Action and Grace

Edited transcript of a Workshop Presentation by Joanna Swords

One of my duties with Our Lady’s Fatima Apostolate is the North American Volunteer department — that’s both Canada and the United States.

The best means we have of getting the Message of Fatima out is through our Volunteers. Because of monetary constraints — we don’t have an endless supply of money to hire the staff necessary to do the work that needs to be done — in order to get the Message of Our Lady of Fatima out there, we need an army!

In Just a Few Years

Father recognized this many years ago, and he developed a plan to establish a core of dedicated Volunteers who would work and pray hard to help spread the Message of Our Lady of Fatima.

In 1989, Coralie, Father, and some of the other Apostolate workers wrote and printed the first Volunteer manual. Unfortunately, because there are so many other projects that always need to be taken care of, the Volunteer department kept getting put aside.

It wasn’t until about seven years later that they actually found some time to be able to begin developing the Volunteer department.

In 1991, between Canada and the United States there were only 29 Volunteers. By the end of 1995, there were a little over 300. In 1997, it began to slowly grow, and by the end of that year there were a little over 3,000 Volunteers. It was in 1998 that it began to take off, and we at the Apostolate witnessed Our Lady building Her army. By the end of that year there were a little over 6,000 Volunteers. Today, between Canada and the United States, we have nearly 17,000 Volunteers.

Now, I said one of the best means of getting the Fatima Message out to the world is through our Volunteers, and I meant that literally.

What One Person Can Do

Recently, while I was at our office in the Philippines, a woman and her mother came in. They had never heard of the Fatima Center, nor did they know anything about the Apostolate, or that its office existed, until they took a trip to the United States.

While they were in New York City, someone in one of the churches handed them The Fatima Crusader. They read the Crusader, learned about the existence of the Apostolate, and, of course, they saw there was a Philippine office address. So, when they returned back home to the Philippines, they drove at least two hours to come to our office, and asked for Crusader magazines to distribute in their area.

Now, the person who handed that Crusader to these women in New York City — that’s the work of one of our Volunteers. That is what our Volunteers do. We never have any idea of the impact that our actions will have.

By handing just one Crusader to two people, those two persons went back to another country, an English-speaking country. And these two people are now willing to distribute Fatima literature and help spread the Message throughout the Philippines.

Volunteers Reach Out

This is what our Volunteers do. They reach out to people that often we cannot reach, and Our Lady rewards them for doing this work. She rewards them by allowing their efforts to bear fruit and She showers them with graces.

Now, we have many of these examples. Monthly, we have people calling the Apostolate who have never heard of the Fatima Center and don’t know much about the Message of Fatima. But somewhere, someone has given them a piece of our literature and they call up wanting to know more.

All it takes is one person, and that one person reaches out to another person. That is all that is needed.

There are many ways our Volunteers help out; the choice is theirs. Our Volunteers choose when they want to help, how they want to help, and where.

We ask two things of them — the first is prayer, especially the Rosary. We ask them to pray for the Consecration of Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, for Our Lady’s triumph, for the conversion of sinners, for Our Lady’s Apostolate, for Father Gruner and for the workers.

The second thing we ask them to do is to offer up the sacrifices of their daily duty. That is what Our Lady of Fatima asked all of us to do. This involves both the obvious, which is, of course, to make everything we do a sacrifice — offering it for the conversion of sinners, to make reparation for sin, and so on.

Defending the Faith

On this point the best explanation I heard of "daily duty" was something a little less obvious, in a talk given by John Vennari a few years ago. He said that one of the things that Our Lady meant by this, was to offer up as a sacrifice, defending the faith, that is defending our Holy Catholic Faith.

It has always been an obligation of ours, as Catholics, to defend the Catholic Faith, but Our Lady knew that in these times, this would become more difficult than ever.

Catholics, generally, over history, have had to defend the Faith to non-Catholics. But today, the real difficulty is defending the Faith to Catholics who do not know the Catholic Faith!

Here are some examples of the most common things that Our Lady’s Apostolate Volunteers do. As I’ve already said, they pray, they distribute Fatima literature, they distribute sacramentals, they make Green Scapulars — we have a big demand for Green Scapulars, we can’t keep up with the need.

Periodically, our Volunteers call and let us know of some of the miracles that they’ve come across, that have occurred with the Green Scapular or with Fatima Water — which we also give away free.

"I Owe Our Lady So Much"

One of the most memorable stories I can recall with the Green Scapular was about five years ago. A young woman called and wanted to be a Volunteer for the Apostolate. She had young children, I could hear them in the background. This woman said with such emotion, I can still hear her, she said, "I owe Our Lady so much."

She said, "My husband is Jewish." Then she said, "Well, you know, he’s not really even Jewish, he’s sort of like an atheist. He didn’t practice anything. But now he’s about to be baptized a Catholic. I put a Green Scapular under the mattress on his side of the bed, and Our Lady converted him."

She said her husband told her that his conversion was sudden, like a bolt of lightning. So, you can understand the emotion in her voice and her desire to want to do something for Our Lady.

Other Opportunities

Some other things our Volunteers do: they call to tell us of events that will be occurring in their area, that may be good opportunities for us to get the Message of Fatima out by distributing literature.

They also help us to organize Rosary Rallies and conferences. We have a group of Volunteers here today who played a very big role in helping us get this Ambassador Seminar organized. They placed ads in newspapers regarding the Message of Fatima; they put our Radio Program and our TV Program on local access stations, or other TV stations.

September 10, 2001

You never know what impact your actions will have. One Volunteer phoned the Apostolate around May or June of 2001, and he wanted to put our TV program, Fatima: "The Moment Has Come", on a TV station. He and some other people had chipped in, and were going to pay for 10 sessions, one a week for 10 consecutive weeks, in a prime time slot on a well known television station.

So we went through the process of getting things organized. The first program was an hour and the succeeding weeks were half-hours.

He wanted the first program to be an overview of the Message of Fatima, so Coralie and her department made the arrangements and picked the best program.

After we thought we had everything all set, and the first showing date was set, something happened at the TV station. There was a little glitch and they had to adjust the time frame. I can’t remember if they had to move the first program a week earlier or later.

That first program was seen on TV on a well known station at 9:00 or 9:30 at night — the Message of Fatima, in a prime time slot in the New York City area and parts of New Jersey on September 10, 2001. The next morning, we saw the attack on the Twin Towers.

It didn’t even occur to me the next day, as I watched this horrible thing unfold on TV. Initially, my thought was for this Volunteer, John, because I knew he either worked or lived somewhere in that area, and I prayed that he was okay.

But it wasn’t until later that I realized the hand of Providence in the timing of showing the Message of Fatima at prime time in New York City the night before the Twin Towers disaster.

You never know the impact that one little act that you’re going to do will have. I recall that we were inundated with phone calls.

Our Volunteers Help

Other ways our Volunteers help: they evangelize on the Message of Fatima; they form Block Rosary or Rosary prayer groups; they approach parish priests and offer to provide Brown Scapulars and Rosaries to First Communicants and other parish members; they let us know if there is something horrible occurring in their area that is against the Faith.

If we have your e-mail address, many of you might have received an e-mail from us not too long ago, because one of our Volunteers had called to tell us that in Canada, at the well known St. Joseph’s Oratory in Montreal, a desecration was about to occur.

These are just some of the ways our Volunteers help. If you would like a more complete list, please come to the Volunteer Workshop room.

Over the years, our Volunteers have come up with many wonderful ideas to get Fatima literature into the hands of people, and here are some of the methods that they use.

There’s the more obvious methods which are: they go to church and before Mass, or after Mass, outside the church, they’ll distribute Fatima literature; or if they get the parish priest’s permission, they can put some of the booklets and literature into the church; they give literature and sacramentals to the members of their prayer groups or to family and friends; they distribute Fatima literature at religious functions, such as Fatima events or Rosary Processions, things like that.

They also go to secular functions, such as County Fairs, and State Fairs, and rent a table to set up the literature, giving it away for free. And sometimes at fairs, because you’re giving things away for free, you can get a space that doesn’t cost as much as some of the spaces rented for trying to make money.

Do Works of Mercy

One woman managed to get a free table one Saturday a month, in the middle of a Galleria Mall and she set up Fatima literature and distributed away. Many of our Volunteers also, this past year, distributed literature outside movie theaters when they knew that the crowd was going to see The Passion of The Christ.

Our Volunteers practice the works of mercy by distributing Sacramentals and Fatima literature in hospitals, nursing homes and prisons. They attend Rallies of all types, such as Pro-life Rallies, to distribute Fatima literature or to talk about the Message of Fatima.

If you would like to know more about our Volunteer program, learn how to make Green Scapulars, or share some of your experiences (which I would happily like to hear and pass them on to others), please call us on our Volunteer Hotline at 1-800-845-3047.

Our Lord says in the Gospel of St. Matthew, "Freely have you received, so freely give." Just as Our Lord and Our Lady have chosen you to learn Their Fatima Message, please be generous with others in spreading Their Message.

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