent on you. We will thus be able to form a true National Center, for which we will pick a general Spiritual Director, because in this case I myself am ready to renounce my position.

Please answer as soon as possible, after choosing the date and the place most convenient for the majority of the members.

And so, in prayer I remain,

Yours very devotedly in the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary,

 Father Pietro Leoni, S.J.

Father Leoni also sent a lengthy and most important letter to many of the French-speaking Bishops of Canada. He informed the Bishops of his efforts, at the direction of the International Executive Committee for the Blue Army (COMEX), to bring unity to the Apostolate in Canada.

The Situation Improves

The situation in Canada was confused because several people thought that they were the ones exclusively authorized to be National President, but the publication of the article in Soul magazine helped clear up this matter as did some letters sent by the International Lay Delegate, Mr. John Haffert, explaining that now all such appointments in the light of the COMEX meeting in January in Rome, are no longer valid. For example, here is the complete text of the letter sent to Mr. W. Stafford of Ottawa:

October 21, 1980

Dear Wally,

As you know, at the meeting of the International Executive Committee of the Blue Army in Rome last January, it was decided that Father Leoni should call a meeting of all those involved in the promotion of the Blue Army of Our Lady on a national level in Canada to bring unity to the Apostolate.

Many years ago apparently three persons were given authorization as “National organizers” of the Blue Army in Canada. One was yourself, in a letter from me. Another was Vince Leonard in Toronto, and another Father Ernest Castonguay.

All such appointments are no longer valid now that the International Council has decided that there should be one overall leadership in Canada.

This matter has been studied in detail, as you know, by Mr. Setz-Degen, International Secretary, and myself as International Lay Delegate, long before the meeting of the Executive Committee in Rome last January. We invited Father Gruner to come to Rome to help us evaluate the situation which the International officers decided to place in the hands of Father Leoni, to be assisted by Father Gruner.

I am sure that all of those who, in imitation of the great humility of Our Lady, will now imitate Her so that they may join together for the triumph of Her Heart, will be rewarded immeasurably not only by speeding the triumph of Her Immaculate Heart, but by experiencing the intimacy and great love of Our Lady, Herself, towards Her children who desire, above all, the success of Her Apostolate for the conversion of Russia and world peace.

With my prayers, dear Wally, for yourself and all those associated with you, I am

Yours in the Sacred Hearts, 

John M. Haffert

A Meeting of the Leaders Agreed to

At about the same time, Father Leoni sent Father Gruner a letter asking his help in bringing together all the Blue Army leaders in Canada:

A translation


Nov. 3rd, 1980

Dear Father Gruner,

Last September I received from the International Vice-President, Canon Galamba, a letter reflecting his great concern for the unity of the Blue Army in Canada. After the article of Mr. Haffert in Soul Magazine concerning our problem, I received many testimonial letters of solidarity grounded on the prayers on the part of the readers of Soul in the United States and in Canada. This country above all declares itself to have an ardent desire to see the consolidation of a truly national Center rallying all the devotees of Our Lady of Fatima.

I think therefore that, in spite of my littleness, it is my duty to multiply my efforts in order to bring together this unity, and I come to you, my dear confrere, in order to ask your cooperation by beginning by contacting the different Centers of English Canada in view of a first meeting in order to examine the situation and the different possibilities of reuniting the Blue Army from one Ocean to the other.

Your help will be very precious to me for two principal reasons: 1st because of your availability for this work to which you apply yourself full-time, whereas I myself have in my care the Russian Mission in Montreal; 2nd because of your mastery of English united with a sufficient knowledge of French and likewise of my mother-tongue, Italian, whereas I myself am very weak in English (for which reason I'm writing you in French).

On this I greet you, recommending myself to your prayers.

Yours in the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, 

Father Pietro Leoni, S.J.

After receiving this letter of Father Leoni, Father Gruner set to work immediately. The Fatima Crusader is happy to report that, as a result, in November 1980, the Canadian leaders of the international association of the faithful of the Catholic Church, known as The Blue Army of Our Lady of Fatima, have agreed to meet in the near future. There are grounds for hope that soon Canada will have its own national center, and we Canadians are grateful for the prayers of the Blue Army National Center in the U.S.A. which are being offered for the formation of a Canadian National Center.

Of course nothing good will be achieved without the Cross and without prayer. Father Gruner asks all devotees of Our Lady of Fatima to continue to pray for the success of these efforts to bring about a more dynamic and united leadership in the Fatima Apostolate in Canada.


1. The Editor notes that this book is not yet available in English. It was published in Italian.