Marian Devotion Was a Tactic for Father Fiala, Records Suggest

By Abe Levy
The Express-News
February 21, 2011

An interesting aspect to Father John Fialaís ministry was his pattern of starting and leading groups of lay devotees to the Virgin Mary.In Nebraska ó and also when he was a priest in the Archdiocese of San Antonio, he led groups devoted to Our Lady of Fatima. He started chapters in connection with Legion of Mary and the World Apostolate of Fatima (also called the Blue Army) and other groups in the Marian movement community.

I incorrectly referred to one of these groups in my Sunday story about the embattled priest as being a Marianist group, when the accurate term was Marian. Marianist refers to the Society of Mary, the religious order based in St. Louis and has St. Maryís University in San Antonio.

Fiala often took pilgrimages to holy sites where the Virgin Mary is believed to have appeared. He would lead these tours and also go on his own from time to time, bringing back rosaries and other special momentoes that he would give out. This in itself is not peculiar. Many priests do this, especially those with an inclination to the devotion of Mary.

However, the concern about this with Fiala, according to the documents referenced in Sundaysí story, is that he would use this as a ruse to manipulate situations. For example, he told former Omaha Archbishop Elden Curtiss that he was going on a Marian pilgrimage when in fact Curtiss had instructed him to go to a treatment center.

And according to an Omaha businessmanís affidavit, Fiala sent his wife on fake trips for his local Marian group to be alone with the manís son.

He is very knowledgeable about saints and spoke of them often in sermons, tying them in with the Virgin Mary. At his last assignment at Sacred Heart of Mary Catholic Church in Rocksprings in West Texas, he started a chapter of the Legion of Mary that met on Tuesday evenings. Hereís my story from last spring about his time in Rocksprings.

Some of the documents related to Fiala will be posted on Wednesday along with the full story about him.


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