In the spring of 1977, a number of Catholics in the Richmond, Virginia, area,
unhappy with the many changes within the Catholic Church, especially to the Tridentine Mass, learned
of an organization called the "Orthodox Roman Catholic Movement", dedicated to the
preservation of the traditional faith. They contacted Father Francis Fenton, founder of that
organization, with a request that the traditional Mass be offered in Richmond. Father Fenton agreed,
and on May 1st, 1977, he himself said Mass at the Airport Holiday Inn on Williamsburg Road in
Henrico County. Some 350 people attended.
On Sunday, May 15, 1977, a meeting of some of those
Catholics took place and a traditional Catholic parish was founded. On June 5, 1977, officers were
elected and goals set. Initial aims were to find a permanent location for the Mass and Rosary
services, catechism classes, training of altar boys, and establishment of a stable financial base.
the founding of the new parish, Masses began to be said on a regular, though not frequent, basis, at
various hotels and motels. A number of ORCM priests came to Richmond to offer the Mass. Father
Robert McKenna, Father Joseph Gorecki, Father Victor Mroz, Father Daniel Jones, Father White, Father
George Musey, and Father Roy Randolph were among those who served us during that time, principally
at the Jefferson Hotel.
On August 19, 1979, 27 members of the parish were confirmed by
Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre of the Society of St. Pius X, on Long Island, New York. This marked the
first time the Chapel had availed itself of the services of the Society. It would not be the last.
the early fall of 1980, the Parish learned that the Jefferson Hotel was to be renovated, which meant
that no longer could the Mass and Rosary services continue there. However, perhaps through the
intercession of Our Lady, a Mennonite church came on the market, and on September 24, 1980, an
agreement was signed to purchase the building. The first Rosary service was held there on October
26, 1980. The Chapel was blessed by Father Fenton on November 16, 1980.
Now, with the Parish
owning its own site, Father Mroz came to Richmond every other week to offer Mass on Saturday evening
and Sunday morning. On the alternate Sundays when the Mass was not offered, a Rosary service was
held, led by members of the core group which had formed to constitute the Parish. At the time of
this writing, a number of those original members were still faithfully serving Our Lady of Fatima
In the spring of 1982, Father Mroz was no longer able to serve the Chapel. With his
departure, the decision was made, for various reasons, to leave ORCM. This meant that fewer Masses
and more Rosary services were held at the Chapel. Father Urban Snyder and Father Henry Lovett
offered a few Masses in 1982. In January 1983, Father Guenter Richter, a young German priest,
arrived at the Chapel. He had been ordained by Archbishop Lefebvre but soon left the Society of St.
Pius X. He offered Mass until Easter Sunday, April 3, 1983, when he departed. At that time, Father
Snyder began to offer Mass every six weeks, and when possible, on other occasions. In addition,
Father Kouwenberg, a Dutch priest, offered Mass once or twice a year for several years.
April 29th, 1986, four children from Our Lady of Fatima Parish were among a number of others from
traditional parishes confirmed by Archbishop Lefebvre at the St. Pius X Mission, Virginia Beach,
Virginia. This was the last group confirmed by the Archbishop in the United States.
marked a mementous occasion for the Chapel. During that month, Father Joseph Terry Marks arrived to
become its first permanent resident priest. Within days of his arrival, Father Marks celebrated his
39th birthday. A native of Kentucky, he had been ordained a priest on May 30, 1983, for the
Archdiocese of Louisville. However, in May 1984, he left the Archdiocese, guided by Father Francis
Hannifin, a staunchly traditional priest and friend of the Society of St. Pius X. Father Marks was
conditionally reordained that same month by Archbishop Lefebvre.
While with the Society of
St. Pius X, Father Marks had served St. Thomas Aquinas Seminary in Ridgefield, Connecticut, at Queen
of the Angels Chapel in Dickinson, Texas, and at St. Pius X Priory at Shawinigan-Sud, Quebec,
Canada. He came to Our Lady of Fatima on the advice of Father Snyder and moved into the newly
purchased house at 5104 Futura Avenue, which served as the rectory for several years. With his
arrival, the parish now had the Mass every Sunday, as well as daily and on holy days. It also meant
that parishioners now were able to take advantage of other priestly functions, such as counseling,
weddings, ministering to the sick, and numerous other actions associated with a parish priest.
August, 1990, a generous parishioner established a scholarship to St. Mary's Academy and College,
St. Mary's, Kansas, for youth and young adults of the parish. St. Mary's is the largest traditional
school in the United States.
In September 1990, a second Sunday Mass was added to accommodate
a growing congregation.
On April 9, 1991, a special Requiem Mass was offered at the Chapel
for the repose of the soul of Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, who had died on March 25, 1991.
June 9, 1991, Bishop Richard N. Williamson of the Society of St. Pius X administered the Sacrament
of Confirmation at Our Lady of Fatima Chapel to a number of its parishioners, as well as to members
of other traditional Chapels. This was the bishop's first visit to the Chapel. Subsequently, he made
a number of visits for differing reasons.
Following Father Marks arrival at the Chapel, a
number of other priests visited the Chapel to assist in various ways. Among these were Father Carl
Pulvermacher, Father Ramon Angles (Rector and Dean of St. Mary's Academy and College), Father Peter
John Katzeroff, Father Blute, a Society missionary in India, Father Stehlin, a Society priest in
Eastern Europe, Father Hunter, whose father's Requiem Mass had been said by Father Marks, Father
John Quinn of the traditional Chapel in Lake Zurich, Illinois, and Father Ronald Ringrose, of St.
Athanasius Chapel in Vienna, Virginia.
In 1994-1995, two homes directly behind the Chapel
were purchased. One became the rectory (5218 Montpelier Street), and the other the guest house. Two
vacant lots were included in the transaction and additional parking was made available on them. The
garage included with the rectory was remodeled into the priest's office.
In 1997, planning of
a building project was begun which would greatly enhance the Chapel. In June of 1998, actual
construction began and in 1999, the project was completed. As a result of this work, the Chapel was
enlarged, primarily to accommodate a much larger sanctuary featuring a beautiful altar which had
been unceremoniously removed from a novus ordo church severing its ties to the traditional Catholic
Church. On September 26, 1999, Bishop Williamson again visited the Chapel, this time to bless the
As with most things, change was a constant in the parish. A new Board of
Trustees was elected in November, 2000. One of the aims of the new board was to update and modernize
the Constitution of the Chapel. A committee was formed in 2002 and its members spent many months
planning and writing and rewriting, with the counsel of two lawyers and the Society of St. Pius X.
At length, in May of 2003, the finished product was presented to the voting members of the Chapel,
who overwhelmingly approved it. The committee and the Board felt that the new constitution was much
improved over the original and was much more parishioner friendly.
In the years following the
completion of the construction, parishioners gratefully worshipped in their enlarged Chapel.
However, the declining state of Father Marks' health increasingly concerned the membership. Finally,
on January 30, 2003, Father Marks died. On Tuesday, February 3, Bishop Williamson again came to our
Chapel, this time to preside at a Solemn Requiem High Mass for our deceased pastor. The following
day, Father Mark's body was flown to his home state, there to be interred next to that of his
mentor, Father Hannifin, close by the traditional Chapel in Boston, Kentucky. Five members of Our
Lady of Fatima Chapel made the journey to Kentucky to represent the Chapel in paying last respects
to the first resident pastor of the first traditional parish in Richmond since Vatican II.
the loss of Father Marks, the Chapel now faced the challenge of finding a new pastor. Initially, and
for a short time, the Society of St. Pius X, through its seminary at Winona, Minnesota, provided a
priest to say Mass on Saturday night and Sunday morning. Fathers Peek, Goettler, and Doran each flew
to Richmond one or more times to offer the Mass. Then, in late February 2003, word came that through
the good offices of the Society of St. Pius X, a priest was available to become the second
permanently assigned pastor of Our Lady of Fatima Parish. Thus it was that in early March 2003,
Father Gary D. Dilley said his first Mass, as our pastor, in our Chapel.
arrived at the parish in turbulent times. Not only had the pastor died, but it was discovered that
the rectory and the guest house both were in need of massive renovation and repair. Moreover,
several major problems revealed themselves in the Chapel itself. Because of all the reconstruction
work going on in the three buildings, Father Dilley had to live in the guest house until the rectory
work was finally completed. At the same time, parishioners were hard at work attempting to separate
parish belongings from those that were Father Marks', plus reconstruct administrative files from
computers and paper files. Time-consuming as it was, those tasks were finally completed and the
parish looked forward to a long period of normalcy and tranquility.
As the year 2004 began,
Father Dilley had settled in to his new pastorate. New programs had begun: adult and child education
courses, a renewed emphasis on bringing converts into the parish (five adults were baptized shortly
after Easter, 2004, and a sixth, along with two of her children, was baptized in May of that same
year), and formation of a Holy Name Society were among them. Believing that the year 2003 had been
an anomaly, a feeling of optimism had taken hold and the parish looked forward to many years of
growth and stability.