An Apostolic Phenomenon
It is estimated that several million people have heard audiotapes produced by the Mary Foundation, a non-profit Catholic evangelism apostolate founded (almost by accident) in 1991 by Bud Macfarlane, Jr., and his wife, Bai.
While helping organize a pro-life conference that fall, the young couple bought a used tape duplicator to make copies of the various conference presentations. But when the sponsoring organization nixed their plan, the Macfarlanes instead used the duplicator to make cassettes of “Marian Apparitions Explained,” a riveting talk given by Bud's father, Bud Macfarlane, Sr., a world-renowned expert on Marian apparitions. The couple gave away 150 tapes of the talk by the elder Macfarlane and included an address where people could write for additional free copies.
“Within days, our post office box started filling with letters from people telling us how this talk changed their lives,” says Bud, Jr., an affable 38-year-old, 6'2″ bear of a man.
That first year, the Mary Foundation gave away more than 20,000 tapes. The following year, the number soared to 100,000, and has continued to increase each year ever since.
The tape is not copyrighted, so Macfarlane has no idea how many copies may be floating around which is fine with him. After all, the Foundation's goal is to “reach every single person in the United States and then the world with the truth that Jesus and Mary have revealed through their messengers and the Holy Catholic Church.” The aim is to promote a vibrant, orthodox Catholicism, focused on Christ. Listeners are exhorted to deepen their faith in and love for Jesus Christ, and also to develop a devotion to Mary, through whom Jesus came to us.
High Tech Evangelism
Keeping pace with the technology in its efforts to evangelize, the apostolate now maintains an excellent Internet site, CatholiCity.com, featuring an impressive and ever-expanding array of Catholic materials, resources, and links to other good Catholic websites. The Foundation staff presently includes five full-time employees, a handful of part-timers, six college interns, and, of course, Bud and Bai Macfarlane.
Key to the apostolate's success thus far has been the enthusiastic involvement of lay people who have come into contact with their work. “We provide tools for lay people to do the real work,” says Macfarlane. “They hear our tapes, are helped and encouraged by them, and in turn they help us in the task of distributing copies to everyone they know. Some distribute thousands of copies! That's why we don't have to advertise. These good people give out the tapes to evangelize their friends and relatives.”
When asked if he knows how many listeners to the tapes have converted to Catholicism or returned to the sacraments, Macfarlane replies modestly, “We do hear from many who have been helped, but we know it's all God's grace that's doing it. Only His grace can change hearts.”
(For more information or to request free audio tapes, including their newest offering, “The Mass Explained,” contact the Mary Foundation, P.O. Box 26101, Fairview Park, OH 44126. For copies of “Pierced by a Sword” or Macfarlane's other two novels, write to Saint Jude Media, P.O. Box 26120, Fairview Park, OH 44126. You can also request free tapes and books online at: www.catholicity.com, www.maryfoundation.com, or www.saintjudemedia.com.)
St. Maximilian Kolbe
Macfarlane acknowledges the off-the-charts ambitiousness of this goal when he quips, “Once we're done with this project, we can go back to our regular lives.” And he admits that when they were first getting started people thought they were nuts.
“Everyone was just waiting for the fundraising letter,” smiles Macfarlane, “but that letter will never arrive.” This is because the Foundation operates on the principles of St. Maximilian Kolbe, which include total reliance upon God's Providence and Mary's intercession for their needs.
“We are odd,” says Macfarlane with a chuckle. “Everything's free. We're zany, but everything we do is modeled on the principles lived by St. Maximilian Kolbe, who had the world's largest priory, with 800 priests editing, printing, and distributing one million newspapers a day.”
The Macfarlanes, who have four young sons (click here to read about the family), are members of St. Maximilian Kolbe's Militia Immaculatae (Knights of the Immaculata), a worldwide Catholic movement consecrated to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. The movement's mission is simple: to convert the world to Christ. Also, like St. Maximilian Kolbe's apostolate, the Mary Foundation uses the tools of modern technology to spread the gospel, and relies totally on God's Providence for financial support. While they were forced by lack of funds to shut down their operation during one 45-day period, Macfarlane says he doesn't expect such a situation to ever be repeated.
Since its inception, the Mary Foundation's scope of activities has expanded tremendously. The organization now produces and distributes at no charge a host of additional evangelistic tapes. Saint Jude Media, the publishing division of the Mary Foundation, produces Catholic fiction, including Macfarlane's best-selling novels Pierced by a Sword, Conceived Without Sin, and House of Gold, which currently have nearly 600,000 copies in print, and are also available free-of-charge at saintjudemedia.com.
(This article originally appeared in Envoy Magazine)