Nothing Shall Be Impossible to You: A Great Story in South Florida

January 30, 2021
Source: Priory Orlando
Group photo at the end of the Dinner of Operation Lepanto, January 9, 2021.

The stories of the SSPX chapels of Davie and of the Shrine of St. Philomena are also the stories of dedicated priests who, for years, have served the faithful of these communities. We remember the pioneers: Fr. Gunther Richter, Fr. Carl Pulvermacher, Fr. Timothy Hopkins, as well as the last ones: Fr. Rueda, Fr. Joseph Dreher, Fr. Anthony Haynos, Fr. Thomas Brooks. To all goes our deepest gratitude!

A Million Dollars

When Fr. Fabula announced from the pulpit on November 15 that he intended — and fully expected — to raise a million dollars in seven weeks for a new church, more than a few people in the congregation stared back at him thinking: Is he for real?  

If you’ve ever tried to raise much money, even for a worthy cause, chances are it was a bit like pulling teeth. The idea of raising a million dollars — let alone a fraction of that — in less than two months seemed a far-fetched, if not impossible goal. 

Not that the need wasn’t there, or that parishioners were lacking in love for the church of Our Lady of the Victory. On the contrary. 

Important Growth in South Florida

After the closing of the Shrine of St. Philomena in Miami, and especially since the Catholic church lockdowns, attendance at Our Lady of Victory grew tremendously, until the church was bursting at the seams during Sunday High Mass. One parishioner described it as a “new pentecost” for the community. Many flocked to Our Lady of Victory to find their spiritual lifeline.

Those who discovered the church came to cherish the reverent worship of the Mass of the Ages, Traditional Sacraments and faith teaching, and priests uncompromisingly committed to saving souls. Indeed, more than a few felt that if there was anything worth raising a million dollars for, it was to be able to open wide the arms of such a church to as many people as possible.

A Grain of Mustard Seed

The Sunday the fundraiser was announced, the Gospel reading recounted the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, "The kingdom of heaven is like to a grain of mustard seed... which is the least indeed of all seeds: but when it is grown up, it is greater than all herbs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and dwell in the branches thereof.” And, “The kingdom of heaven is like to leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal until the whole was leavened.”

We were reminded of God’s desire that our community be a leaven for South Florida, and like a mustard tree to protect those around us with our shade. And we were reminded also of the other lesson of the mustard seed: ”If you have faith as a grain of mustard seed, you shall say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,' and it will move; and nothing shall be impossible to you.” [Matthew 17:19]

The Umbrella Girl

Fr. Fabula shared the story of a young girl who was the only person in her community who brought her umbrella to a field after praying to God for a miracle of rain when they were experiencing a terrible drought. He declared that with the faith of that little girl, he would bring his umbrella on the fundraiser deadline of January 9, with full confidence in the intercession of Our Lady of Victory and St. Philomena, in expectation of a miracle of pouring rain. The effort was christened Operation Lepanto in honor of the victory wrought at the Battle of Lepanto by our Lady’s intercession.

A week after the launch of the fundraiser, an anonymous donor came forward offering $100,000 for the church. Two more donors offering $100,000 each came forward in the following weeks. To some, suddenly the “unreachable” goal was starting to look possible.

Little birds spread the word about the project. A video featuring the fundraiser effort was picked up by a Catholic news aggregator, giving it international attention. All the while, the community was praying to Our Lady, to Saint Philomena, and to Our Lord Jesus Christ for their intercession.

Donations came pouring in, including from across the country and from as far as England, France, and South America. One generous family even downgraded their car in order to donate the proceeds.

Last-Minute Donations

We went into the final fundraising dinner with hours remaining and a total of $900K in proceeds. Thanks to the generosity and faith of the parishioners at the dinner that night, we managed to raise another $100K, pushing us just over $1 million.  

One parishioner shared:

When Fr. Fabula opened his umbrella after the dinner, many of us, including me, had tears in our eyes.  We had come expecting to have a nice dinner and celebrate the fact that we raised $900K….Fr. Fabula came expecting a miracle.  And that, in my mind, is exactly what happened that night.