Photo: Felix Carroll
Bryan Thatcher, beside a shipping container filled medical supplies. As the founder of Eucharistic Apostles of The Divine Mercy, Bryan has spearheaded efforts to send supplies to the neediest countries around the world — all in the name of Jesus Christ, The Divine Mercy.
How Did We Get Where We Are?
By Bryan Thatcher, MD (Jan 24, 2011)
Maybe you've heard of us — the Eucharistic Apostles of The Divine Mercy (EADM), a lay outreach ministry of the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception. We bring the message of The Divine Mercy to communities around the world. Working together with the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy and the Association of Marian Helpers in Stockbridge, Mass., we promote and teach the authentic forms of the message and devotion to The Divine Mercy and encourage people to live out the message of mercy in their daily lives.
So what is our history. Since many people have asked, here is the abbreviated — but nonetheless, inspiring (we hope) — version:
The Diary as Springboard
The ministry started in 1994 at Nativity Catholic Church in Brandon, Fla. The pastor, Fr. Jaime Lara, was forming small Christian communities. Groups of eight to 12 people would gather weekly to discuss the next week's Gospel readings. Inspired by the Diary of St. Faustina, I suggested we use this mystical piece of writing in a systematic way and discuss the readings. Father Lara was supportive and gave me permission. The group size varied from 6 to18 people, and we met weekly for several years in our home. The people really enjoyed the song, prayer, faith-sharing, and fellowship, and we grew closer, spiritually. We became like family.
Around this time I received literature on the Eucharistic miracle of Betania, Venezuela. I was intrigued and began to read and learn as much as I could on the Eucharist. In 1995, I took my wife, parents, and our three children and traveled across Italy to several sites of Eucharistic miracles. I understood how the Eucharist was tied in to the message of mercy, and I wanted to spread to laity the truth of the Real Presence whenever and wherever I could.
Afterwards, that same year I approached the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception, and then the Congregation of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy in Krakow, Poland (St. Faustina's order), to find out if any formal Divine Mercy programs for the laity existed. They both said no. Upon my persistence, I faxed a letter to a gentleman from England. This man had been taking a speaker on Divine Mercy, Sister Gratia, around the United States speaking on Divine Mercy. I asked him about any lay groups and lay formation on Divine Mercy. A few hours later, I received a fax stating the Cardinal Franciszek Macharsk, then the archbishop of Krakow, Poland, and the nuns in Poland were discussing that very issue, and that because of my inquiry, my wife and I would be invited to a gathering in Poland in February, 1996, to discuss the very issue. At the convent, my love and understanding and desire to spread the message of Mercy continued to grow.
An Idea Takes Off
Our group in Brandon continued to meet, and I decided to put formal lessons together in a book that was printed in 1996. A nonprofit corporation was also set up that year, and I began to speak more at conferences, and word began to spread of our work.
We held a large Divine Mercy conference in 1996 in Tampa. More than 1,100 people attended. We printed our first formation manual in 1997 that contained the first 50 lessons of our prayer group. Also, we had a large conference in Tampa titled, "Divine Mercy as a Way of Life." This later became a focal point of our ministry as we tried to assist laity in learning and living the message of Divine Mercy. Soon thereafter, I received an invitation from Cardinal Pio Taofinuu to speak in Western Samoa, and in early 1998 Bishop Charles Kweku Sam from the Diocese of Sekondi-Takoradi, in Ghana, invited me to come to Ghana to speak at his diocese. Our outreach program was in its infancy, and soon thereafter we began large shipment of medical supplies, sewing machines, religious items, and clothing to the poor. Through our efforts, a trade school and home for disabled was built in Eikwe-Nzema, Ghana.
The Marians Come Calling
By 1998, we were a busy ministry. I was in contact with Fr. John Hardon, S.J., who suggested we come under the auspices of the Archbishop in Chicago because of our Eucharistic work. Shortly thereafter, I received a call from the preeminent Divine Mercy scholar, Fr. Seraphim Michalenko, MIC, regarding the ministry. I explained our work, and he suggested we come under the authority of the Congregation of Marians as our work was more Divine Mercy based. This was done in 1998; Father assisted me in revising and completing the formation manuals.
My first trip to the Philippines was in 1998. I met Monsignor Josefino Ramirez and discussed the ministry. I spoke at various venues, and the ministry began to actively and quickly spread there. Since then we have shipped tons of medical and other supplies to the Philippines over the years. Also in 1998, we received a special Apostolic blessing on our work and to those who support the ministry. With the assistance of Paul Regan and Oscar Delgado, we began to work on getting people to pray for the sick and dying in Adoration chapels.
In late 1999, we received from Pope John Paul II an apostolic blessing for those praying the Chaplet of The Divine Mercy during Eucharistic Adoration. We also began sending out copies of the blessing to chapels that participated. Currently there are more than 600 chapels where the Divine Mercy Chaplet is said during Adoration for those sick and dying in that hour. We published a booklet and flier explaining the promises of the Chaplet, and that aspect of the ministry became active shortly thereafter.
The next few years saw many doors open to spread the message in the United States through conferences, as well as overseas through our trips and shipments of supplies. I spoke at major conferences across the U.S., and during the next three years traveled to Portugal, Nigeria, Kenya, Peru, Ecuador, Samoa, Malaysia, Singapore, Philippines, Ukraine, and India. Our shipments includes those countries but also we shipped containers to Poland, Ukraine, Lithuania, Liberia, Tanzania, Uganda, Mexico, Dominican Republic, Cuba, Nicaragua, and Indonesia.
A New Millennium, Focused on Christ
In 2001, Trish Short produced a video and DVD on the ministry called "I Am a Voice." Later that year, and with her help, EADM published a more contemporary version of the Chaplet that has since become extremely popular.
In 2002, EADM began to speak more on the sanctity of life and the message of mercy. I spoke with Fr. Frank Pavone, of Priests for Life, and we decided to put together a book on healing from abortion through Divine Mercy. Titled Rachel, Weep No More, it has become a popular book for laity on the subject. In tandem, cenacle membership began to grow, in part due to the EWTN series that first aired in the Lenten season of 2004. This was broadcast to many countries, and inquiries on the ministry began coming in. Groups of laity wanting to study and pray and learn more about Divine Mercy continued to grow. It is estimated that more than 3,000 cenacles have formed in the U.S. alone. Involvement in our work also now extends to 35 countries, including places like Namibia, Togo, and Papua New Guinea.
With the help of the Marians' then Vice General and now General Jon Rokosz, MIC, a special Apostolic blessing was received in 2003 for EADM and all the faithful who pray the Chaplet for pro-life causes. For us, it is a very special blessing. The Holy Father John Paul II was suffering from severe Parkinson's disease, and his signature is smudged. Also, the Marians' Founder, Blessed Stanislaus of Jesus and Mary Papczynski, was beatified in 2007 through a pro-life miracle; this affirmed and confirmed the work of EADM in its pro-life work.
To Rwanda and Back
In late 2003, EADM received a request to help ship an 18-foot tall statue of Divine Mercy to Rwanda. This was done in early 2004, and in December 2004 I visited Rwanda with Fr. Seraphim and discussed future plans with Rwandan missionary Fr Leszek Czelusniak, MIC. In 2010 we held a large conference in Tampa with more than 1,100 in attendance. All monies raised went to Fr. Leszek's ministry.
Since 2005, when we taped a second cenacle series for EWTN and completed the accompanying study guide, cenacle growth in the U.S. and overseas continued, and our manuals were translated into Spanish and Portuguese. In 2005 we traveled to Brazil and spoke at the Divine Mercy conference coordinated by the Marians there.
Sitting on my desk, I have had a book outline finished on a study program for laity based on the Blessed Mother. For those just starting, it would now probably be the first book for laity to read, and then for those interested, they could delve into the message of Divine Mercy formation program. For those EADM cenacles already formed, they could use the manual on Mary after completing the Divine Mercy program.
We have tried during the last few years to assist of fellow Marian lay apostolates, Mother of Mercy Messengers (MOMM) and Healthcare Professionals for Divine Mercy; both these serve vital areas of the Church in spreading the message of Divine Mercy. I have spoken at the Healthcare Professionals conference yearly since the conferences started in 2005.
As the Marians explored and eventually sent priests to assist in the Philippines in 2008, our efforts have been focused there. Multiple containers of supplies have been sent. In 2011, I hope to visit the Philippines and begin developing and assisting in the building of a medical clinic/hospital in Mindanao at the Divine Mercy Shrine there. This will be a major focus of my attention after the manual on the Blessed Mother is completed.
During all these years, our family size grew to seven children, and both my parents died. I was involved in the daily care of my father for the last two years of his life. Clare Therese was born in December 2006; my wife was 50 years old at the time. I thank God for giving me the strength to persevere and continue in times of trial. Though the times were difficult, they were times of even greater joy. I believe this understanding came as a result of the Divine Mercy message.
This brief history of EADM does not begin to come close to expressing my feelings about what a joy it has been to be involved in spreading the message of Divine Mercy, and also how I know that Our Lady has been watching over me, protecting me, and guiding me. I hope that in my small way the manual on understanding Mary will guide people close to her.
Lastly, for me the clinic in Mindanao encapsulates the fullness of the message; the Marians are caretakers of the Shrine there, a Shrine for spiritual growth. I hope to help build a clinic where the corporal works are practiced. This work of mercy will be at the site of spiritual renewal, and hopefully I will be able to use my medical knowledge to make this a reality.
I wish to express my heartfelt thanks to Fr. Seraphim and Fr. Kazimir Chwalek, MIC, for their unwavering support; to Fr. Joe Roesch, MIC, for his mentoring and guidance of our ministry as General Promoter of EADM; and to Father General Jon Rokosz, who has always encouraged me and affirmed our work.
Dr. Bryan Thatcher is the founder of Eucharistic Apostles of The Divine Mercy (EADM), an apostolate of the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception.
Learn how to start a Divine Mercy cenacle in your area.