Who are the VMs?
Who are the Victorious Missionaries?
So, we have been adding our spirit of love to the world in ever increasing numbers and on several levels. We, as VMs, are encouraged to share our gifts with those around us; to be involved in our churches and communities.
Even before he visited the Lourdes Shrine in 1961, the kernel of this belief was growing in Fr. John Maronic, OMI. True to his calling as an Oblate of Mary Immaculate, he had a heart for all people, especially those most abandoned by society. When he saw thousands of persons with disabilities being enriched at Lourdes, he wondered if he could start a group for people with similar challenges.
A few months after that visit, he was named the first pilgrimage Director at the new Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows in Belleville, Illinois. Noticing that many persons with physical handicaps were visiting the Shrine, Fr, John began requesting their names and addresses.
He also decided to do some research around the country to determine what groups existed for persons with disabilities. He discovered that not many groups existed for such persons, and the existing organizations involved “healthy” people helping those with disabilities. In other words, the existing organizations had been formed for and run for persons with disabilities.
Two inspirations came to this group at the beginning:
Those who have disabilities should run the movements; and
This would be a spiritually oriented program.
Beginning in May 1964, this would be the first movement that was formed by and run by persons with disabilities. What an exciting time for Fr. John who later recalled, “I wanted to establish the group on the philosophy that people with handicaps should help and minister to other people with handicaps. I believe having people with disabilities actively participate – helping one another and running the group – is much more effective and meaningful for those involved.”
The group would call themselves Victim Missionaries:
Victims – those who offer themselves willingly to God and accept whatever God
Chooses to give;
Missionaries – those who are agents of the redeeming action of Christ, bringing
Light to those in darkness, bringing relief to the agonizing.
The dreams were big.
After only one year, membership reached 1,000, and the organization became the largest spiritual movement for persons with disabilities in the U.S. At the group's first Day of Renewal , Fr. John emphasized, “The main objective of the Victorious Missionaries is to realize the awesome spiritual potential that people have for the Church and the world.”
By 1977 that potential spread through Chapter and Unit affiliates in Detroit, MI, St. Louis, MO, Owensboro, KY, Flint, MI, Buffalo, NY, New Orleans, LA, Omaha, NE, and Springfield, MO, and membership totaled 6,000.
“We hoped, commented Fr. John, “to start a movement throughout the world to alert persons with handicaps that they can be a positive force, doing whatever they can for people, instead of having people always doing things for them.” The tremendous growth has verified the fact that persons with disabilities can be a powerful force in the world and are often able to do what others cannot.
Despite the incredible growth, Fr. John remained a bit modest. Aware that each year about 50,000 persons with handicaps arrive at Lourdes from all over the world, he admitted, “we cannot hope to measure up to those numbers, but we certainly can maintain the ‘spirit' of Lourdes, e.g., that the handicapped and chronically ill are among the ‘kingpins' in the People of God.”
By 1974 the group's National Board added two policies:
Any chronic handicap would fulfill requirements for membership.
The organization would have no dues; it would depend strictly on donations
Because most members would not be affluent.
The original name Victim Missionaries, chosen to identify the members with the redeeming action of Christ was sometimes perceived in a negative, passive sense. So in 1985 the Board changed the name to Victorious Missionaries to reflect the outcome of the redemptive suffering of Christ and to signify the positive, active qualities of the group. For consistency, the stories in this book use the current name – Victorious Missionaries.
One member reflected on the current name: At first glance, victorious may seem a little pretentious, as if we had all the battles won and were through with struggling; but looking at it a little deeper and longer, we see that we have been victorious in the fact that we have accepted our disabilities and are not only willing, but eager to use our experience to help others…to discover the gifts we have been given and to share them!”
The Victorious Missionaries affirm the fact that all persons – including those with disabilities – are ABLE. Moreover, the group's activities – days of renewal, conferences, retreats, publications, and personal prayer ministry – all are designed to UPLIFT the members and, in turn, to help them to reach out to UPLIFT others.
This book reflects the first thirty-five years of the Victorious Missionary movement. Through its pages, some of the group's members can tell their stories. Although some readers may appreciate the reflections, prayers, and appended materials, the Victorious Missionary story is told best through the stories of these real persons. Their words and their lives demonstrate that they – and many others like them – are ABLE TO UPLIFT.
442 S. DeMazenod Drive Belleville, IL 62221-1023
Bette Meyer: 618-394-6281 Br. Tom Ruhmann, OMI: 618-394-6282