On May 13, 1967, the 50th anniversary of Our Lady’s first apparition at Fatima, 25 Pilgrim Virgin of Fatima statues were blessed by Pope Paul VI. Each of the statues, hand carved from wood, was assigned to a different country for the purpose of being used as a traveling statue to make known the full Fatima Message.
One of those statues was assigned to the country of Canada, and an organization named for this special statue was founded by the group of Catholic laity into whose custody the statue was given upon arrival from Rome: The National Committee for the National Pilgrim Virgin of Canada (NPV), based in Ottawa, Ontario.
By 1977, the organization was floundering, and the Board of Directors was advised by a priest friend that it needed to have a priest on the board of directors, who was willing to travel with the statue and promote the Fatima Message full time.
A Priest Commits Full Time
In August of that year, a priest from Canada, recently ordained in Italy and seeking incardination in North America with the permission of his bishop in the diocese of Avellino, Italy, was asked by acquaintances to come and help save that Fatima Apostolate. Father Nicholas Gruner, heeding the request for help, arrived at the office of NPV on August 12, 1977.
On June 5, 1978, after official permission was granted by Bishop Venezia to live and work outside the diocese of Avellino, Father Gruner began his full-time commitment to Our Lady of Fatima’s Apostolate as Vice-President and Executive Director of the National Committee for the National Pilgrim Virgin of Canada. He immediately began building the organization from the small office in Ottawa (eventually re-locating to Fort Erie, Ontario, located across the river from Buffalo, New York) to a worldwide organization that would eventually be known as The Fatima Center.
The Tour of Western Canada
Shortly thereafter, he published the first issue of The Fatima Crusader magazine and launched the first of his nationwide Rosary Rally / Statue Visit tours. In the early pilgrimage days of 1978, Father crisscrossed Canada with the Pilgrim Virgin of Canada statue, spreading Marian devotion and the Fatima Message.
Here is a sample of the response to just one of the many visits of the Pilgrim Virgin Statue: “Forty parishes were visited by the Pilgrim Virgin when the Province of Edmonton hosted the tour in November. She travelled 20,000 miles, as 38,000 Brown Scapulars were given away, 22,0000 Rosaries, 170,000 leaflets, 40,000 pamphlets, 10,000 copies of The Fatima Crusader magazine, and thousands of Peace Plan booklets.” People travelled as far as 1000 miles to see the Pilgrim Virgin Statue given to Canada by the Vatican, and some of the airlines even provided free transport for Father and the statue.
A Unified Fatima Apostolate?
The tour of Western Canada had drawn considerable attention to the young priest. His work brought him in contact with the leadership of the Blue Army, and the two organizations had gotten along well in the beginning. Father’s instinct was to aid in the effort to create a unified Fatima Apostolate in North America. Father Gruner’s progress of his meetings with various Canadian leaders was reported by John Haffert in Soul magazine (a publication of the Blue Army).
But after the control of the Blue Army was seized by Bishop Constantino Luna in 1981, things began to change. A new non-confrontational Fatima “message” emerged which stresses personal prayer and sacrifice rather than Our Lady’s requests calling for the Church’s official and public response to the Fatima Message. In addition, the Blue Army’s approbation of the 1984 consecration of the world by John Paul II – with no mention of Russia, and the lack of participation of the world’s Catholic bishops, as Sister Lucia pointed out – was misleading Catholics.
While informing The Fatima Center’s supporters on the truth of these matters, Father Gruner tried very patiently to continue to maintain a good rapport with this organization. But when it had become clear that those in charge were determined to unscrupulously obey orders rather than serve the true interests of Our Lady and Her faithful souls, Father Gruner began to publish fully explicit articles in The Fatima Crusader explaining the controversies and the errors being published in Soul magazine.
Growing Opposition to the Message
Father Gruner and The Fatima Center persevered against growing opposition in promoting the FULL Fatima Message, despite the confusion incurred by the startup of new organizations making use of the name ‘Fatima.’ These apostolates, likewise, soon began adopting the Vatican party line of toning down Our Lady’s Message, succumbing to the instructions: “‘Oh, you can keep the name and give ‘Fatima’ a pious nod once in a while, but don’t give the whole Message of Our Lady,’ especially that part of Her Message which refers to the errors of Russia and the need – the DESPERATE NEED – that the Church and world have to SEE that God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit are obeyed when They command the Pope and the bishops to consecrate Russia to Our Lady’s Immaculate Heart.” (Fr. Gruner, Issue 19 of The Fatima Crusader, 1986.)
Never wavering in the face of opposition and attacks against Father Gruner and the apostolate’s reputation, The Fatima Center has been the only full-time Fatima organization persevering in making known and educating on the need for the Consecration – including educating on the efforts of Popes who attempted the Consecration, but which were done incorrectly and not according to the requests made in the Fatima Message.
Our Lady’s Apostolate Stands Firm
The Fatima Center also stood firm, and virtually alone as an organization, in publishing the fact that what was released by the Vatican in 2000 as the Third Secret, was indeed not the full Third Secret; that the most important part – the critical words of Our Lady – are missing.
Our Lady’s apostolate hosted more than 10 conferences in 1992-2013, in various parts of the world – five of them in Rome (1996, 2001, 2010-2012) – in which Catholic bishops, Cardinals, and priests were invited. Some with astonishing effect!
What Fatima Apostolate can report that they had a publicized conference virtually in the backyard of the Vatican, calling into question the veracity of what the Church had released in June 2000 as allegedly the full Third Secret? And subsequently, the Pope himself responded by releasing a public statement within days of the end of that conference, making clear that what in fact was released by the Vatican in 2000 was not the full Third Secret, thereby vindicating The Fatima Center’s persistent stand of ten years pertaining to this matter.
And these conferences were made possible, and the bishops and priests were able to attend, thanks to the prayerful and financial generosity of supporters who understood the importance of Our Lady’s Message, the need for the Consecration of Russia, and the release of the FULL Third Secret.
This organization of 45 years can truly claim to be a loyal, steadfast apostolate of Our Lady of Fatima, while other groups using the name of Fatima fall short by their failure to promote and defend the Message in all its integrity.
Read a follow-up article on the “Inadequacies of Certain Prominent Fatima Apostolates.”
Editor’s Note: Of all prominent, English-speaking Fatima apostolates only The Fatima Center ensures that the entire Fatima Message is fully known, understood, and obeyed. It also reaches the greatest number of souls with the Fatima Message. For more information, see our October 2023 mailing, “What Sets The Fatima Center Apart?” (LF462), available from The Fatima Center at our online shop.