The Man Who Sent Mary Around the World
An ordinary Catholic doing extraordinary things inspired an author to write a book on Fatima. PAUL DE MARCO tells the story.
Every now and then you come across someone exceptional in life — just an ordinary person, but someone who has a passion to do extraordinary things. For me, José Camara is one such man!
Southern Cross readers may know his name, and parishioners in many churches around the country will have seen evidence of his faith-filled generosity: he is the retired businessman who has donated more than a thousand statues of Our Lady of Fatima to churches in South Africa and around the word.
Mr Camara is now 78 years old and lives in Cascais, Portugal. It was probably his Catholic, Portuguese upbringing that sowed the seeds of his devotion to Our Lady as a young boy.
On April 7, 1947, at the age of just seven, he travelled with his family to watch the statue of Our Lady of Fatima being carried through the streets of Funchal in Madeira. This was the statue that is kept at the chapel of Apparitions at Fatima, and it left a marked impression on the young José.
When he was 14 years of age, José went to Cape Town to stay with his uncle so that he could study English. He liked the city so much that he decided to stay on.
After completing his studies, José started work as a door-to-door salesman, selling sewing machines.
At that time, there was a community of Catholics living in Manenberg, a poor township into which the apartheid regime was settling those whom it had removed from other areas.
That community didn’t have a Catholic church for many years. After along time of fundraising, they eventually succeeded in building a church in 1969—but they lacked the resources to buy any fittings with which to decorate it.
Mr Camara recalls going to see the Franciscan priest in the new church and immediately feeling sorry for him because it was a bitterly cold day and the priest was wearing sandals.
The young man offered to buy a statue of Our Lady of Fatima for the parish, but the priest suggested that a statue of the Holy Family might be more appropriate, because the church was to be dedicated to the Holy Family of Nazareth. Mr Camara agreed to this, even though he had absolutely no idea how he was going to pay for it.
But he had heard of a sculptor named José Ferreira Thedim who lived in Fatima, and he knew that Thedim was well-known for making magnificent statues of Our Lady. So he asked Thedim to make a statue of the Holy Family. The sculptor agreed.
A shocking bill
When the statue finally arrived, Mr Camara was ecstatic with joy — until he opened the envelope and looked at the invoice inside! The bill was for R945, which in those days was an absolute fortune (a litre of petrol cost 8 cents at the time).
Mr Camara had many sleepless nights worrying about how he was going to find the money — and so he prayed to Our Blessed Mother for help.
He needed help. To make matters worse, he then had a phone call from the Receiver of Revenue asking him to attend a meeting to discuss a problem with his income tax. Mr Camara became increasingly anxious that he was now going to have to pay a tax shortfall as well as having to pay for the statue.
But at the meeting, he was astonished to hear that the Inland Revenue actually owed him money because they’d been taxing him as a single man even though he’d been married for three years and had two children.
And the value of the rebate? Well, it was R945 — the exact amount that the statue of the Holy Family cost.
Mr Camara took this as a sign, and he believes to this day that whatever good you do for others, it will come back to you.
The sculptor died in 1971.
Years later, after a successful career in business, Mr Camara returned to his native Portugal.
In 2012, he flew to Cape Town to give thanks to God for all the blessings in his life. He knew that there was nothing that he could give to God, as the Lord has everything already, and so he decided to help Our Blessed Mother. His goal was to take Mary to the world, and to take the world to Mary.
He contacted The Southern Cross to run an initial offer for 12 statues. The response to that offer in the issue of January 9, 2013, and subsequent articles in The Southern Cross, was overwhelming. In a short time, word spread first to neighbouring countries and then around the world.
1146 statues to 47 countries
Since that first article in The Southern Cross, Mr Camara has had 1146 statues of Our Lady of Fatima handmade and distributed to churches, schools, convents and prisons in 47 countries — all at his own expense.
“The organisation that went into this effort is immense, but the rewards are immense too! Wherever a statue of Our Lady of Fatima has been placed, there has been an increase in prayer and devotion to Our Blessed Mother, and prayer groups have started where there was none before—even in prisons,” said Mr Camara
José touched my life in a special way too. I first met him by chance several years ago when he was visiting London, as his granddaughter attended the same school as my own two children. We struck up a conversation in the playground, and in time, he discovered that I’d written a book which gave scientific evidence for the resurrection of Jesus.
Mr Camara then asked me to help him raise awareness about Our Lady’s message for mankind at Fatima, by writing a book about the apparitions, the lives of Jacinta, Francisco and Lucia, as well as the Miracle of the Sun. I hesitated, but just as he couldn’t refuse that Franciscan priest in Manenberg back in 1969, I couldn’t simply walk away. In the end I wrote the book, titled Fatima 2017 — because of him.
At Fatima in 1917, Our Lady called on us to turn from sin and to repent, and to adopt the devotion of the First Five Saturdays for our own benefit and for the benefit of mankind. José Camara has done a great deal to foster that devotion throughout the world by donating all those statues of Our Lady of Fatima.
He kept the promise that he made in 2012, to take Mary to the world, and to take the world to Mary.
Paul de Marco has written ten books of which six are on the subject of Christianity. Fatima 2017 was published by lulu.com.
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