Story and photos by Will Shaw with thanks to Bette Meyer
The Victorious Missionaries held their Annual Conference and celebration of their 55th Founding Anniversary May 3-5, at the National Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows in Belleville, Illinois. VMs came from as far away as West Virginia, New York and Texas for the three-day annual conference which began Friday with a business meeting where issues and ideas from the various chapters were discussed.
On Saturday, the featured speaker, Fr. Sal Gonzalez, OMI, retreat preacher from King’s House Retreat and Renewal Center in Belleville, celebrated Mass for the group before beginning his presentation. Fr. Gonzalez’ spoke on Pope Francis’ Encyclical on the Call to Holiness in Today’s World. The morning session focused on “Our Vocation to be Happy and to Live Joyful Lives.” Followed in the afternoon by a reflection on the saints (canonized and un-canonized, such as our parents, family members and friends) “who accompany and encourage us throughout our lives”, said Fr. Gonzalez. The final talk centered on the premise: “If God calls us to holiness – God gives us the tools to achieve this mission.” Fr. Sal explained, “We are each called to contribute a life of holiness to the Church, each in our own unique way, and our unique-ness is absolutely necessary to the sanctification of the Church.” The day ended with a delicious buffet dinner and a celebration of the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
Sunday was the culmination of the weekend with a special Mass during which the presentation of the Fr. John Maronic Achievement Award was made. The Mass was celebrated by U.S. Oblate Provincial, Very Rev. Louis Studer with Shrine Director, Fr. Andy Knop, OMI concelebrating. After Fr. Studer’s homily, Bro. Thomas S. Ruhmann, OMI, National Director of the Victorious Missionaries stepped to the podium:
“… the Victorious Missionaries, an organization for spiritual Support of persons with disabilities or chronic illness is celebrating the 55th anniversary of it’s founding here at the Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows today.
Since 1991 we have presented the Fr. John Maronic Achievement Award to a deserving member. Fr. John, the founder of the Victorious Missionaries, always empowered people with disabilities to live life to the fullest, to recognize the inherent giftedness in all life, to proclaim the gospel message of love and to be present to all people… The intent of this award is to recognize a V.M. member as someone who is walking the journey of faith with us, whose life and manner of living displays these same beliefs. It is our desire to honor an individual whose efforts on behalf of all people with disabilities and/or chronic illnesses have brought significant change in both Church and the world.
This year the 2018 Fr. John Maronic Award ( we are presenting 2 this year) will be presented to Bro. Andrew Lawlor, OMI, and the second one goes to Susan Krantz and Warren Clare . They will join the ranks of a long list of distinguished Victorious Missionaries who have been recognized for their lives that reflect the call to ministry that Fr. John responded to. Unfortunately, Warren & Susan aren’t able to be with us today for health reasons. Their award will be presented to them in San Antonio at a later date… Each time we present this award, we remind ourselves of who we are called to be, as Victorious Missionaries, as living witnesses of Christ’s presence in the world. Congratulations to Bro. Andy, Susan and Warren.”
After Mass there was posing for photos (some of which are posted below,) and a gala brunch buffet before the close of the Conference. As always the spirit of Fr. John Maronic was felt throughout the conference. Very Rev. Louis Studer summed it up: “The genius of Fr. John Maronic, OMI, Founder of the Victorious Missionaries, was his insight and insistence that those who have a physical or mental challenge can make a significant contribution to society by ministering to one another. Fr. John challenged them not to feel sorry for themselves but, instead, to use their God given gifts to support one another and try their best to make this world a better place of welcome and hospitality for everyone, no matter their state or condition in life.”
The group, originally called, “the Victim Missionaries” began in in 1964 when Fr. John Maronic, O.M.I., founded a spiritual support group for people with disabilities or who were chronically ill. Its purpose was to encourage those with disabilities to reach out to others with disabilities, sharing their gifts and spreading the Good News of the Gospel. The name “Victim Missionaries” was changed in 1984 to “Victorious Missionaries,” signifying the positive, active qualities members have to offer.
Today, the Victorious Missionaries are comprised of a diverse group – laity and religious, women and men, the young and not so young. The VMs have six chapters throughout the United States. They meet regularly for spiritual growth, renewal, and fellowship. Members also take part in retreats and are called to a personal prayer ministry. “The Uplift,” a quarterly newsletter produced by the VM National Office, is sent to all members at no cost.
Anyone wishing information on the Victorious Missionaries may call 618-394-6281 or visit their web page .