The Divine Will and Fatima messages have powerfully worked in our lives. The following is a witness to the wonders of God’s love for us all through these two ministries.

My name is David Russell and my wife of 38 years, Gloria and I are thrilled to be a members of the St. Faustina community! Through the leadership of Fr. Ramon, and now Fr. Carlos, and the many parishioners who have opened their hearts to us, we know beyond doubt that God has led us here.

We are trying to bring our experience from the parishes we lost in our move to Central Florida. We feel the intercession following us from all the souls we have ministered with and to. One such ministry is the Pilgrim Virgin of Fatima Statue home visits, which help us personally spread Fatima’s message.

During a 2019 visit to Fatima, I was unexpectedly asked to be the Lector by the Director of English Mass at the Sanctuary of Apparitions, Fr. Jude Arinze, CMF. After the Mass, I went to the sacristy to thank Fr. Jude and take a selfie of us. I told Father how it was the thrill of a lifetime! He thought Mary wanted me to read that day.

Two years later, Gloria and I returned to Mass at Fatima in 2021. COVID-19 required many to wear masks, so when I looked at the sanctuary, I was unsure if it was Fr. Jude concelebrating. Neither Gloria nor I could be sure if it was him, so we waited (“stalked”) until he came out after Mass. He was wearing a mask, and I showed him the selfie of us taken two years prior. He asked, “If he knew this man?” He pulled down his mask and said, “It’s me!”. Our long-distance friendship continued over the next two years.

In February of this year, we were inspired to offer the Pilgrim Virgin ministry to St. Faustina’s, so I reached out to Fr. Jude to see if he could ship us one. He suggested it would be better if we visited. Okay, twist my arm. We needed to go back to Fatima in 2023. But we weren’t exactly sure when we could plan a trip. Money was tight because our Tennessee home wasn’t selling as quickly as we hoped. So, we met with Fr. Ramon for some spiritual direction. He suggested we wait until after we are able to sell the house. And, within two weeks we sold it, for cash! I guess our lady wants us to follow Father’s spiritual direction.

Gloria and I have discussed how our pilgrimage group of just 5 came together but the best we can recall is our friend Carmelita Flores mentioned her desire to go to Spain. It was all very spontaneous! Next thing we knew, Father Ramon was going, along with Carmelita Flores and Yolanda Inumerable.

CLICK HERE to see all the photos of the “Fatima Five Trip”.

Never did it occur to us that our pastor would join us! Now, the exact route of our pilgrimage evolved. Carmelita certainly influenced our itinerary. She would say, “Please, please let us go to…Sagrada Familia in Barcelona.” “What about the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela?” Thanks to her inspiration, our route came together beautifully!

A few days before our trip, Hurricane Lee threatened Florida with a category-five storm. We were concerned this would delay our trip and prayed during our St. Faustina public rosary that it would amount to nothing. Within a day, the storm took a radical turn north, and it was obvious even a hurricane wasn’t going to stand in the way of this pilgrimage to the Pilgrim Virgin Statue.

We departed Miami on 9/11 for the flight to Barcelona with a layover in Lisbon. Arriving on September 12, we visited the Sagrada Familia, the world’s largest unfinished Roman Catholic church. It has been under construction for 140 years! We thought St. Faustina’s took a long time!

Next, we drove to Zaragoza, Spain, and visited our Lady of the Pillar. The very first church in the world dedicated to the first apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Legend has it that the angels bore her to Zaragoza while she was still alive to encourage St. James’s mission to spread the Gospel. The Virgin Mary, with the Child Jesus in her arms and standing on a pillar, asked Saint James and his eight disciples to build a church on the site, promising that “it will stand from that moment until the end of time in order that God may work miracles and wonders through my intercession for all those who place themselves under my patronage.” We pray to bring miracles home to you!

The third stop was San Sebastian de Garabandal the site of an alleged Marian apparition to four young girls beginning in 1961. CLICK HERE TO SEE a fascinating video about the many appearances Mary made in Garabandal.

Following this two-night stay, we traveled to Santiago de Compostela in northern Spain, the destination of millions of pilgrims who have traveled the way of St. James across northern Europe to thank God and venerate the relics at the tomb of St. James.

Our last stop for this part of the journey was Fatima, Portugal, where we met with Fr. Jude and purchased the Pilgrim Virgin of Fatima statue for her ministry work here in Central Florida.

Father Ramon, Carmelita, and Yoly flew from Lisbon, Portugal, on 9/19. It was a quick goodbye, and suddenly, the Fatima Five was no more. We were now the Fatima Three: Gloria, David, and the Pilgrim Virgin. The Three continued to seven more destinations of great Catholic and Marian significance in Spain and France.

Part II

Amazingly, we fulfilled all our travel plans and then some! Nothing stood in the way of this ministry for the Father. Yes, this was about the Pilgrim Virgin of Fatima, but we directed all our prayers and praise to God the Father. Everything Mary did for the glory of God, laying down her will, was to fulfill the Will of the Father. This example is our intention for this ministry: to model Mary, teach the life of Jesus, and live in the Father’s Will.

Just a note: Without Google Maps, the ease of travel wouldn’t have been possible. It appeared as if I knew the routes intuitively, but for us, GPS stands for “God Positioning System,” and all these technological blessings come from Him through some gifted people.

come from Him through some gifted people.

The first stop in the second leg of the journey was Madrid, Spain. I must admit it was a relief to no longer be responsible for the safety and comfort of others. It’s not easy to maintain a 5 Star Rating with Carmelita! LOL!

There was no special destination in Madrid except a room and shower. We found those without a problem. Attached is a photo of my birthday cake a friendly staff member delivered. The real gift received was seeing our friends leave safely and on time.

On September 20, we returned to Zaragoza, Spain, with the Pilgrim Virgin. We wanted her to visit in memory of Our Lady of the Pillar, who visited St. James in the year 40. This Basilica of Our Lady of the Pillar is the first church in the world dedicated to the first apparition of our Blessed Mother Mary.

The next day, September 21, we flew from Barcelona, Spain, to Paris, France. To keep this article brief, here is a list of the places of Catholic and Marian significance we brought the Pilgrim Virgin of Fatima Statue to:

  • Shrine of the Miraculous Medal – Paris, France 9/21/23
  • Basilica and Crypt of Saint Therese of Lisieux – Lisieux, France 9/21/23
  • The Shrine of the Sacred Heart Apparitions to St. Margaret Mary Alacoque – Paray-le-Mondale, France 9/23/2023. (Coincidentally, the 17th anniversary of our homes enthronement. We hope many more homes will enthrone their homes as a result of the Pilgrim Virgin’s visit to them.)
  • Our Lady of Puy – Puy, France 9/24/2023. The first church approved the apparition of the Blessed Mother in the year 47.
  • Our Lady La Salette — La Salette, France 9/24/2023
  • The site of the Church of Prouille – Prouille, France 9/25/2023. Where it’s believed St. Dominic received the Rosary from our Lady of Prouille in 1208.
  • The grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes – Lourdes, France 9/26/2023. The precise location of our Lady’s appearance to St. Bernadette Soubirous on February 11, 1858

The primary intention of this pilgrimage was to purchase the Our Lady of Fatima statue in Fatima, have her blessed, and then bring her on a pilgrimage to several sites of historical Marian significance, i.e., The first Church dedicated to the first apparition of BVM, site of First Marian Apparition, Lourdes, etc. and return to share with anyone willing to invite her into their home and pray Rosaries for peace.

When we arrived back on Friday, the Feast of Archangels, 9/29, we discovered that our beautiful statue had been damaged in flight. Our Lady’s hands and fingers had been broken off.

The pain and disappointment of seeing the blessed, sweet image of our Lady broken saddened us greatly.

We always talk about accepting the Divine Will in all circumstances, which is easier said than done. But our Jesus never disappoints if we ask for help in the pain of suffering. So, I asked, “Show me, Lord, what does this accident mean?”

In my interior, nothing audible but a knowing; we realized the hands are missing on this statue as a reminder to be hands for Mary!

This single thought has brought us great relief!

After seeing the positive come from the negative, I thought maybe we should leave her without hands as a constant reminder. This would be perfect for a Ministry Fair!

We didn’t know if she would be restored before our Ministry Fair, but regardless, may God’s Will be done!

We turned to our spiritual director, Father Ramon, for guidance, and he suggested a talented parishioner to help with the repair. Even amidst a busy schedule they managed to fit us in for this special operation. The artist confided in us they had secretly prayed the Pilgrim Virgin would visit their home first. Their prayer was answered but who would have guessed it was for a restoration!

But the story doesn’t end there! Another parishioner with artistic gifts was also praying to the Pilgrim Virgin. They heard about the statue’s accident but were disappointed not to be selected to help in the repair. While attending Mass on the eve of the Ministry Fair, they told the Blessed Virgin that even though they couldn’t help with the repair, they would be ready if needed.

As it happened, the restorers needed additional help, and a second parishioner answered this quiet prayer, too! They called added some finishing touches, making the restoration complete.

Isn’t this how a parish should unite in a time of need? It quite fit the theme of the Ministry Fair, to be the “Hands and Feet of Christ” and to repair it if need be.

The Pilgrimage and Ministry Fair was a resounding success! If you haven’t submitted your request to volunteer to host the Pilgrim Virgin of Fatima for a week, now is the time! Her visit may take a year to arrive at your home, but the anticipation and the joy it brings are worth the wait. Just like her Son!